New species of metal-eating plant discovered in the Philippines

May 09, 2014
This photo shows the metal-eating plant, Rinorea niccolifera, in its natural habitat. Credit: Dr. Edwino S. Fernando

Scientists from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños have discovered a new plant species with an unusual lifestyle—it eats nickel for a living—accumulating up to 18,000 ppm of the metal in its leaves without itself being poisoned, says Professor Edwino Fernando, lead author of the report. Such an amount is a hundred to a thousand times higher than in most other plants. The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

The new is called Rinorea niccolifera, reflecting its ability to absorb nickel in very high amounts. Nickel hyperaccumulation is such a rare phenomenon with only about 0.5–1% of plant species native to nickel-rich soils having been recorded to exhibit the ability. Throughout the world, only about 450 species are known with this unusual trait, which is still a small proportion of the estimated 300,000 species of vascular plants.

The , 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 soils rich in heavy metals.

"Hyperacccumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, 'phytoremediation' and 'phytomining'", explains Dr Augustine Doronila of the School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne, who is also co-author of the report.

This photo shows the newly described metal-eating plant, Rinorea niccolifera. Credit: Dr. Edwino S. Fernando

Phytoremediation refers to the use of hyperacccumulator plants to remove heavy metals in contaminated soils. Phytomining, on the other hand, is the use of hyperacccumulator to grow and harvest in order to recover commercially valuable metals in plant shoots from metal-rich sites.

Explore further: Serpentine ecosystems shed light on the nature of plant adaptation and speciation

More information: Fernando ES, Quimado MO, Doronila AI (2014) Rinorea niccolifera (Violaceae), a new, nickel-hyperaccumulating species from Luzon Island, Philippines. PhytoKeys 37: 1–13. DOI: 10.3897/phytokeys.37.7136

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Science casts light on sex in the orchard

35 minutes ago

Persimmons are among the small club of plants with separate sexes—individual trees are either male or female. Now scientists at the University of California, Davis, and Kyoto University in Japan have discovered ...

Four new dragon millipedes found in China

2 hours ago

A team of speleobiologists from the South China Agriculture University and the Russian Academy of Sciences have described four new species of the dragon millipedes from southern China, two of which seem to ...

Scientist creates automatic birdsong recognition app

5 hours ago

Dr Dan Stowell, an EPSRC Research Fellow in QMUL's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has used a grant from Queen Mary Innovation to develop a prototype for an app that turns his research ...

New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

6 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study from researchers in our Department of Psychology with colleagues at Queen Mary University of London has reported the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.