Metal eating plant discovered in Zambales Philippines

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Scientists from the University of the Philippines in Los Banos have discovered a new plant species in northern Zambales province that can safely absorb large amounts of metal.

Named Rinorea niccolifera, the plant is one of only 450 species known as “hyperaccumulator” plants.

Professor Edwino Fernando, lead researcher and author of a new study on the plant, said the leaves of the plant can absorb 18,000 parts per million of nickel, which is 1,000 times more than can be safely absorbed by any other known plant.

The study, made with colleague Dr. Marilyn Quimado and their team, can be read online at open access journal PhytoKeys.

“The new species was discovered on the western part of Luzon Island in the Philippines, an area known for soils rich in heavy metals,” the researchers said in a press release announcing their discovery.

Co-author of the study, Augustine Doronila of the University of Melbourne, pointed out that hyperaccumulator plants also have “great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, ‘phytoremediation’ and ‘phytomining’.”

“Phytoremediation” describes how hyperaccumulator plants remove heavy metals from contaminated soils, while “phytomining” refers to how hyperacccumulator plants grow and harvest to recover commercially valuable metals in plant shoots from metal-rich sites.

It means that the newly discovered plant species can help clean up contaminated soil or mine soil rich in metal.

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