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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - September 14, 2005

From: Brooklyn, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: General Botany
Title: Smarty Plants on air purification
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

What plant purifies the air?

ANSWER:

The short answer is every living plant purifies the air. All plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and use it in their metabolic processes. They also use oxygen, but actually produce more oxygen -- as a by-product of photosynthesis -- than they consume.

In a now-famous series of experiments, Dr. Bill Wolverton, a NASA scientist, showed the effectiveness of several species of commonly grown indoor (mostly tropical) plants in removing volatile organic compounds, VOC's, from the air.

Many people believe indoor plants are very effective at reducing illness cause by breathing VOC's in the home and office. The illness is often referred to as "Sick Building Syndrome." It is likely that many plants that are not used indoors are just as effective at removing VOC's and other air impurities from the air outdoors.

Here is a list of plants shown to be effective in removing VOC's from indoor air included in a very nice article on the subject.
 

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