Phytoremediation is the process of using plants to help clean up contaminated air, soil, and water.
Various plants, called hyperaccumulators, have been identified for their potential to facilitate the phytoremediation of sites contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbon.1
Most that have been studied thus far belong to the grass or legume family. Here are a few other studies on hydrocarbon phytoremediators: 2, 3.
Plants we workED with that are able to take up hydrocarbons include:
Canada Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis) [can also take up Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH)]
Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii)
Plants grow best when other supportive plants are nearby:
Other seeds we planted alongside our hydrocarbon phytoremediators (depending on participant’s location) included:
Black Eyed Susan
Smooth Blue Aster
Great Blanket Flower
A few things that can support plant development + growth:
This project asked participants to think together about how we might work with plants in ways that are supportive – how we might move beyond thinking about them as ‘technology’ performing a task, but rather as collaborators. This required a recalibration of perspective.
Studies have shown that plants take up more hydrocarbons when Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi [AMF] are also present. The plant and fungi share a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship.
The AMF acts as extension of the root system of plants, assisting with the absorption of both water and nutrients. In return, the plant provides the fungus with a source of carbohydrates.
Plant diversity is also beneficial to supporting plants working to remediate toxic lands.
Natural Plant Community Toolkits:
After completing a survey with details about the locations where participant’s planned to plant their seeds, each were sent a Natural Plant Community Toolkit in the mail containing:
- Grass seed capable of taking up hydrocarbons;
- Custom-made flower seed packs based on specific planting locations;
- A package of AMF to help support growing seeds;
- A one-sheet with instructions;
- Two blank postcards to map planting locations, and to send on to another.