A metal-eating plant was recently discovered by scientists from the University of the Philippines, Los Banos. The rare plant, named Rinorea niccolifera, is a shrub that is capable of taking in over 18,000 ppm (parts per million) of nickel and still survive. They discovered the new metal-eating plant on the western section of the Philippines’ Luzon Island which is well-known for metal-rich soils.
The rare trait of accumulating large amounts of earth metals without displaying any indication of poisoning intrigued the researchers. The scientific team from the UP reported that this ability to hyper-accumulate heavy metals such as nickel is found in less than 450 out of approximately 300,000 known vascular plants across the world. In fact, even in places with nickel-rich soil less than one percent of the native plant species exhibit that ability.
This rare characteristic of the newly-discovered metal-eating plant opens up new options for scientists working in this and other related fields. It also means new possibilities for commercial ventures hoping to utilize green technologies.
Dr. Augustine Doronila of the School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne, Australia and co-author of their report, explains: “Hyperaccumulator plants have great potential for the development of green technologies, for example, ‘Philippines’ and ‘phytomining’.”
Their work in the laboratory as well as their numerous field studies were one part of a special research project funded mainly by the DOST-PCIEERD or Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development.
According to the study, “Rinorea niccolifera (Violaceae), a new, nickel-hyperaccumulating species from Luzon Island, Philippines” published in the journal Phytokeys. phytoremediation is the use of hyperaccumulator plants to expunge heavy metals from soil contaminated by commercial or industrial accidents. Phytomining is defined as the recovery of metals through the growth of hyperacumulators for harvest in soil rich in precious metals.
Rare Metal-Eating Plant Discovered