Eucalyptus mine for gold

Eucalyptus leaves: the golden ticket?
Eucalyptus leaves: the golden ticket? Photo by Carol Burns.

Eucalyptus trees (gum trees) are incredibly invasive in my native California. I grew up under their canopy and the pungent smell of their leaves and beauty of their multicolored bark is so familiar. I’ve always appreciated their height (they are the second tallest tree on Earth second only to redwoods) and today I learned a new reason to respect Eucalyptus.

A new study reports that Eucalyptus in Western Australia are inadvertently mining gold out of deep soil and lining their leaves and bark with the precious metal. Do these trees just love bling? No, they actually find the gold toxic and simply are placing the golden element into foliage that will be shed by the plant over time. The gold found so far in Eucalyptus is absolutely minuscule (Koala bears aren’t on the verge of a get-rich-quick scheme), but indicates that gold deposits exist in the deep reaches of tree roots 30-50m below ground.

A Eucalyptus grove thrive in the California hills.
A Eucalyptus grove thrives in the California hills. Photo by Carol Burns.

Will this finding initiate massive mining exploration for gold? I don’t know, but if it does this certainly will be at the detriment of the forest that has hidden the gold for millennia. Here in California, we are still recovering from the gold rush that substantially shaped our modern landscape. Today, little gold remains in the California hills but Eucalyptus groves are spreading.  If there is any gold left to be found here, hopefully our Eucalyptus will keep it a secret…


One comment

  1. It is hard for me to love eucalyptus trees in California because they are so invasive but I know I would love them if I lived in Australia! Thanks for sharing the interesting gold leaching information. I wonder who figured that out?

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