The Money Tree
By Malcolm Anderson, Clive Dooley and Emma Preston
School of Economical Sciences, University of Berkeley, USA.
We’ve all been told a hundred times or more that money doesn’t grow on trees. However, we probably could have avoided a great deal of bother and stress throughout history if it did.
Robin Hood wouldn’t have had to run the gauntlet of being strung up by the Sheriff of Nottingham if he could have simply harvested riches to give to the poor; Dick Turpin wouldn’t have had to hold up countless people and thus ruin England’s impeccable stagecoach timetable of the age.
Furthermore charities around the world would simply go out into the garden to get their money and not bother us in the street with their clipboard surveys.
So when it was discovered that the ancient Chinese had managed to produce money from trees (known as yaoqianshu - Banhua 1952; also see McCann et al. 1999; Hung 2000) the post-war government instigated secret research trials into the production of money trees.
Success wasn’t easy, but by the late 1960s trials were progressing well (Farrer & Crocker 1971). Ten years later, unfortunately, the research had been wound down, dismissed as a sort of alchemy but less interesting due to the lack of crazed Victorians with bubbling flasks.
Consequently the research went underground (quite literally); considered by all but the clinically insane to be a dead end project. Here we report on exciting new findings suggesting that money trees are the new growth industry of the 21st century.
This contentious area of research could have dangerous repercussions for the global economy and as scientists we therefore have a responsibility for discretion. It’s a ‘need to know’ thing. Exact details of the techniques used in the production of our cash crop have therefore been kept to a minimum.
Coins of an undisclosed value were planted in a secret location and maintained at an exact temperature and humidity. Harvesting of the flowers from the terminal bud area was possible nine weeks after germination. From a single plant, between 40 and 60 flowers were collected during the season.
Soil type and texture were highly positively correlated with flower value: Clay soils produced only £5 flowers whereas fine, well drained loams could support flowers up to the value of £20. The quality of the notes produced is generally very high, although a few mutants do occasionally appear (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Mutant five pound note.
In an attempt to produce £50 notes, which have yet to appear naturally we attempt a cross of £20 and £10 plants. However the trials so far have not been totally successful, the F1 hybrids being unviable (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Unviable F1 hybrid.
A large investment is required in order to continue trials to assess whether money trees are cost effective in a growing economy. Such an industry could be costly to regulate and the number of trees in any one place would be proportional to the security costs.
The response from other scientists has been mixed. Some believe that the idea has the potential to flourish whereas others have highlighted that an increase in sea level through global warming could lead to a liquidation of the assets.
However, should this idea ever come to fruition, banks may become a thing of the past as people turn their gardens, allotments, orchards and fields into living depositories where they can grow and cultivate currency in large beds. Land agents have already predicted a steep rise in off shore farming as people try to cash in on these tax-free opportunities.
We do not aim to follow Maugh (1979) who almost single-handedly solved the world's fuel problems, nor do we aim to try and follow Ernstoff (1980) who ambitiously attempted to grow humans for use in engineering work.
However, we are looking to expand our current project to produce several plant varieties that can be harvested easily; suggestions from the early phases indicate that we should be able to manufacture “Coin-on-the-cob”, a new variety with the conventional cob shape but filled with coins presented in rows along the centre. Also, ‘Moneysuckle’, a traditionally fragrant climber with flowers to suit the currency of your choice. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘raking it in’!
Banhua, S. (1952). This is the real money tree. Beijing, China.
Carlsson, L., Olsson, M.O. and Lundgren, N.G. (2000). If money only grew on trees: The Russian forest sector in transition. Forestry Chronicle 76, 605-610.
Ernstoff, M. (1980). To grow engineers on trees, plant money. Electronic Design 28, 13.
Farrar, L.L. and Crocker, T.F. (1971). Money does grow on trees. American Fruit Grower 91, 7.
Hung, C.T. (2000). Repainting China: New Year prints (Nianhua) and peasant resistance in the early years of the People’s Republic. Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, 770-810.
Maugh, T.H. (1979). Unlike money, diesel fuel grows on trees. Science 206, 436.
McCann, L.I., Trentelman, K., Possley, T. and Golding, B. (1999). Corrosion of ancient Chinese bronze money trees studied by Raman microscopy. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy 30, 121-132.