Two large artificial “trees” have been installed outside Leytonstone tube station and on the High Road to help improve air quality in the area. Looking less like trees than what they are, a large moss filled tower with seating, they compress the cleaning power of 275 trees into one park bench sized space.

While planting trees both cleans the air and absorbs CO2, the advantage of these moss towers is that they can deliver a concentrated burst of cleaning in a very small space. It would be difficult to plant 550 trees in this small patch of Leytonstone to deliver the same impact.

Unlike trees, they also work in the winter months.

This isn’t the first City Tree for London, as there was a short trial of them in the West End back in mid 2018, although it was just for a few months. These new City Trees in Leyton are intended to be permanent.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Waltham Forest Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment said: “The two City Trees at Leytonstone tube station and another on Leytonstone High Road are permanent additions to the borough and London in our fight against poor air quality.”

The locations of the City Trees experience significant air pollution. The Leytonstone Station site is at a bus station and sits on top of the A12 where there are the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide in the borough. The Thatched House site is at the junction of two heavily trafficked roads – Leytonstone High Road / Leytonstone Road and Cann Hall Road / Crownfield Road.

The City Tree is a self-sustaining structure that contains a water tank, with automatic irrigation and plant sensors all powered by on board solar panels and batteries. The different types of moss bind environmental toxins such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides while at the same time producing oxygen.


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Article last updated: 9 January 2020 15:39


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  1. James says:

    “…..they can deliver a concentrated burst of cleaning in a very small space….”

    …A Burst of cleaning!!

    So when do these “Burst”s happen?! Is it every 15minutes? Every hour?

    Or is it “Continuous” and not really a “burst”?

    I guess that “continuous concentrated cleaning” doesn’t sound so exciting…

  2. Sean says:

    Wow this is great! Surely they’re quickly going to be rolled out everywhere if they’re as effective as replicating 275 trees?

  3. Amerdeep JOHAL says:

    WOW! what an amazing and clever idea. lets hope the rest of the country follows suit.

  4. Richard King says:

    So I guess that we might as well cut down all the forests and urban trees and replace them with millions of these boxes?

    • ianvisits says:

      No one is suggesting such a stupid thing – these are to deliver concentrated effects in a space where you can’t plant the same number of trees.

  5. HD says:

    What’s the carbon footprint of making the things?

    • ianvisits says:

      Contact the manufacturer — however, these are not intended to be carbon offsetting, so the question would not be relevant to the issue they are trying to fix, which is localised pollution.

  6. TN says:

    Any good reasons why these couldn’t be installed in the Tube? I would love to see some greenery covering the blank passageway walls!

  7. JP says:

    A good idea and a step in the right direction but a double-edged sword too.I see them as an ever more numerous quick fix for developers, councils &c. for them to reach environmental requirements with an economy of fuss.
    Imagine trying to argue with the construction company boss to set aside land enough for 500+ trees rather than a twelve storey block of flats with a couple of these flanking its entrance.
    A tough one.

  8. Richard King says:

    Ian. I was being ironic.

  9. JohnM says:

    The comment above about their carbon footprint not being an issue because these are about reducing local pollution is missing the point. It should NOT be okay to create an environmentally damaging product in order to reduce pollutors’ guilt.

    To say its carbon footprint is ‘okay’ because it’s cleaning London’s air is a bit odd. Should be looking at reducing the cause of the pollution instead.

    Better would be to use the money being spent on these to restore rural wetland habitats, to grow these mosses in the environments in which they belong, where they themselves can serve as a habitat for wildlife, play their part in urban flood prevention.

    Anyone know the (financial) price of one these things? Could probably pay for the conservation of acres and acres of peaty wetland CO2-devouring habitat for the same money, with a much bigger gain for the environment.

    • ianvisits says:

      Spending central London money on rural wetlands is a nice thing to do, but it wont reduce pollution in central London, which is the sole function of these devices.

      Your plan seems to be “do nothing until the correct thing can be done”, whereas in the real world, it’s better to do something marginally good while still developing the better long term solution.

  10. Megan Graney says:

    It does seem like “doing the correct thing” keeps getting shoved aside in the interests of quick fixes that allow the status quo to keep on keeping on.

  11. DannyE says:

    These so-called City Trees already failed in Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam. No positive effect on air quality, dying moss not a pretty sight, just a total waste of money. And now London falling for the marketing hype .. instead of just reading up on past experiences.

  12. Pat T says:

    @DannyE – would be great if you could share the references about these experiences in Paris etc?

  13. Eduard says:

    Does anyone knows contacts of manufacturer?

  14. Andy says:

    I live in Leytonstone and can reliably report that at least one of these ugly devices is now out of service. It has been covered in plastic on which is explained that due to coronavirus the City Tree has not been maintained. Get rid of the greenwashing, ineffective tech and REWILD as much space as possible. Also, ban private cars unless elderly or disabled people are driving. Lockdown has proved how lovely a car-free local environment can be. Act now!

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