Prosopis pubescens (Screw bean mesquite) plants are hyperaccumulators of copper

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Due to health reasons, toxic metals must be removed from soils contaminated by mine tailings and smelter activities. The phytoremediation potential of Prosopis pubescens (screw bean mesquite) was examined by use of inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy. Transmission electron microscopy was used to observe ultrastructural changes of parenchymal cells of leaves in the presence of copper. Elemental analysis was used to localize copper within leaves. A 600-ppm copper sulfate exposure to seedlings for 24 days resulted in 31,000 ppm copper in roots, 17,000 ppm in stems, 11,000 ppm in cotyledons and 20 ppm in the true leaves. For a plant to be considered a hyperaccumulator, the plant must accumulate a leaf-tooot ratio <1. Screw bean mesquite exposed to copper had a leaf-to-root ration of 0.355 when cotyledons were included. We showed that P. pubescens grown in soil is a hyperaccumulator of copper. We recommend that this plant should be field tested.