RALEIGH, N.C. — A garden planted in front of the North Carolina Governor’s Mansion uses certain plants to make pedestrians aware of odorless and invisible ozone pollution.
Pamela Grundy is a volunteer with the nonprofit organization Clean Air Carolina and helped spearhead the garden. She said breathing ozone irritates the lungs. Yet unlike smog or other types of air pollution, most people are unaware of its presence.
“An ozone garden is a garden that helps people understand the effects of ozone,” Grundy said. “By looking at the damage that ozone does over the course of an ozone season to plants, you can visualize what that problem is.”
Ozone is especially dangerous to vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and people with existing respiratory problems. According to a report by the American Lung Association, Charlotte and Concord are two North Carolina cities that have seen an increase in ozone pollution over the past few years.
Grundy pointed out that while all plants, including agricultural crops, are susceptible to ozone, special plants called bioindicators allow us to see clear patterns of ozone damage.
“Those include cutleaf coneflower – we like to use those in our ozone gardens because they’re big and they’re pretty and they show the damage very well,” she said. “But also things like pawpaws, spice bushes, milkweed; there are a lot of plants that will show this distinctive kind of damage.”
She said she hopes the ozone garden will spur people into thinking about how air quality affects both human health and the environment.
“Having it at the executive mansion, and particularly in the place where it is, which is outside the gates, where people walk by all the time, so, it’s nice to have that in such a prominent place,” Grundy said.