'Metal-Eating' Plant Capable of Absorbing 18,000 PPM of Nickel

May 12, 2014 02:54 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro (m.mercuro@autoworldnews.com)

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Plant

Rinorea niccolifera, the nickel-absorbing plant discovered in the Philippines. (Photo : University of the Philippines)

Scientists have discovered a new plant that is capable of absorbing large amounts of nickel without poisoning itself.

Unlike a Venus flytrap, the Rinorea niccolifera plant absorbs metal from the soil, according to a recently released press release.

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The plant was found by scientists on the western part of Luzon Island, which is known for its metal-rich soil.

Professor Edwino Fernando, the lead researcher and author of the study on the plant, said that the leaves of Rinorea niccolifera can absorb over 18,000 parts per million (ppm) of the metal.

That means the plant can store over 1,000 times more nickel than most other plants, according to the press release.

Research was outlined this week in Pensoft Publishers' open access journal PhytoKeys.

Click here to read the study.

Metal-absorbing plants are important for both mining industry and environmental advocates.

"(Metal-eating plants) have this extraordinary capacity to accumulate metals, and they do this in the wild without any interference from man," said David E. Salt, associate professor of plant molecular physiology at Purdue University, to National Geographic. "They just do this for a living."

Researchers determined that a plant like Rinorea niccolifera can be used when removing metallic materials from a polluted ecosystem.

Once the plant absorbs a significant amount of metal, they can also be harvested for their commercially valuable contents, according to the release.

"The new species, according to Dr. Marilyn Quimado, one of the lead scientists of the research team, was discovered on the western part of Luzon Island in the Philippines, an area known for rich soils in heavy metals," the researchers said in a release announcing the new plant.

There are 350 known species of plants that accumulate metals such as nickel, zinc, copper and manganese in high concentrations, according to National Geographic.

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