Here’s a recent article on the emerging field of phytomining – the exploitation of sub-economic ore bodies using plants… in other words: a method of metal extraction revolving around the mass cultivation of so-called “metal – hyperaccumulator” plants to harvest metals such as nickel, zinc and cobalt. Would-be phytominers grow a crop of a metal-hyperaccumulating plant species, harvest the biomass and burn it to produce a bio-ore.
Yes, phytomining does also have the potential secondary application to revegetate and control erosion in otherwise decimated former strip mines, where few organisms will grow, but what does the pursuit of phytomining say about the modern human’s perpetually distanced relationship with non-human species? Is phytomining just another way for people to greedily suck prized resources from the earth to turn a profit? Or is it the next eco-groovy road to El Dorado? Or both? Surely, someone out there is feverishly seeking a way to phyto-mine gold…
Inside a lab at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, soil samples sit under a row of a glowing light bulbs hanging from a track only a short distance above them. In another room, a centrifuge hums as beakers of Nyquil-colored liquids sit on a nearby shelf. Standard white lab coats hang on hooks outside.
This generic-looking lab feels worlds away from the gritty, dusty mines of Australia—but this is where scientists hope to chart a new path for the industry here, and across the world.
If work being done at the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation catches on, it could mean new futures for global communities affected by resource-hungry strip-mining, and new ways for the mining industry to do business.
Australian scientists hope to accomplish this with phytomining—harvesting valuable metals from plants. Essentially, it’s growing plants containing nickel, zinc and cobalt—the bread and butter of the world’s mines, and harvesting the metals above ground, not below.
“We have identified a whole lot of new species which could be used for phytomining which weren’t previously known to science,” said Dr. Peter Erskine, one of the researchers working to make the process suitable for conventional mining companies.
Pseudobombax ellipticum, known in English as Shaving Brush tree (in reference to the flower) is native to Mexico and Central America where it is referred to variously as Acoque, amapola, árbol de doncellas, árbol de señoritas, calinchuche, jilinsuche, matías, pilinsuchil, pumpo, shaving bush, shilo, shilo blanco, shilo colorado. I took these photos in Mexico where it is called Clavelina.
Mature trees grow to about 60 ft developing an engorged, bottle trunk.
Please refer to these photos of the closely related Pseudobombax septanatum, from a previous post. P. septanatum is a somewhat larger version of P. ellipticum.
I’ll get photos of the flower.
(Phys.org) —A combined team of researchers from Nagoya University and the University of Tokyo has discovered that a certain type of fern plant communicates with others of its kind using pheromones as a means of choosing the gender of maturing plants. In their paper published in the journal Science, the researchers describe how their study of the Japanese climbing fern, led to a better understanding of the role that the pheromone gibberellin plays in its reproduction process. Tai-ping Sun, with Duke University offers a perspective piece in the same journal edition, providing a more in-depth analysis of the work the team has done.
As farmers know, most flowering plants are both male and female—the Japanese climbing fern is an exception—individual plants are either male or female. Until now, it wasn’t clear how it was that some of the plants grew to become male, however, while others grew to be female. In this new effort, the researchers have found that it’s due to a form of intergenerational communication between the plants.
Read full article at Phys.org: http://phys.org/news/2014-10-ferns-gender.html#jCp
Here are some photos of Jatropha chamelensis and endangered / endemic to the chamela-cuixmala biosphere reserve in Jalisco Mexico. The bark is very similar to another tree in the area, also called papelillo amarillo, but belonging to the Bursera genus.. I’ve been waiting to get photos of the flower fruit of this one.
Here is a previous post on J. chamelensis.
And a list of previous posts on the Euphorbiaceae family.