Diana's Tree

Growing a silver tree requires only a few hours.

Scientific name: Mercury displaces silver from silver nitrate.


070418 [Mercury metal displaces silver out of silver nitrate

Дианино дерево


Wear eye protection goggles and gloves. Mercury is highly toxic. Perform this experiment in a fume hood.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

AgNO3 + Hg → Ag + HgNO3

Step-by-step instruction

WARNING! This experiment is dangerous! You should NOT perform this at home. ONLY carry out this experiment, if you are a trained chemist, and you understand local safety and legal requirements, which are required to perform such experiments

  1. Clamp the test tube on a stand.
  2. Pour about 3-4 ml of silver nitrate solution into the test tube.
  3. Add a drop of mercury to the test tube.
  4. After a while the formation of shiny needles and branched crystals is observed.

Scientific background

The reaction of mercury and silver nitrate is an example of a single displacement reaction. Mercury displaces silver from silver nitrate. Silver moves out of the compound. The reaction is possible due to the difference in activity between the metals. A metal’s activity can be estimated from its position in the reactivity series. In the reactivity series metals are arranged from most active to least active. The row looks as follows: Li, K, Sr, Na, Ca, Mg, Al, Zn, Cr, Fe, Cd, Co, Ni, Sn, Pb, H, Sb, As, Bi, Cu, Hg, Ag, Pd, Pt, Au. Mercury is more electropositive than silver and is able to displace it. The reaction under study is also a oxidation-reduction chemical reaction. Mercury is reduced and changes its oxidation state from 0 to + 1. Silver is oxidized and changes its oxidation state from + 1 to 0. This means that mercury donates its electrons to silver. The silver produced on the surface of the mercury drop forms an amalgam with mercury – an alloy which consists of both metals. The anisotropy of surface energy defines the favorable directions of crystal grow. The system tries to minimize surface area with high energy which results in formation of tree-like structure


Published on 05 May 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst