Urban Flower Field

Flowers Starting to grow!

Flowers Starting to grow! June 24, 2014

Urban Flower Field Blooming in August 2014

Urban Flower Field Blooming in August 2014

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Industrial activity and vehicle emissions can lead to contamination of urban soils by heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic and cadmium. This contamination can adversely affect a variety of ecosystem services and potentially impact the health of urban residents. Due to the high cost of typical soil remediation strategies, areas with heavy metal contamination are largely left untreated.  Finding low-cost solutions to heavy metal contamination and engaging citizens in urban revitalization efforts will be essential in addressing this issue.

The Urban Flower Field is a multi-year soil remediation experiment set in an urban public art project. The research component of the project tests whether plant biodiversity increases phytoremediation – the ability of plants to remediate soil, e.g. through uptake of heavy metals. The idea is that biodiversity will increase the collective growth of species planted in mixtures, thereby increasing the total amount of heavy metals removed from the soil. To test our hypothesis we have selected 8 wildflower species. Four of the species are known phytoremediators (two variants of Helianthus annuus, Brassica napus, Pelagoium horrtum), two species are native Minnesota legumes (Lupinus perennis, Baptisia australis) and two species are native Minnesota C4 species (Rudbeckia hirta, Phlox drummondii). We planted these wildflowers in plots containing either 1, 2, 4, or 8 species. Soils in plots are periodically sampled with X-Ray fluorescence as a way of assessing changes in heavy metal concentrations. At the end of the season we will assess root depth and density as well as above ground biomass to quantify the impact of biodiversity on the system.

Stewardship Garden

Liz Chambers and Hunter Gaitan conducting preliminary research, June 2013

A look at progress in downtown St. Paul, June 2014. Instagram, Urban Flower Field. Depicted is the mural painted by Ed Charbonneau, and 5ft diameter flower beds under construction.