Pycnandra Acuminata – a tree that grows on the island of New Caledonia in the south Pacific has been the source of much intrigue for researchers.
This species of trees has piqued the interest of scientists for good reason-The tree has somehow evolved to suck out abnormally high quantities of toxic heavy metals from the soil to store it in its stems, leaves, and seeds. Its latex has a blue-green color as it contains up to 25% nickel. Plants do not normally have a tolerance for toxic metals. Thus, this particular species is unique for this reason.
Pycnandra Acuminata and a few other rare trees species known as “hyperaccumulators” evolved in this way to survive harsh soils. According to Dr van der Ent, “The evolution of hyperaccumulation has evolved many times over in very different families and likely has taken millions of years. These plants are found on naturally metal-enriched soils.”
A few researchers are hopeful that hyperaccumulators could be employed to clean up the soil of toxic metals especially in areas where human activity has resulted in a build-up of toxic metals in the soil. The process is called “phytomining.”
Sadly hyperaccumulators are becoming endangered. Pycnandra Acuminata, in particular, is in a dire situation due to deforestation and destructive human activity in New Caledonia. If human activity is not controlled the area, this very rare plant species may not stay around for long.