Scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have found that Cotoneaster franchetii could help absorb pollution on heavily trafficked roads. In a study that compared how different plants tame pollution, RHS scientists found this species of cotoneaster to be the most effective. The plant was compared to other shrubs, including western red cedar and hawthorn.

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According to the researchers, cotoneaster turned out to be a “super plant” that could act as a carbon sink for fossil fuel pollution. However, the study established that the plant was really only helpful in areas with high traffic. In comparison to the other plants in the study, cotoneaster was found to be 20% more effective in absorbing pollution. In quiet regions with limited pollution, the plant was found to be less effective.

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“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,” said Tijana Blanusa, lead researcher. “We know that in just seven days, a one-meter length of well-managed dense hedge will mop up the same amount of pollution that a car emits over a 500 mile drive.”

Air pollution is a big concern in the modern world. RHS conducted a survey that involved over 2,000 participants to find out their take on pollution matters. The survey revealed that 33% of respondents have been affected by pollution but only 6% had taken steps to combat the situation in their own gardens. But researchers are hopeful that sharing how powerful cotoneaster and similar plants are could help the public participate in improving air quality through gardening.

“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,” said Alistair Griffiths, director of science and collections at RHS. “We’ve found, for example, that ivy wall cover excels at cooling buildings, and hawthorn and privet help ease intense summer rainfalls and reduce localized flooding. If planted in gardens and green spaces where these environmental issues are most prevalent, we could make a big difference in mitigating against and adapting to climate change.”

+ Royal Horticultural Society

Via The Guardian

Image via Père Igor