Pollutants

Pollutants, Pollution, Pollutant Damage, Air Pollution, Acid Rain, Pesticide Leaching, Pesticide Runoff, Herbicide Runoff

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A small bird perched on a tree branch
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Any chemical in too high a quantity is bad for plants. Unfortunately, pollution is only on the rise, and as gardeners, there's not too much we can do about it in terms of protecting our plants. All we can do is attempt to adapt to help our gardens cope, as best we can. Chemical damage can be described using the below terms: Chronic - plants which have been damaged by exposure of minor to moderate levels of pollutants over a long period, producing minor to moderate symptoms. Acute - plants which have been damaged by exposure to high levels of pollutants over a short amount of time, producing severe symptoms. Common pollutants include Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Chlorides, Ammonia etc. Likewise, pesticide and herbicide residues blown via wind gusts can be considered as pollutants, too. Even heavy metal salts, smoke and cement, can bring about similar symptoms.
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Symptoms

Bleached splatter marks or flecks appear on foliage.
If only the wind facing sides of plants show symptoms, it could be caused by a wind carried pollutant.
Evergreen more prone to damage, deciduous plant types less so.
Damage severity depends on proximity to pollution source.
The kind of injury is dependent on the toxin or pollutant.

Biological treatment

Diagnosing a pollutant problem requires some degree of common sense. For example, if located near the coast, it may be the sea spray causing the mild scolding to tree leaves, rather than Sulpher or Pesticide residues. If you are located in rural countryside, pesticide-herbicide damage may be more a likely cause.

Prevention

Only true prevention can be achieved if the source of pollution is completely removed. Unfortunately, this is not possible. Incorporating windbreaks or pollutant-resistant plants can offer some protection. If you are located in a high pollution area, there are some plants which are better able to withstand damage. These include apples, aquilegia, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, ericas, gladioli, hornbeams, laburnums, lilacs, limes, planes, privets, prunus, roses, sycamores, sugar maples, thujas and tsugas.
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Plant Knowledge

Search our ever-growing knowledge base to find plants and information. Find out about pests and diseases you should be keeping an eye out for. Watch How to videos or follow step by step guides for tasks in the garden. Free download for your phone or tablet.
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