Changes in phytoremediation efficiency after repeated exposures (three) to toluene (1.3 ppm) were assessed in 26 species and two additional cultivars of indoor plants. There was a rapid increase in toluene removal efficiency in 27 of the 28 crops with the greatest increase between the first and second exposure (i.e., after 3 days). The increase in efficiency between the first and third exposure ranged from 378 μg·m−3·h−1·m−2 leaf area in Pinus densiflora to –16.6 in Salvia elegans with a mean of 156 for all crops. Percent change ranged from 614 (Pittosporum tobira) to –8 (Salvia elegans) but was not necessarily indicative of phytoremediation value of a species. Rapid changes in phytoremediation efficiency in response to exposure to toluene appear to be widespread in plants and may be the result of an effect on gene expression in the plant and/or certain soil microbes or changes in the population density of toluene-metabolizing microbes. Increasing toluene removal efficiency is advantageous and as a consequence, a better understanding of the mechanism(s) operative may improve use of the response for practical applications.
The efficiency of volatile formaldehyde removal was assessed in 86 species of plants representing five general classes (ferns, woody foliage plants, herbaceous foliage plants, Korean native plants, and herbs). Phytoremediation potential was assessed by exposing the plants to gaseous formaldehyde (2.0 μL·L−1) in airtight chambers (1.0 m3) constructed of inert materials and measuring the rate of removal. Osmunda japonica, Selaginella tamariscina, Davallia mariesii, Polypodium formosanum, Psidium guajava, Lavandula spp., Pteris dispar, Pteris multifida, and Pelargonium spp. were the most effective species tested, removing more than 1.87 μg·m−3·cm−2 over 5 h. Ferns had the highest formaldehyde removal efficiency of the classes of plants tested with O. japonica the most effective of the 86 species (i.e., 6.64 μg·m−3·cm−2 leaf area over 5 h). The most effective species in individual classes were: ferns—Osmunda japonica, Selaginella tamariscina, and Davallia mariesii; woody foliage plants—Psidium guajava, Rhapis excels, and Zamia pumila; herbaceous foliage plants—Chlorophytum bichetii, Dieffenbachia ‘Marianne’, Tillandsia cyanea, and Anthurium andraeanum; Korean native plants—Nandina domestica; and herbs—Lavandula spp., Pelargonium spp., and Rosmarinus officinalis. The species were separated into three general groups based on their formaldehyde removal efficiency: excellent (greater than 1.2 μg·m−3 formaldehyde per cm2 of leaf area over 5 h), intermediate (1.2 or less to 0.6), and poor (less than 0.6). Species classified as excellent are considered viable phytoremediation candidates for homes and offices where volatile formaldehyde is a concern.