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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

Community involvement is critical for the continued vitality of the urban forest. To encourage this involvement, an understanding is needed of what promotes shared stewardship as well as of different cultural perspectives regarding trees. A survey of the general public in 109 large metropolitan areas across the continental U.S., a culturally and ethnically diverse group, was conducted. Two thousand adults were surveyed to assess the extent of their childhood experiences with nature, their current attitudes toward urban forests, and their demographic backgrounds. Respondents were questioned particularly about their earliest experiences with nature and their current understanding and appreciation of the urban forest. Other researchers have examined the relationship between childhood contact with nature and attitudes toward nature among professionals in environmental fields, but this relationship has not been explored in the general public. Correlations between survey respondents' memories of childhood contact with nature, their current perceptions of the urban forest, and the influence of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds will be presented. For example, respondents who reported very easy access to nature as children were likely to agree strongly that trees should be planted in business districts to reduce smog. Results from this survey may be applied in programs to teach children about trees and gardening, thus better tailoring these programs to engender future appreciation for the urban forest. Raw data from this survey will be made available to other researchers.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

A nationwide phone survey of attitudes toward urban trees, participation in civic or educational activities, and memories of childhood experiences with gardening and nature was conducted with 2004 adults in large urban areas. We analyzed the influence of 11 childhood experiences and five adult demographic characteristics on three items: “Trees in cities help people feel calmer,” “Do trees have a particular personal, symbolic, or spiritual meaning to you?” and “During the past year, have you participated in a class or program about gardening?” Growing up next to natural elements such as flower beds, visiting parks, taking environmental classes, and gardening during childhood were associated with stronger adult attitudes and more actions. Growing up next to urban elements, such as large buildings, had a small, but opposite, influence. Demographics played a role in adult attitudes and actions. While both passive and active interactions with plants during childhood were associated with positive adult values about trees, the strongest influence came from active gardening, such as picking flowers or planting trees. These results indicate that horticultural programs for children raised in urban surroundings with few or no plants can be effective in fostering an appreciation for gardening in adults.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

Colorful baskets of flowering annuals are popular with home gardeners, but these containerized plants require frequent waterings. Mulching of field soils is a proven way to conserve soil moisture. This study was conducted to see if mulching would reduce the need to irrigate containerized plants. Adding either pine bark or sphagnum moss mulch to potted `Impulse Rose' impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) plants reduced the frequency of irrigations when the plants were small and had not yet reached canopy closure. Mulching had no effect on plant height or flowering.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

A well-known research report showed that being in a hospital room with a view of trees rather than a view of a building was linked to the use of fewer pain-reducing medications by patients recovering from surgery. The experiment reported here was designed to further examine the role of plants in pain perception. We found that more subjects were willing to keep a hand submerged in ice water for 5 min if they were in a room with plants present than if they were in a room without plants. This was found to be true even when the room without plants had other colorful objects that might help the subject focus on something other than the discomfort. Results from a room assessment survey confirmed that the room with colorful, nonplant objects was as interesting and colorful as the room with plants present, but the presence of plants was perceived as making the air in the room fresher.

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Caroline H. Pearson-Mims and Virginia I. Lohr

Interiorscaping has been prevalent in office environments in the United States since the 1960s. Historically, proponents of interior plantings have cited numerous benefits, including improved employee morale, increased productivity, and reduced absenteeism when plants are added to the workplace, despite little scientific research to support these claims. Contemporary research is beginning to document some of these purported benefits of interior plantings on human comfort, well-being, and productivity. If researchers continue to provide concrete evidence that interaction with plants is directly linked to improved human health and well-being, this information will provide further justification for the use of interior plants in a variety of indoor work settings. With an ever-increasing emphasis by business managers on minimizing costs, it is important for industry professionals to provide quantifiable justification for the inclusion of plants in modern work environments.

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Caroline H. Pearson-Mims and Virginia I. Lohr

Cut `Samantha' roses (Rosa hybrida L.) were placed in deionized water or a 20-mm Ca(NO3)2 pulsing solution for 72 hours. Flowers then were held in preservative solutions containing 0 or 4 mg fluoride/liter. Fresh weight gain, solution uptake, degree of flower opening, and flower longevity were reduced in the presence of fluoride in the holding solution. Visual symptoms of injury and reduced flower quality also were noted in treatments with fluoride. Pulsing improved fresh weight gain and degree of opening of flowers held in solutions containing fluoride. Pulsing also delayed the onset of visual symptoms of fluoride injury. Water uptake for flowers that were pulsed and exposed to fluoride was not different from uptake for flowers exposed to fluoride alone. Flower longevity for roses in all treatments was increased by using the calcium nitrate pulse, but pulsed flowers in fluoride did not survive as long as the control flowers.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

The effect of organic matter addition and irrigation rates on the growth of bedding plants was found to vary with species. Marigold and sweet alyssum were field-grown with or without added peat moss under normal or 50 percent reduced irrigation.

Regardless of organic matter treatment, marigolds with reduced irrigation were shorter than those with normal irrigation. Under normal irrigation, adding organic matter had no effect on height. Under reduced irrigation, incorporating organic matter was beneficial to marigolds: plants in these plots were 10% taller than plants under reduced irrigation without added organic matter.

Sweet alyssum, a relatively drought-tolerant plant, was wider under reduced than under normal irrigation. It did not benefit from added organic matter: plants grown with added organic matter were 17% narrower than those without added organic matter, regardless of irrigation level. Blanket recommendations to add organic matter to conserve water should be avoided.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

In a survey, residents of the largest metropolitan areas in the continental United States rated the social, environmental, and practical benefits from trees in urban areas highly. They ranked the ability of trees to shade and cool surroundings highest. The potential of trees to help people feel calmer was ranked second highest. Survey respondents were not very concerned about potential problems with trees in cities, and felt that trees should be planted in cities regardless of any annoyance. Practical problems with trees, such as causing allergies, were bigger concerns than were financial issues. Responses varied slightly, based on childhood background and current demographic factors. For example, people who grew up with a garden near their home or actively worked with plants during childhood were more likely to appreciate the potential benefits of trees than were those who did not have such early experiences. People who strongly agreed that trees were important to their quality of life and those who did not strongly agree ranked the tree benefits and problems similarly, however. Those who strongly agreed that trees were important to their quality of life rated the benefits of trees more highly than people who did not strongly agree.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

Research has shown that people respond physiologically and psychologically to scenes of urban and natural landscapes. Viewing nature has been associated with improvements in health, and there is evidence that people have a preference for certain tree forms. Human responses to different tree forms (spreading, columnar, and rounded) and nonliving urban elements were examined. Blood pressure, skin temperature, and emotional states of participants were measured while viewing computer-enhanced slides of urban and residential settings. Respondents were calmer when viewing trees than when viewing nonliving urban elements, and they expressed strong preferences for some tree scenes

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Virginia I. Lohr, Georgia K. Goodwin and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

Foliage plants were added to different environments, including an office and a computer lab. Relative humidity and air-borne particulate matter were monitored in the presence and absence of the plants. When the relative humidity was low, the addition of plants increased the relative humidity slightly, but significantly, over that when no plants were present. Particulate matter accumulation was not increased in the presence of plants. Some have hypothesized that the growing medium could be a source of increased particulates when plants are used indoors. Some of our experiments used self-watering containers, irrigated from below, resulting in very dusty conditions in the top of the container. If the growing medium could contribute to increases in particulate matter, we should have detected it in this study.