Isolating a gene that allows a type of fern to tolerate high levels of arsenic, Purdue University researchers hope to use the finding to create plants that can clean up soils and waters contaminated by the toxic metal.
The fern Pteris vittata can tolerate 100 to 1,000 times more arsenic than other plants. Jody Banks, a professor of botany and plant pathology, and David Salt, a professor of horticulture, uncovered what may have been an evolutionary genetic event that creates an arsenic pump of sorts in the fern.
“It actually sucks the arsenic out of the soil and puts it in the fronds,” Banks said. “It’s the only multi-cellular organism that can do this.” Fern’s evolution gives arsenic tolerance that may clean toxic land