Where do we find plants that are adaptable to changing climate conditions for urban sites? A group in Sweden and the United Kingdom decided to look at steppe plants from Eastern Romania to see if there may be species suitable for use in Northern Europe. Their rationale: Society needs plants that provide functionality, such as stormwater management, in smaller and smaller places under harsh conditions. Spots like highway medians, parking lots and roadsides are typically locales not associated with plantings. Increasingly plants stuffed into these kinds of non-traditional sites are looked to for ecosystems services, such as stormwater management, cooling, particulate matter and air pollution mitigation, wildlife habitat and other services.
The group looked at a list of 117 herbaceous plants, “all of which experience water stress regimes comparable to those in urban paved sites in Scandinavia.” Because green infrastructure sites may be difficult to access, plants must also be low maintenance while looking nice, too. As Nigel Dunnett puts it, a compromise between aesthetics and ecological reality.
Eastern Romania’s steppe country climate has high summer temps and low rainfall and cold winters: Communities of plants evolved that could be suitable for Scandinavian urban settings. Three different locations were catalogued. Of the 117 species documented in late spring, 13 were present in all three locations. Teucrium chamaedrys and Phlomis herba-venti subsp. pungens were the most prevalent in David Valley, covering 30% to 40% of the area. Euphorbia cyparissias was most prevalent at Alah Bair Hill, covering about 10% to 20%. Most plants catalogued are small to medium, clump-forming perennial species. Some are currently in the horticultural trade.
The authors say next steps include screening plants for invasiveness, developing potential planting designs and testing their tolerance of the specific conditions that will be found in Scandinavian cities.
Herbaceous Plants for Climate Adaptation and Intensely Developed Urban Sites in Northern Europe: A Case Study From the Eastern Romanian Steppe by Henrik Sjöman and; Patrick Bellan, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; James Hitchmough, University of Sheffield; and Adrian Oprea, “Anastasie Fatu” Botanic Garden, Iasi, Romania in Ekológia (Bratislava). DOI: 10.1515/eko-2015-0005
NewTerrain June 1, 2016.