Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
Do London plane trees actually absorb pollution into their bark? © Alamy

Do London plane trees actually absorb pollution into their bark?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Acting like fly paper for pollution particles, the benefits of plane trees outweigh their disadvantages.

Asked by: Lucas Moore, Swansea


They don’t absorb it, but pollution particles do get stuck to the bark and trapped in the hairs on the leaves. A 2011 study estimated that every year, trees in Greater London remove 850 to 2,000 tonnes of PM10 pollution particles, which are the type considered harmful to humans.

Plane trees do emit isoprene though, which combines with nitrous oxide in car exhaust emissions to produce harmful ozone. Luckily, this only reaches dangerous levels in temperatures above 30°C, which are rare in the UK.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.


luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


Sponsored content