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EducationPollution-beating ‘super plant’

Pollution-beating ‘super plant’

Published: 18th Mar 2021 5:41 pm

A shrub with hairy leaves that is popular with bees has been identified by scientists as the ideal hedge for soaking up traffic pollution on busy roads. Cotoneaster franchetii removes almost a third more toxic particles from the air than other shrubs, according to research by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), London. Scientists collected leaves from a variety of hedges beside busy roads in Reading to measure the amount of particles they had extracted from the surrounding air.

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Let’s read more about the ‘super plant’

Nine-in-10 people around the world live somewhere that has air quality below levels recommended by the World Health Organization. Polluted air is killing millions of people every year, knocking several years of life expectancy for many children and triggering debilitating respiratory conditions.

Sources of dirty air include industrial emissions, the burning of fossil fuels, and other contaminants in people’s homes, and a variety of travel and transport activities. In many towns and cities, one of the most apparent and obvious causes of air pollution is the motor car. Now, the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) says it has identified a potential ‘super plant’ that could be effective in absorbing emissions from heavy traffic.

Dense, hairy vegetation

The Cotoneaster franchetii is a dense, evergreen shrub with thick, glossy dark green leaves that are covered in tiny hair-like fibres. The RHS found that a one-metre length of dense cotoneaster shrubbery could soak up an amount of pollution equivalent to a car journey of 800km in just seven days.

Other potential super plants include ivy, which the RHS says helps cool buildings when grown up walls, and hawthorn and privet, which help during intense summer rainfalls to reduce localised flooding.

The need for trees

There used to be around 6 trillion trees on Earth, according to data from the World Economic Forum. Despite efforts to stem the global tide of deforestation, somewhere in the region of 15 billion trees are lost every single year, with the total number of trees worldwide thought to has fallen to 3 trillion.

The pollution picture

Trees and plants are critical to the health of the planet for many reasons, including their role in sequestering carbon, regulating temperatures, and acting as flood barriers. In low-income countries, things are substantially worse. Of the 4.2 million whose lives were cut short by polluted air in 2016, the World Health Organization says 91% lived in low- and middle-income countries, with the greatest concentration in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific region.
Reducing air pollution can help reduce the incidence of illnesses like stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory ailments such as asthma, all responsible for premature death figures.

Cotoneaster franchetii

Common Name: cotoneaster
Type: Deciduous shrub
Native Range: Southwestern China, Tibet, and Burma
Height: 6 to 10 feet
Spread: 4 to 8 feet
Bloom Time:July
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize
Bloom Description: Pink and white

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