The UK’s first air quality garden, containing plant species that are sensitive to ozone pollution, was planted in a dedicated area at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens in June with help from 21 Sheffield children. Today they have revisited the site to find out: what’s the damage?

The project – a pilot in Sheffield – is in collaboration with the universities of Sheffield, York and Leeds and is funded by the White Rose Universities Consortium.

The garden shows the effects of air pollution on plants and their ability to absorb the air’s harmful chemicals, and, together with the council’s Air Aware campaign and educational materials, raises awareness about the effects on health and how people can make a difference.

21 Sheffield children – 14 students from Porter Croft Primary School, and 7 who are home educated – aged between 8 to 10 years old have helped to establish the garden and survey existing plants.

Dr Maria Val Martin, Lecturer in Environmental Protection at The University of Sheffield explained how the plants have changed since they were planted and how these changes would impact human health.

Councillor George Lindars-Hammond, cabinet assistant for infrastructure and transport at Sheffield City Council, said: “This garden allows us to demonstrate the effects of pollution on plants, and on our own health, and seeing the effects first hand here is a real eye-opener.

“We are working hard to establish ways to reduce air pollution and there’s a lot that people in Sheffield can do to improve our environment, so that’s why we launched our Air Aware campaign to help people realise how they can make a difference.

“It’s difficult with air pollution because it’s often invisible and odourless, that’s why projects like this are so valuable, because the effects are there for all to see. I would encourage people to find out more about what they can do to protect themselves and our environment.”

  • Dr Maria Val Martin, Lecturer in Environmental Protection at The University of Sheffield, is one of the brains behind the garden. She has worked with Dr Steve Arnold and Dr Catherine Scott from The University of Leeds and Dr Patrick Bueker and Dr Alison Dyke from The University of York to establish the garden, based on similar projects in the USA, also known as ‘ozone gardens’.

    The air quality garden includes species that are sensitive to ozone pollution, such as snap beans, wheat, clover and perennial plants, such as common milkweed and cutleaf coneflower.

Dr Val Martin said: “We are very excited to establish this garden in Sheffield. We want to show the community what polluted, bad air can do to the local plants and explain how harmful it can be to our health. Having clean air in Sheffield requires planning to help reduce traffic, but also needs individual actions. We hope this project will raise public awareness of air pollution effects in a tangible manner and changes people’s behaviours.”

The air quality garden can be found just to the left of the Brocco Bank entrance to the Botanical Gardens. The growing season has now ended but the garden will remain in place and the effects of air pollution can be monitored once again throughout next spring and summer.

500 ‘I’m Air Aware’ badges and notepads have been produced and will be used in ongoing educational projects throughout Sheffield.

More information about Sheffield’s Air Aware campaign is available at, there’s also a dedicated twitter account @AirAwareSheff and Facebook page Air Aware Sheffield.