Advanced Trees are Advanced Air Filters

Big, beautiful, leafy trees are not just about good looks! Being Mother Nature's natural filters, they also do wonders for our health.

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A book out of the Netherlands called 'The Green City Guidelines, Techniques for a Healthy Liveable City' (Michelle de Roo & Niek Roozen, Zwaan Printmedia, Sept 2011) has prompted a look at the role trees play in the absorption of pollutants in the air.

Keeping it simple (and there is a lot of very technical information relating to this topic) large leafed deciduous trees are top of the list for absorbing ozone (which is dangerous to nose and lung tissue in concentrated amounts at ground level), gaseous pollutants such as nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide from industry as well as particulate matter covering ash, pollen and smoke.

The NGIA is now commissioning its own research on this matter with the aim of identifying absorption rates and filtering capabilities of native trees in the Australian climate.

Regardless of outcomes here, one fundamental point remains true and above debate: that trees (some more than others, but all regardless) have the ability to filter the air we breathe.

Gingko biloba

In large leafed trees such as Gingko biloba (pictured), Ulmus, Zelkova, Cercis, Cotinus and Canadian Maples such as Acer rubrum 'Autumn Red', pollutants are absorbed by the stomata of leaves (the outer skin layer). The larger the leaf surface, the greater its ability to filter out nasties such as carbon dioxide, ozone and nitrous oxide which is linked to nitric oxide and the production of greenhouse gases (with impact far greater than that associated with carbon dioxide).

Particulate matter such as that found in smoke and ash is captured on leaves too. In a process called impaction, and with the assistance of wind and water, the captured pollutants travel to the ground as fallen leaves where they are either washed away as run-off or fixed into the soil via decomposition.

Conifer species such as Picea and Pinus are very effective here as their needles permanently cover the tree as well as densely surround the tree all year round.

Allocasuarina torulosa

This conical shaped tree becomes rounded with age. It has big and beautiful finely toothed leaves which colour to shades of red, orange and purple during autumn. It is a spectacular tree for colour in autumn and canopy in summer.  40cm/27L
This ineautiful Elm has large lime green elliptical leaves which are slightly serrated at the edges. Size and form make this tree an outstanding selection for canopy, whereas its colour makes it a distinctive feature. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L
A beautiful tree best known for it's large creamy white flowers which appear in summer. Large glossy green leaves makes it tolerant of high pollution. Makes a great feature tree in parks and gardens. 
This is a beautiful rounded tree for Autumn colour selection, although leaves stay green longer than other varieties before turning deep red. Again leaves are big and wide to absorb environmental nasties.  40cm/27L 50cm/52L 200L
This is another tree to fit the bill with broad green leaves that turn golden shades in the autumn. Compared to Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' it is bigger in height and more upright in form. 

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