Plants can help bind, extract, transform and clean up many kinds of pollution including metals, pesticides, chlorinated solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), explosives, radionuclides and petroleum hydrocarbons. Plants clean up these forms of pollution as far down as their roots can grow. Plants also help prevent wind and rain from carrying pollution away from the site to other areas.
Did you know that plants like Alpine Pennycress, Ladder brake fern, Brown mustard, Sunflower, Bladder campion, Red rooted pigweed, Barley, Pumpkin, Red Clover, Poplars, Pine, and Willows all have remediative properties? They are just a few among many!
Phytoremediation works best at sites with low to medium amounts of pollution. It is a low-cost, community alternative to many conventional and corporate land remediation practices. Instead of using excavators and dump trucks to remove tons of toxic soil and fill a site with new clean soil mined from elsewhere, on-site plants remove contaminants from the soil and store it within their plant tissues or bind them and/or break them down at their roots. In some cases, the plants themselves are then removed as toxic waste, while in other cases plants break down the chemicals and transform them altogether.