Posted: 00:36 GMT, 18 February 2021 | Update: 01h06 GMT, 18 February 2021

For those who live on busy roads, reducing air pollution could be easier than you think – thanks to a «super shrub» which traps emissions

Cotoneaster, a common hedge plant, absorbs more pollution than other similar shrubs, according to the Royal Horticultural Society

With its bushy, hairy leaves and dense canopy, the cotoneaster was 20% more effective at absorbing traffic smoke particles than plants such as hawthorn and Western Red Cedar.

And, in just seven days, researchers found that a dense, well-managed hedge just three feet long mopped up the same amount of pollution a car emits on a 500 miles.

Cotoneaster, a common hedge plant (photo) absorbs more pollution than other similar shrubs, according to the Royal Horticultural Society

However, although cotoneaster has been shown to be more effective on high traffic roads, it didn't make a difference in the quieter streets

The principal investigator, and Dr. Tiana Blanusa, said the cotoneaster would be ideal for planting along busy roads in pollution hot spots

However, Dr Blanusa added that any hedge is better than no plant in people's front yards.

“A hedge, even if it is not the most efficient for air quality, can still be a good barrier against noise or to help remove excess rain”, she said.

‘On the main roads of the city with heavy traffic, we have found that species with more complex and dense canopies, rough, hairy leaves like cotoneaster were most effective.

‘We know that in just seven days, a length of one meter of well-managed dense hedge will absorb the same amount of pollution that a car emits on a journey of 500 miles.’

She said the cotoneaster would be ideal for planting along busy roads in pollution hot spots., while in other areas where nurturing nature was essential – a mixture of species would be recommended

While a survey of 2 056 people for the ERS revealed that a third (33%) were affected by air pollution, only 6% take active measures in their gardens to mitigate it

In just seven days, researchers found that a well-managed dense hedge only three feet long mopped up the same amount of pollution a car emitted on a 500 miles. On the picture: London covered in air pollution and smog in 2015 (photo d’archive)

About 86% of people interviewed by YouGov said they care about environmental issues, while 78% worried about climate change, and RHS hopes to harness this interest to encourage people to think about helping the environment in their garden.

Professor Alistair Griffiths, RHS science and collections director, said: “ We are continually identifying new ‘super plants’ with unique qualities that, combined with other plants, provide increased benefits while providing much-needed habitat for wildlife

‘We have found, for example, that ivy wallcovering excels in cooling buildings, and hawthorn and privet help alleviate heavy summer rains and reduce localized flooding.

‘If planted in gardens and green spaces where these environmental problems are most prevalent, we could make a big difference in the fight against climate change’

RHS scientists now move to the Hilltop Center, in the charity's gardens in Wisley, Surrey, which contains facilities allowing them to increase research in these areas, as well as exhibition spaces and gardens of “ living laboratory ”

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Cotoneaster franchises, Royal Horticultural Society, Air pollution, shrubs, plants

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