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Educational content and resources to empower, uplift and inspire.

  • Writer's pictureMelissa Lareau

Phytoremediation: Unleashing the Power of Plants

Updated: Feb 7, 2018

What is Phytoremediation? According to Google, ‘Phytoremediation is the direct use of living green plants in place of the removal, degradation, or containment of contaminants in soils, sludges, sediments, surface water and groundwater. Phytoremediation is a low cost, solar energy driven cleanup technique’.

What Google means by ‘in place of removal, degradation or containment of contaminants’ is that current best practice in soil remediation means to physically remove the toxic soil and deposit it elsewhere, typically in barrels to be buried deep in the earth or set on fire. This is expensive, fossil fuel intensive and ultimately just pushes the problem around and creates a larger problem for the future.

Phytoremediation means that plants have the ability to remove toxins from the air, water and landscape. Certain plants have the ability to remove heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum, etc simply as a natural byproduct of their biology interacting with the toxins in the landscape.

Isn’t that incredible? I think so and it is why it is main service offering of Dirt Revolution.

How does Mother Nature perform this magic trick?

  1. Plants store the toxins in their roots, stems or leaves.

  2. The toxin changes into a less harmful gas.

  3. Mushrooms/Fungi living in the soil near plants break down the toxins or concentrate the toxins around the plants’ roots so when the plant is removed from the dirt, the toxins are also removed. The process of mushrooms healing the dirt is called mycroremediation.

I think of phytoremediation and mycroremediation as Nature’s forgiveness policy, at least a major clause of the policy. It means we can clean up the mess that we have made without making more messes for future generations to clean up. It means we can start now.

Depending on the type and level of toxicity, the plant may need to be discarded not in the compost. When the plants hold the toxin in their leaves, stems or roots the process of decay then re-release the toxin to the environment.

Interested in learning more? Here are some helpful resources and links:

Our Garden Gang- website that has lots of great gardening information

Clean Up Levels- website with state and federal information regarding levels of toxicity

Radical Mycology- Mycroremediation 101

Paul Stamets and Fungi Perfecti- Everything you need and want to know about mushrooms

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