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‘Superplant’ absorbing roadside air pollution

The Bushy cotoneaster variety performs well in high traffic areas, researchers add, while other plants can cool buildings or mitigate flooding.

‘Superplant’ absorbing roadside air pollution
18.02.2021 12:38

Bushy, hairy-leafed cotoneaster is a “super plant” which, horticultural experts have claimed, can help soak up pollution on busy roads and ease environmental problems.

Scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) looked at the effectiveness of hedges for soaking up air pollution, comparing different types of shrubs including cotoneaster, hawthorn and western red cedar.

The lead researcher, Dr Tijana Blanusa, said: “On major city roads with heavy traffic, we’ve found that the species with more complex, denser canopies and rough and hairy leaves such as cotoneaster were the most effective.

On roads with heavy traffic, the denser cotoneaster franchetii was at least 20% more effective at soaking up pollution compared to other shrubs, the researchers said, though it did not make a difference on quieter streets.

Prof Alistair Griffiths, RHS Director of Research and Collections, said: “We are constantly identifying new “super plants” with unique qualities that provide enhanced benefits when combined with other vegetation while providing wildlife with much-needed habitats.”

Some 86% of those surveyed by YouGov said they cared about environmental issues, while 78% worry about climate change, and the RHS is hoping to harness that interest to encourage people to think about helping the environment in their garden.