By Jennifer Lilley...
(TRFW News) An endangered plant that eats toxic metals, rather than becoming poisoned by them, has been discovered in the Philippines, and it’s leaving many with hope that it can be used to improve air quality, especially around areas that generate pollutants and waste (1). The plant, Rinorea Niccolifera, can absorb 100-1000 times the metals that most plants can take in without being poisoned.
The term “Niccolifera” has to do with its ability to hyper-accumulate, or take in and be tolerant of, the heavy metal nickel. Other similar plants exist, but this one is the latest finding of plant species that has adapted to tough soils and can hold large quantities of metals in its leaves. As for absorbing nickel in particular as this plant does, there are only about 450 species worldwide with the same ability (2).
Opportunities exist to use this plant to improve the environment. “Hyper-accumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, phytoremediation and phytomining,” says Dr. Augustine Doronila, University of Melbourne, senior author of the University of the Philippines study (1).
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Phytoremediation is the direct use of green plants and their associated microorganisms to stabilize or reduce contamination in soils, sludges, sediments, surface water, or ground water (3).” The Agency explains that such plants are selected for their ability to decontaminate or extract certain elements, as well as other variables including climate adaptability and growth rate.
Just as exciting is the potential for Rinorea Niccolifera to help improve the human body. “If we can understand the chemistry of how these plants can load themselves with so much nickel without being poisoned,” explains Dr. Doronila, “it may help us make novel compounds to combat some degenerative disease (2).”
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About the Author: Jennifer Lilley is a long-term weight-loss success story who has been featured in numerous national magazine stories and ads. She lost 70 pounds in 2007 and has managed to keep it off on her own through a diet that consists primarily of fruits, vegetables and superfoods. She enjoys photography and is an animal lover who enjoys silly puns, model aviation, eating avocados and the company of kind-spirited people.
True, Mikeil and the poor tree is already endangered. I hope someone steps in and starts growing it on a massive scale.