All trees have a positive impact on their environment. Research suggests that some have particularly strong attributes for improving air quality. Our recommended tree list highlights varieties that are particularly strong in three areas of pollution:

Removing air pollution particulates (PM2.5)

PM2.5 air particulates are those fine, miniscule particulates found in car exhausts, for example. These are dangerous and can cause a myriad of breathing and heart problems.

CO2 sequestration

All trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air to some extent, but some varieties are particularly proficient.

Countering the Urban Heat Island effect (UHI)

Man-made construction materials concentrated in a small area – like roads and buildings – can cause higher temperatures by absorbing heat and radiating it back into the environment. All trees have the ability to counter this by cooling their immediate surrounds through transpiration and creating shade. Again, some trees are particularly powerful in this regard.

Pollution combatting tree list

An x indicates a high rating against that topic. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list and will continue to expand as more trees are subject to tests. One further tree to acknowledge is Hippophae salicifolia ‘Streetwise.’ One form of pollution that can penetrate soil is salt – particularly from de-icing roads. This is a stand-out tree, proven to remove road salts from the soil.

Removing air pollutionC02 sequestrationCountering UHI
Acer campestre (and cultivars)X
Acer platanoides (and cultivars)XX
Acer rubrum (and cultivars)XX
Aesclus indiciaXX
Alnus (all species and cultivars)X
Betula albosinensis/ermanii/nigra/utilius (and cultivars)X
Betula pendula (and cultivars)X
Carpinus betulus (and cultivars)X
Castanea sativaXXX
Corylus colurnaX
Crataegus laevigata Paul’s ScarletX
Fagus sylvaticaXX
Juglans nigraXXX
Juglans regiaXX
Liriodendron tulipiferaX
Magnolia GalaxyX
Magnolia KobusXXX
Malus (all)XX
Pinus nigra/sylvestrisX
Platanus hispanicaXXX
Prunus AccoladeXX
Pyrus ChanticleerX
Quercus robur (and cultivars)XXX
Salix albaXXX
Sorbus aria (and cultivars)X
Sorbus aucuparia (and cultivars)X
Taxus and TaxodiumX
Tilia cordata, euchlora and tomentosa (and cultivars)XX
Tilia Platyphyllos (and cultivars)XXX
Ulmus New Horizon, Rebona and FiorenteXXX
Acknowledgement and thanks to Katerina Hadincova of Barnet Council for compiling the information from the original research:
“Ranking the suitability of common urban species for controlling PM2.5 pollution”
Jun Yang, Yamin Chang, Pengbo Yan
“The Urban Forest, Cultivating Green nfrastructure for People and the Environment”
David Pearlmutter, Carlo Calfapietra, Roeland Samson, Liz O’Brien, Silvija Krajter Ostoic, Giovanni Sanesi, Rocio Alenso.
“Variation in Nitrogen Dioxide assimilation among 217 plant taxa” Faculty of Science, Hiroshima University


Caroline Swann

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