In an astounding new find, researchers discovered a species of plant, Rinorea niccolifera, that consumes metal (nickel) and does not get poisoned. Ultimately, this little guy can take in 18,000ppm and survive. These figures are notable as they are about 100 to 1,000 times higher than the level of nickel found in most other plants. The capacity to accumulate this much nickel and still function is exceedingly rare. Currently, there are only some 450 plants in the entire world that are known to be capable of this feat. This means that only about 0.5–1 percent of plant species native to nickel-rich soils have this “hyperaccumulation” ability.
Dr. Augustine Doronila, from the University of Melbourne, who is the senior author of a paper published in the journal PhytoKeys, asserts that, “hyperacccumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, phytoremediation [using the plants to remove metal pollutants from soil] and phytomining [using plants to grow commercially viable metals in leaves].”
The new species was found on the western plant of Luzan Island in the Philippines, an area that is known for having soils rich in heavy metals.