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Pteris vittata
Pteris vittata


Continuing a thread from Revival Field: Pteris vittata, or The Chinese Ladder fern (or even simpler, the brake fern), is a highly efficient arsenic hyperaccumulator. And its phytoextractive property may offer economically viable strategies for arsenic filtration out of water supplies.

From The Annie Appleseed Project: “Arsenic pollution of drinking and irrigation water has emerged as a massive health threat in Bangladesh and India, where wells drilled into aquifers have turned out to be tapping poisoned water.

“When the water is used to irrigate rice paddies, arsenic also accumulates in the crop. According to one estimate, 3,000 people may be dying in Bangladesh each year because of arsenic contamination.

“Elless and his colleagues hope their ferns could be adapted to help purify water in these countries; the method is potentially very cheap, and the plants grow readily in warm, humid climates like those of south-east Asia.

“But Meharg is less optimistic. He points out that the ferns may not be able to cope with the huge volumes of water used for irrigation, and that Bangladesh probably lacks the infrastructure needed to maintain such treatment facilities.

“Still, the approach could be valuable in richer countries. For example, thousands of US water-supply systems exceed the new EPA limit for arsenic concentrations in drinking water of 10 millionths of a gram (10 micrograms) per liter.

“The limit comes into effect in January 2006; the existing limit is five times higher. For small rural communities, fern filtering of arsenic could be just the thing to achieve this new limit economically.”

Pteris vittata


Now the hunt commences for a hyperaccumulator of bad architecture, a vampire plant that can suck the concrete and steel and glass out of failed buildings. Which you can simply sow and cultivate to disintegrate a Corbusian public housing high-rise, perennially empty urban plazas, trillion dollar levees, any Wal-Mart, or any Peter Eisenman. Etc.

I imagine at some point in the future Mel Chin proposing a Revival Field composed of these vampire plants hyperccumulating upon ill-manered museum additions.


Revival Field, or: 7 “terrestrial activities of aliens,” Part III
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