Trees support our environment in many ways. Not only do they bring stability to the soil, but they also produce oxygen and clean our air. However, not all trees are the same in these qualities. Some trees produce vast root systems that support the soil while others have shallow and weak roots. Other trees like the maple tree produce large amounts of oxygen while the pine tree produces small amounts of oxygen.
Just like oxygen production and root systems, not all trees are strong air cleaners. We need trees of all capability levels in our environment. It may seem obvious that trees that produce the most oxygen clean the air the best.
However, this is not necessarily true. While removing carbon dioxide from the air is an important step in cleaning it, it is not the same as removing toxins.
There are some tree species that are detrimental to the air. Notably, the black gum tree and many poplars emit significant VOCs into the air.
There are many reasons to seek out trees that are superior at cleaning air. Trees that clean our air may support your yard in an urban area, removing smog and toxins. In fact, the best air cleaners remove PM10 dust clouds and lower the surrounding temperature.
Many urban planners are now adding urban forests to their designs to improve air quality in large cities. Even though you may not be looking for such a big project, you may still want the best cleaners for your yard or garden.
The top five trees for cleaning air are:
- Norway Maple
- Eastern Juniper
- Silver Birch
- Turkey Oak
- Douglas Fir
1. Norway Maple
The Norway Maple is native to Europe and the western side of Asia and thriving in these locations. However, in America, many states consider the Norway Maple an invasive species. You will usually find it growing near Lake Ontario and the Pacific Northwest. Most states in the Northeast ban the sale of the Norway Maple.
Despite American opinions of how the Norway Maple affects the environment, it is still number one on our list. All in all, the Norway Maple grows bent leaves that face the sun. This allows the leaves to absorb as much sunlight as possible for photosynthesis.
The Norway Maple removes close to 420 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air every year. On top of this production, it also protects the air from other pollution and lowers the surrounding temperature.
Norway Maples grow to heights of 100 feet. Overall, the bark is grooved and gray. They do not live long lives. Most of them live for only 60 years.
2. Eastern Juniper
The Eastern Juniper is a coniferous evergreen growing throughout the Eastern United States. Altogether, it grows to be 66 feet in height at a slow rate. The lifespans of these trees are long close to 1000 years old.
Despite the popularity and distribution of the Eastern Juniper, it is a common allergen causing issues for many in the early months of Spring. The bark holds a red hue leading to many calling it a “red cedar”. However, it is not part of the Cedar Family.
The Eastern Juniper thrives in a high carbon dioxide environment. Considering it is an evergreen, allows it to support the air quality in areas of drought, heat, and cold. Additionally, it can continue the photosynthesis cycle in the winter months when the deciduous trees are without leaves.
3. Silver Birch
The Silver Birch boasts that striking white bark of birch trees. Additionally, birch trees love to grow in communities. With these communities, they sustain severe growing conditions. The Silver Birch trees remove over 6,800 pounds of carbon dioxide in a twenty-year span.
Most Silver Birch’s grow to 80 feet tall. The trunks are slender and covered in peeling white bark. Furthermore, the canopy matches the trunk and stays slender. The loose canopy allows for the leaves to receive ample sunlight for photosynthesis.
The Silver Birch grows in western Europe and parts of Asia. Like the Norway Maple, Americans consider the Silver Birch to be invasive in many states. However, Canada does not.
4. Turkey Oak
The Turkey Oak matches the Silver Birch in carbon dioxide absorption. Absorbing over 6,800 pounds of carbon dioxide in twenty years, the Turkey Oak is cleaning our air supply well. Unlike the Silver Birch, the Turkey Oak is native to the United States. In fact, the Turkey Oak calls southeastern states along the coast, home.
What the Turkey Oak provides is an ability to sustain rocky and sandy soils. Most oaks need deep and nutrient-rich earth to survive. The Turkey Oak survives and thrives in areas where most oaks cannot.
All in all, the Turkey Oak grows to in varying sizes between 30 and 90 feet. The leaves are generally large and light green.
5. Douglas Fir
Last on our list is another evergreen, the Douglas Fir. We gain all the same benefits from the Eastern Juniper, like year-round air control and support and drought, from the Douglas Fir. The Douglas Fir prefers acidic soils and dry areas.
The Douglas Fir is native to North America. Largely, it grows in the Pacific Northwest. Two different variants exist, one that grows along the coast and one that grows through the Rocky Mountains. Both variants grow to 50 to 300 feet in height. Obviously, the larger the tree, the more it cleans the air.
Douglas Firs live exceptionally long lives, easily living over 1000 years. The bark is thick and dark brown. Also, the needles are short and soft. These features make it an excellent choice for Christmas trees.