Author: Mara Vukovic
Welcome to the magical world of plants!
If you are not very familiar with plants, and you want to become an apprentice botanist, or maybe you are simply curious, you are exactly in the right place! Plants have fantastic powers that we are not necessarily aware of. Yet, these green beauties are crucial for the planet Earth’s survival and thus the survival of all species that live on it, including Us. I may sound crude, but our generation is so busy to pursue happiness through material things, that it completely forgot about the mere essence of things. Those things that keep us alive. How can we pursue our goals in life if we cannot even breathe? Let’s take a mindful break and learn about the concept of photosynthesis, how it enables us to breathe and keep our air clean.
We all learned at school that plants use a process called Photosynthesis. I know that this term sounds scientific and that some of you were pushed away by the apparent complexity of the word, but here is a simple explanation of how plants can purify the air through photosynthesis.
Oxygenic Photosynthesis is not something that plants have learned to do through time like we learn to read or count. That’s something they did from the first time they appeared on Earth, approximately 2000 million years ago, when they were the only form of life. Yas, plants are living beings! They breathe, just like us, but in a different manner. Human beings inhale oxygen (02) and exhale carbon dioxide (C02). Plants do the opposite. They inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. In order to do that, they need energy. This latter is drawn from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide.
Fun fact: you can replace sunlight with artificial light – for example, a lamp – to grow your indoor plants.
The combination of these 3 elements provides food for the plant in the form of glucose. Glucose will nourish the plant and fuel its growth. Leaves contain mesophyll cells that are full of chloroplasts. These latter have pigments – like our skin – including chlorophyll, that is known to give plants their green color by absorbing all colors except green. The light absorbed is stored as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the chloroplasts. ATP helps in the formation of the glucose molecule by linking the carbon dioxide, oxygen, and hydrogen together, because light alone is useless. That’s how photosynthesis works. However, you may ask yourself: How is it purifying the air?
Fun fact: the leaves of plants are open flat towards the sky to better expose themselves to the Sun’s light energy.
The pores located on the surface of plants’ leaves are experts in absorbing all kinds of gases and pollutants present in its surroundings. It nourishes the plant by activating the photosynthesis process. This is good news because we have in front of us a natural and efficient way of fighting the “pollution” of our habitats and enhance our everyday wellbeing. We talked earlier about carbon dioxide. Research has proven that other gases, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are also absorbed. These gases are highly present in the air and can cause serious health damages in the long term. If you want to protect yourself from VOCs, indoor plants might be a great solution to neutralize them. Below is a table showing the main indoor pollutants, their sources, their health effects, and the plants who can neutralize their effects.