Top 5 Trees That Shrug Off Pollution!

Top 5 Trees That Shrug Off Pollution!

oak tree

Trees in urban areas have to deal with a lot of tricky conditions. Poor acidic soil, tight spaces, depleted and compacted soil, and light all day and streetlights at night. But there is one thing you may not think of that your tree has to contend with - Smog and Air Pollution!

Since trees draw in CO2 and release Oxygen, they are pulling in far more pollutants than others because of traffic, industrial fumes, and more! 

So you need a tree that’s up to the challenge!

Better yet - You want a tree that will help clean the air, capture excess carbon dioxide, and look good while they’re at it!

Top 5 Trees That Stand Up To City Pollution

There are many reasons why trees are so important! But especially in the expanding urban jungle of hot pavement and concrete, never-ending traffic and smog, and large populations of people crowded together. 

Finding a tree that will handle these conditions can be tricky!

Check Out These Pollution-Tolerant City Trees!

1. Oak Trees

oak tree

Mighty Oak trees have long endured a wide variety of climates and conditions. Topping the list is the Bur Oak, but you can select one that works best in your immediate area by checking with your local County Extension Office to see what grows best in your area. There are a wide range of sizes to choose from and even more columnar Oaks for smaller footprint locations. Can be used in urban and street plantings with less pruning and excellent tolerance to urban conditions.

From the columnar Regal Prince® Oak and Skinny Genes® Oak to the Shumard Oak and Chinkapin Oak that thrive in city environments, there’s sure to be an Oak for your landscaping needs.

  • Big Lobed Leaves
  • Great At Capturing Carbon & Enduring Pollution
  • Great Shade & Gorgeous Silhouettes
  • Acorns & Shelter For Wildlife
  • Many Have Great Fall Color


2. Honeylocust Trees 


Honeylocust varieties are not only excellent lawn tres, but wildly tolerant of street, terrace, or median planting sites where conditions may be challenging. The Honeylocust has open and airy canopies full of fine-textured compound leaves. The foliage is a nice green through the summer and turns a lovely golden-yellow in the fall. Cultivars like the seedless and thornless Shademaster Honeylocust make cleanup in the autumn a snap while shading your lawn without killing it.

  • Fine-Textured Compound Ferny Foliage
  • Many Varieties are Seedless & Thornless
  • Fragrant Spring Blooms
  • Strong Wooded and Branching Holds Up Against Ice Storms & Wind Damage
  • Not Fazed By Street or Air Pollution, Salt, or Challenging Soils


3. Dawn Redwood


If you have the room in the city, then the large and impressive "Living Fossil" Dawn Redwood Tree will become a huge feature planting that creates an immediately recognizable landmark. A deciduous, coniferous tree that grows in a conical shape to 100’ tall. It is related to and closely resembles a Bald Cypress (Taxodium) and Sequoia Redwood. The feathery needles grow along the branches flat and look touchably soft. Please select a permanent planting site with care and thought for future generations. After all, the tallest specimen to date has grown a whopping 200 feet tall!

  • Grows Fast and to a Great Height
  • Feathery Green Foliage Changes Color in Fall & Drops In Winter
  • Fills Large Areas
  • Red-Bronze/Orange Fall Color
  • Tolerant of Urban Air, Traffic Pollution & Inner City Gardens
  • Tolerates Some Wet Soils


4. Kentucky Coffee Tree

kentucky coffee

These large growing, urban-savvy shade trees have no insect or disease problems. The Kentucky Coffee Tree wood is tough and displays a remarkable lack of twiggy, fine branches. It withstands storms and pollution. Don’t want to deal with the ornamental and historically-used seed pods? Try a seedless Decaf Kentucky Coffee Tree instead!

  • Huge, Blue-Green Compound Leaves
  • Drought & Pollution Tolerant
  • Historically Important Native Tree
  • Excellent Urban Shade Tree
  • Narrower Growth Habit


5. Linden Trees

linden tree

A fantastic and well-known street and park tree, Linden Trees in general are great environmental scrubbers and sequester CO2 from the air. Their pyramidal form casts cooling shade and they handle urban conditions beautifully! Littleleaf and Greenspire Linden trees can be found in parks and city streets abundantly! The heart-shaped foliage and bee-friendly flowers look great all growing season! The unique flowers are even fragrant and their light green bracts give the tree a two-tone effect!

  • Fragrant Flowers
  • Heart-Shaped Glossy Leaves
  • Pyramidal Shape
  • Pollution, Urban Gardens, Well-Drained Clay Soil & Drought Tolerant
  • Great Specimen, Street & Shade Tree

Honorable Mentions

  • Like the Redwood above, the mighty other "living fossil" Ginkgo biloba is another large-scale tree that can live for centuries - So you know it can handle some pollution or these trees wouldn’t still be around since the dinosaurs!
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier) trees are smaller-sized flowering and fall color trees with edible berries and brilliant fall color. You’ve undoubtedly seen them growing along highway plantings and commercial parking lots - Giving you a good idea of how hardy and adaptable they are!
  • Hackberry trees handle a wide variety of conditions and urban atmospheres are no different, but again, make some room for these larger trees.

Living Air Scrubbers

So breathe easier and plant a tree! Trees that not only thrive in pollution and city environments but can help remove pollutants from the air are a blessing ten-fold!

You’ll make the world a better place by including air-purifying trees and shrubs in your world! Check out all the beautiful trees for every situation at Nature Hills Nursery!

Happy Planting!

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