Picking trees to plant and keep alive in a dry hot climate such as the southwest suburbs that comes with the increased heat of the asphalt and sun reflections of windows burning tree leaves during the summer CAN definitely be challenging. What’s also challenging is trying to be an eco friendly neighbor in the southwest as much as possible because you know air pollution is high and you know climate change is real. You know air pollution is a real problem when you see signs on the side of the road informing you of the high PM10 warnings and high ozone advisories.

You might also be getting notices from HOA that you need to maintain a certain number of trees in your front yard. So let’s kill two birds with one stone! Let’s pick a tree to plant that can survive under these harsh desert conditions AND is efficient at reducing air pollution. I’ll make it less challenging and offer the top 5 trees that meet these requirements for you. They also look amazing full grown!

The top 5 desert trees to plant

These trees thrive in the heat, satisfy your HOA requirements, are easy to care for, and offer MANY environmental benefits including helping reduce pollution.

  • Chinese Pistache
  • Native Mesquite
  • Desert Willow
  • Coral Gum
  • Coolibah (Eucalyptus)

How these trees reduce air pollution in the southwest suburbs

  • Absorption of gaseous pollutants such as ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and
    nitrogen dioxide (NO2) through leaf surfaces
  • Interception of particulate matter (PM10), such as dust, ash, dirt, pollen, and smoke
  • Increase of oxygen levels through photosynthesis
  • Transpiration of water and shade provision, resulting in lower local air temperatures,
    thereby reducing ozone (O3) levels

How bad is the air pollution in the southwest?

The southwest territory comes with fires and dust storms that can greatly impact our air quality. According to the CDC Climate Regional Health Effects in the Southwest, heat related death and illness, air quality impacts, vector-borne diseases, food safety, etc. are increasing due to continuing climate change and air quality conditions are of the greatest environmental concern for human health.

You can learn more about your specific area air quality at AirNow.

Other benefits these trees offer

  • Reducing electricity through shading
  • Intercepting stormwater runoff
  • Reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide
  • Improving air quality
  • Increasing property value through beautification

Urban trees reduce atmospheric CO2 in two ways:
• Directly, through growth and the sequestration of CO2 in wood, foliar biomass, and
soil.
• Indirectly, by lowering the demand for heating and air conditioning, thereby reducing
the emissions associated with electric power generation and natural gas consumption.

Urban Forest Resource Analysis

Special features of these trees

The Chinese Pistache has a beautiful array of fall colors and they will show up in the southwest region. It is also known to be mildly fire resistant! What that means is this tree will not ignite as easy and will not burn as intensely compared to a pine tree.

The Native Mesquite is amazing once you walk under it’s canopy! The leaves are small and the branches really aren’t that dense and yet, under it’s canopy, the temperature has a noticeable decrease of about 20 degrees it feels like and you can also feel an increase of humidity. This is an Amazing tree to find in the desert!

The Flowers of the Desert Willow attract native birds encouraging biodiversity and ecosystem healing. Speaking of healing, the flowers can be used for medicinal properties.

The roots of the Coral Gum are fibrous helping with soil erosion control. Holding the soil down reducing particulate matter from kicking up into the air, the tree also has a beautiful fragrance the neighborhood would enjoy.

The Coolibah plays a highly significant role in directly influencing ecosystems structure, composition and structure. Besides the biodiversity support, this Eucalyptus is known as a miracle plant for its many medical properties. It also has a very unique bark bringing a beautiful aesthetic to the neighborhood.