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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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Thursday - April 19, 2012

From: St. Louis , MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany, Plant Lists
Title: Phytoremediation Plant List for St. Louis MO
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

My goal is to transform urban blight plots (some up to 1/4 acre) into viable community gardens having healthy, living soil as their foundation. To this end I am researching phytoremediation (thanks to ATTRA), which means a lot of different brassica, and "nasties sucking" plants. Question: do you have a list of such -pytoremediation- plants? Or are you able to give recommendation for a pytoremediating flower garden? Thank you for your time.

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants thanks you for that question, it gave me the opportunity to research the topic just a bit and collect some information for you.

Unfortunately, the short and true answer to your question is “No”, we do not have a list of phytoremediating plants.  I was able to collect some references, of which I hope at least some are new or useful for you.

It’s clear our government is interested.  I found a good article by the USDA and two from the EPA. The plant mentioned in the USDA article, Thlaspi caerulescens, is Alpine Pennycress, its status as a native is unsure.  This reference is the EPA's "Citizens Guide" and this one is a news story on the use of phytoremediation to clean up waste sites.  I also found a bibliography and listserv at Kansas State University, this should be very helpful both for ongoing discussions, archives and perhaps even to post questions!

Rather than giving you a list of phytoremediating plants,  I can suggest to you that the lists we do have is of plants that are native to your area.  Here is our list of recommended species for Missouri.  What you could do is review this list for plants that might be useful for your purpose; you can expect plants on our lists to thrive under normal circumstances.

I also found a number of previous Mr Smarty Plants answers to more specific phytoremediation questions.  This answer was directed towards Lead removal with brassicas, but lists some natives with those properties. This one had additional resources. Here is a later answer concerning lead and other heavy metals and here is a question concerning VOC removal from air.  Finally, here is another answer with a good list of resources.

I hope, rather than a flat “No” this give you a little more to work with!  

 

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