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Plant of the Month 2019

Periodic Table

Launched in July 2017, the SCIence Garden brings to life a diverse array of plants representing SCI’s technical and regional groups. The Garden also showcases the connections between all areas of chemistry related science and highlights the intrinsic role played by natural resources and the environment in industry.

2019 – The International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements

2019 has been declared by the United Nations General Assembly and by UNESCO to be the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT). 2019 is a landmark year - 150 years since the discovery of the Periodic System by Dmitry Mendeleev and also the centenary of IUPAC (International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry).

Celebrating the IYPT will raise global awareness of how chemistry promotes sustainable development and provides solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health.

The SCIence garden will also be celebrating the IYPT, with various plants with names linked to chemical elements.

To find out more about the IYPT go to: https://www.iypt2019.org/.

Archive issues of the Horticulture Group newsletter, including Plant of the Month up to March 2017, can be found here.

January: Hedera helix, English ivy, Araliaceae

January in the SCIence Garden

Hedera helix silver king labelJanuary’s plant, which is growing in the tall black planters in the area around the pond behind the garden room, is Hedera helix ‘Silver King’. A good climbing and trailing ivy with silvery white (as you might expect from the name) variegation. It will grow in semi-shade – which is much needed for this particular spot in the SCIence garden and is evergreen, providing some interest to the planters all year round. The typical leaf has five lobes, with the central lobe being about twice as long as the outer lobes.

Hedera, the genus to which English ivy (Hedera helix) belongs, is one of 43 genera in the family Araliaceae. Fatsia, of which there is a large plant growing in the main SCIence garden, is also in this family. Hedera itself is quite a small genus, with just a handful of species. Fatsia in flowerThese species are native to central, southern and western Europe, Macaronesia, north-west Africa and across central and southern Asia to Japan and Taiwan.

Fatsia in flower (right)

Ivy has adhesive, aerial roots that are only found on the juvenile form, which also differs from the mature form in leaf shape. The flowers of the mature ivy provide a fantastic nectar supply for insects, particularly in months when there are few alternatives. The berries also have great wildlife value, as a source of winter food for birds.

Silver, element no. 47, sits in group 11 of the periodic table. Evidence near ancient mine workings in Turkey and Greece show that silver mining was taking place around 3000 BC. Silver mining continues to this day with the top producing countries being Mexico, Peru and China.

Hedera helix silver kingMetallic silver, which is relatively soft and shiny, tarnishes slowly in the air, forming a black coating, made of silver sulfide. This is formed as sulfur compounds in the air react with the surface of the silver.

Hedera helix with silvery white variegation (left)

Silver is of course the major component (92.5%) of Sterling Silver, used for making jewellery and silver tableware. The remainder is normally copper.

Other than jewellery and tableware, silver (and compounds thereof) is used for a wide variety of applications from dental alloys, to printed circuits and in photography. Silver is antibacterial and its use in plasters and clothing is becoming increasingly popular. It is even woven into the fingertips of gloves so that wearers can still use touchscreen devices!

For more information about silver visit: http://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/47/silver.

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