Like Teenage "Head Bangers," Some Plants Like Heavy Metal Too!
Some people think playing soft, peaceful music to their plants will get them to grow taller and healthier. But don't play that stuff around plants with names like ragweed or Alpine pennycress. They like Heavy Metal .
Rufus Chaney (below, middle) is a scientist in Beltsville, Maryland, who studies these metal-hungry plants, called hyper accumulators.
Long ago, European prospectors used these shrubs as a sign that metals lay hidden beneath the soil. Today, Chaney and other scientists want to use plants like pennycress to clean up soils contaminated with heavy metals. How do they plan to use them? Hyper accumulator plants don't actually eat metals. Duh. So, how do they clean up soil?
Why do these plants do this? (Pick all that apply.)
Plants like pennycress or ragweed take a long time to suck up metals. But Chaney and other scientists think they can speed things up. They are working with certain genes in the plant.These genes tell or instruct the plant how to store toxic metals without getting sick.
Scientists are now working to place copies of these genetic instructions into bigger, faster growing plants, like mustard seed or hay.
That way, a crop of these plants could be grown, harvested, and then burnt so the metal can be taken out.
By Jan Suszkiw, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff