Pollution-Catching “Super Plant” is Ideal for Growing Beside Busy Roads, Say Scientists

Ground Down to the Essentials

The Grind:
Franchet’s cotoneaster (Cotoneaster franchetii) has been identified by scientists as the ideal hedge for soaking up air pollution on busy roads. Thanks to its hairy leaves, Franchet’s cotoneaster is able to trap potentially harmful particles from polluted air, according to research by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Scientists collected leaves from a variety of hedges along busy roads in the British town of Reading to measure the amount of particulate matter (PM) they were able to extract from the surrounding air. The scientists found that Franchet’s cotoneaster, a shrub with clusters of small pink and white flowers that are attractive to bees, are the most effective at soaking up pollution.

The Details:
In particular, Franchet’s cotoneaster was 20 percent more effective than other shrubs at cleaning the air along roads with heavy traffic. In fact, the scientists found that a one-meter-long section of Franchet’s cotoneaster is more than capable of absorbing hundreds of miles’ worth of car pollution within a week.

The shrub traps PM in the tiny hairs and ridges on its small egg-shaped leaves. Once trapped, the particles are kept there even when the leaves are moving also because of the leaves’ hairs and ridges.

These features help increase the surface area onto which PM is deposited, said Tijana Blanusa, the lead author of the study and the principal horticultural scientist at the RHS. Read more…

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