Friday, December 18, 2009

Air - Cleaning Plants

Plants remove toxins from the air and absorb them, leaving your home safer for you, your family, and your pets.

Next time you go shopping for eco-friendly home cleaning supplies, consider adding large-leaved plants for every room in house. The reduce unhealthy pollutants as well as airborne bacteria and fungi while adding the humidity needed to combat respiratory and allergic conditions.

According to B. C. Wolverton, Ph.D., a retired NASA research scientist, indoor air pollution can be a major threat to our health. To determine how the earth produces and sustains clean air through plants, Wolverton and his fellow NASA scientists studied plants in controlled environments. The researchers found that houseplants can purify and revitalize air in our homes and offices, protecting us from the negative effects of such common toxins as ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene.

Asbestos, pesticides, fumes from detergents and solvents, fibers from carpets, draperies, insulation, even glass - not to mention mold and tobacco smoke - all add up to a cleanup best tackled by Mother Nature. Plant leaves are able to absorb pollutants and send them to the roots, where they become food for microbes.

To get the most out of your house plants, set them up, 2 to 3 per room, so there is plenty of space around each one for ideal air circulation. Keep the air moist by misting plants. Avoid locations in the rooms where there are drafts or sudden temperature changes. Pollutants are absorbed through the leaves, so keep the leaves clear of dust by gently wiping with a damp cloth.

Top 10 Air Cleaning Plants

Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, Areca palm

Chamaedorea siefritzii, Reed palm

Phoenix roebelenii, Dwarf date palm

Nephrolepis exaltata, Boston fern

Nephrolepis obliterata, Australian sword fern

Hedera helix, English ivy

Ficus benjamina, Weeping fig

Ficus elastica, Indian rubber plant

Epipremnum aureum, photos
Photo credit: mr_subjunctive, at the blog Plants are the Strangest People

Spathiphyllum wallisii, Peace lily

Article from Organic Gardening, Dec 2005/Jan 2006

Friday, December 11, 2009


When you think of mistletoe, holiday decorations and stolen kisses come to mind. In the garden, however, mistletoe leads a life of crime, plundering nutrients from trees and serving up highly toxic berries. A native plant, American mistletoe, Phoradendron flavescens, isn't all that bad, providing shelter and food to a variety of birds, bugs, and butterflies. The great purple hairstreak, Atlides halesus, a beautiful southern butterfly, relies on the mistletoe as a primary food source for its larvae.

Partners in Crime
Birds thrive on mistletoe berries and use the growing clusters for nesting. Unharmed by the berries' toxins, birds end up with sticky mistletoe seeds stuck to their beaks and feet. They assist the spread of mistletoe when they land on new branches or preen to clean their beaks. The seeds get lodged in the bark, germinate, send 'holdfasts' to the branch , and produce foliage about a year later

Mistletoe facts...
  • There are 1,300 species of mistletoe
  • Cost of a sprig of mistletoe (minus the berries): $5
  • It was once thought that mistletoe grew spontaneously from bird droppings
  • Age at which a mistletoe plants flowers: 5 years
  • Best way to rid a landscape tree of mistletoe is to prune the infected limb
  • In 1893, mistletoe was chosen as the floral emblem of Oklahoma
  • Medical use of mistletoe extract in Europe: cancer treatment

Mistletoe 'balls' and trees can coexist for years. The berries ripen in November

Article by Abigail Poulette, Organic Gardening, Jan 2007

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Recycled produce?

Allium wakegi, Scallion

The next time you buy fresh green onions or scallions at the market, don't compost the heads you cut off, instead replant them! Follow these easy steps and you can have a continuous crop for months on your kitchen window sill.

Green Onions:
1. Use green onions with healthy, white roots attached to the bulb. Snip off green tops for cooking with a scissors. Leave a little green top on the onion bulb.

2. Plant the entire onion while leaving the short top above ground in a small pot filled with a loamy, organic potting soil. Make sure your container has drainage holes. Put in a sunny windowsill and water once a week or when soil feels dry to the touch.

3. Harvest new green shoots with scissors to use for cooking or as a tasty garnish. Continue to leave the onion in the soil. With each new growth the onion will taste more potent. After each harvest of onion tops, dress the topsoil with organic compost. Enjoy green onion tops in stir-fries, omelets, and in sandwiches all winter long

*Organic Gardening Magazine