Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 13, pp 12851–12858 | Cite as

Does plant species selection in functional active green walls influence VOC phytoremediation efficiency?

  • Peter J. IrgaEmail author
  • Thomas Pettit
  • Robert F. Irga
  • Naomi J. Paull
  • Ashley N. J. Douglas
  • Fraser R. Torpy
Research Article


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are of public concern due to their adverse health effects. Botanical air filtration is a promising technology for reducing indoor air contaminants, but the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. This study assessed active botanical biofilters for their single-pass removal efficiency (SPRE) for benzene, ethyl acetate and ambient total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), at concentrations of in situ relevance. Biofilters containing four plant species (Chlorophytum orchidastrum, Nematanthus glabra, Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘duffii’ and Schefflera arboricola) were compared to discern whether plant selection influenced VOC SPRE. Amongst all tested plant species, benzene SPREs were between 45.54 and 59.50%, with N. glabra the most efficient. The botanical biofilters removed 32.36–91.19% of ethyl acetate, with C. orchidastrum and S. arboricola recording significantly higher ethyl acetate SPREs than N. glabra and N. cordifolia. These findings thus indicate that plant type influences botanical biofilter VOC removal. It is proposed that ethyl acetate SPREs were dependent on hydrophilic adsorbent sites, with increasing root surface area, root diameter and root mass all associated with increasing ethyl acetate SPRE. The high benzene SPRE of N. glabra is likely due to the high wax content in its leaf cuticles. The SPREs for the relatively low levels of ambient TVOCs were consistent amongst plant species, providing no evidence to suggest that in situ TVOC removal is influenced by plant choice. Nonetheless, as inter-species differences do exist for some VOCs, botanical biofilters using a mixture of plants is proposed.


Air pollution Botanical biofilters Phytoremediation Green walls VOCs 



Peter J Irga is financially supported by the UTS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship scheme (CPDRF), facilitated through The Centre for Technology in Water and Wastewater (CTWW). Thomas J Pettit and ANJ Douglas are financially supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. Additional thanks goes to Gemma Armstrong and Sue Fenech for their technical contribution, and Junglefy P/L for providing green wall materials.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Information TechnologyUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia
  2. 2.Plants and Environmental Quality Research Group, School of Life Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia

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