Heat and lack of water will permanently change the flora in the capital region. You can already find out which vegetation could be at home here in the future on the grounds of the Beelitz State Horticultural Show. Researchers have created a special bed there to observe plants that get by with little water and defy the sun’s rays.
The bed is part of the KukPiK research project (small shrubs and herbaceous plants in climate change). In Beelitz, for example, American mountain mint, woodland sage or laurel-leaved rockrose grow, explains David Zimmerling, research associate at the Teaching and Research Institute for Horticulture and Arboristics. V. (LVGA) in Großbeeren, which is behind the experiment.
“The plants react to the heat,” says Zimmerling. For example, they fold their leaves in so that less water evaporates. The species on the research bed are native to hot regions and therefore have special features that make it easier for them to survive, such as small hairs or deep roots.
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“They are specialists,” says Zimmerling. And they have to be, because Zimmerling and his colleagues practically never cast them.
In Großbeeren, where a similar but larger bed has been standing since spring 2021, water has only been added once so far, says the researcher. In the struggle for survival, the plants are supported by mulching. That is, the soil is covered with organic materials. For example with screed sand, which consists of small stones with a diameter of two to eight millimeters. They protect the floor from direct sunlight – and thus from drying out.
The KukPiK research project will run until the end of 2022 and is funded by the Berlin Senate Department for the Environment, Mobility, Consumer and Climate Protection. The specific goal is to develop methods with which urban green can be preserved in the future. In the city, the heat radiates from buildings, explains Zimmerling, and there is a build-up of heat. Hardy plants could help cool down. Zimmerling also wants to encourage plants that provide food for insects.
The State Horticultural Show in Beelitz gave the LVGA the opportunity to present their research to a wide audience. “It was a great opportunity for us,” says Zimmerling. It is an exciting experience to talk to the visitors and to explain the methods to them. Because in the end everyone has to deal with the consequences of climate change, says the researcher. And mulch materials can also be used in your own garden to save resources.