College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

IAA Gives Green Valentines

JoEllen Barnhart, Ph.D.

It’s a bit greener in about 600 dorm rooms across the University of Maryland College Park campus this semester.  “I love seeing a spot of green in my room when the skies are so grey. Besides, a healthy green plant on a window sill brings a feeling of warmth and it helps cleanse the indoor air,” states Katherine Okada, a freshman studying biological sciences at UMCP.  


Ken Ingram, lecturer and coordinator for landscape management and ornamental horticulture in UMD’s Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA), confirms Okada’s comments.  According to Ingram, “Plants produce their own food by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and, in turn, release oxygen.  In short, houseplants are an easy and sustainable way to help remove air pollutants.”


Ingram adds, “Different plants have the capacity to remove different pollutants.” For example, philodendron, spider plants and bamboo palm can help remediate indoor formaldehyde that can come from items such as plastic grocery bags, pressed-wood products, foam insulation, and natural gas.


In addition to improving air quality, indoor plants have other benefits, too.   Numerous studies report that plant-filled environments not only filter the air and reduce stress.  UMCP students Brooke Szczesny, a Letters and Sciences student and River William, public health sciences major agree their new plants make them smile and help them think of warmer days ahead. The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) agrees, claiming houseplants do more than just beautify an indoor space like a dorm room. AHTA sites several studies that show psychological, cognitive, social, even physical benefits of interior plants.


For the February 2015 Plant Give-Away program, sponsored by a $500 grant from Pepsi Co., IAA students grew plants in UMD’s  greenhouse.   IAA students in Ingram’s classes selected, planted and nurtured plants specifically for student dorm rooms-- plants that are low maintenance and provide health-related benefits.


“It’s a low-cost program with immeasurable benefits,” comments Glori Hyman, IAA Director. “IAA students apply and share their knowledge while improving air quality, promoting agriculture, and bringing smiles to fellow students.”  

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