What if you could simply look at the leaves on the plants in your garden to find out about the air quality in your neighborhood? Theoretically you can, if you plant a National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) inspired ozone garden (pdf). NCAR recently planted a garden full of plants that react visibly when ozone levels are high. Such plants include green shoots of milkweed, snap bean, potato and cutleaf coneflowers. Like humans, plants can be sensitive to ozone issues. Some plants, when exposed to high levels of the gas for extended periods of time, develop tiny, colored, evenly spaced spots on their leaves or their leaves may turn black or yellow. NCAR isn’t the first to plant an ozone garden. NASA has one and the new NCAR garden is based on the St Louis ozone gardens (pdf) set up by AQAST member Jack Fishman. Other ozone sensitive plants include flowering dogwood, buttonbush, soy beans, and milkweed. Planting an ozone sensitive garden is a realistic project you can implement at your own home with your kids, allowing your little ones to not only learn how to garden but also about ozone monitoring and wildlife that thrives around these plants. For example, milkweed is the monarch butterfly caterpillar’s primary food source. If you’d like to plant your own ozone garden check out the guides below. No time to plant a garden? Check out your neighborhood ozone situation at OzoneAware.
- Plant an Ozone Monitoring Garden
- Ozone Garden in a Nutshell
- Students Measure the Effects of Ozone Damage on Native Wildflowers
- Planning the Ozone Bioindicator Garden (pdf)
- Using Sensitive Plants as Bioindicators of Ground Level Ozone Pollution – Implementation Guide (pdf)
- Ozone garden ozone bio-monitoring page – information on measuring ozone data from your garden
Lead image © Danica Lombardozzi National Center for Atmospheric Research