Scientists discover super plant that soaks up roadside air pollution

Scientists discover super plant that soaks up roadside air pollution

By Lucy Jones  February 22nd, 2021

Using hedges to mop up emissions on busy roads.


A group of researchers from the UK have identified a 'super plant' that could be used to soak up emissions on congested city streets. A new study exploring the effectiveness of hedges as air pollution barriers found that a shrub by the name of cotoneaster franchetii has superior air-cleaning abilities.

The study was conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) as part of its ongoing research into the environmental and social benefits of green spaces.

Of the hedges tested by the research team, cotoneaster franchetii was found to be the most effective, trapping 20 per cent more emissions than other shrubs. Its effectiveness is thought to be related to its dense branch structure and distinctive furry leaves.

"On major city roads with heavy traffic we've found that the species with more complex denser canopies, rough and hairy-leaves such as cotoneaster were the most effective," Dr Tijana Blanusa, research lead for the paper and RHS Principal Horticultural Scientist, said.

"We know that in just seven days a 1-metre length of well-managed dense hedge will mop up the same amount of pollution that a car emits over a 500-mile drive."

The researchers recommend cotoneaster franchetii be planted along busy roads in pollution hotspots while quieter roads should opt for a mix of hedge species to encourage biodiversity.

Previous studies (including some of Planet Ark's own research) have shown that green urban spaces have many benefits for human and environmental health including: decreasing daytime temperatures, absorbing carbon dioxide, reducing stress and even making us more intelligent.

"We are continually identifying new 'super plants' with unique qualities which when combined with other vegetation provide enhanced benefits while providing much needed habitats for wildlife," Professor Alistair Griffiths, RHS director of science and collections, said.

"We've found, for example, that ivy wall cover excels at cooling buildings, and hawthorn and privet help ease intense summer rainfalls and reduce localised flooding. If planted in gardens and green spaces where these environmental issues are most prevalent, we could make a big difference in the fight against climate change."

You can head here to read the RHS research report in full.

Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 


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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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