How Much CO2 Does a Tree Absorb? 29 Trees & Plants Ranked by Most CO2

Man with a hand on his chin looks at a tree that is exchanging co2 with the atmosphere and wonders how much co2 does a tree absorb?

The questions of how much CO2 does a tree absorb and which tree absorbs the most CO2 goes deeper than just the mechanics of CO2 absorption and sequestration.

Trees are the largest plants on Earth, and they provide more than just oxygen to humans. They also ensure the stability of the soil that other plants grow in, and provide shelter and food for animals in the wild and help control weather patterns through natural respiration.

Therefore trees mean life, literally.16

Through photosynthesis, tree leaves are able to absorb CO2 and water which is converted into chemicals by direct sunlight. Oxygen is released through this process, which sustains human life.

So, what makes a tree a good carbon absorber? This complete guide explians how much CO2 does a tree absorb, and why some species are better at it than others.

How Much CO2 Does a Tree Absorb?

In general, hardwood trees with a long lifespan behind them are excellent at absorbing CO2. Several tree species are great CO2 absorbers, and help clean the air while they’re at it.

When contemplating the question of how much CO2 does a tree absorb, the answer lies in determining the composition of wood and the process of CO2 absorption.

It is estimated that the average tree absorbs around 25 kg of carbon dioxide every year. This is based on the estimation that a single cubic meter of wood can absorb almost a ton of carbon dioxide.

Scientific Stuff: Cellulose, Glucose and Photosynthesis

However, the figure varies between 10 and 40 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year, because of various factors.

Cellulose makes up between 50 and 80% of wood. Cellulose consists of glucose molecules that are produced by trees during the process of photosynthesis.

Through photosynthesis, and just by growing, trees purify the air. A tree purifies around one million cubic meters of air (by absorbing CO2), as it grows a single cubic meter.

How, then, is the carbon inside a tree calculated? The calculation is based on the dry mass within a tree.

The next question based on the above information is, how is the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by trees calculated?

An example of how much CO2 does a tree absorb calculation is as follows:17

  • 1,000 kilogram tree including 100% humidity.
  • Based on the above graphic, the tree in this example consists of 500 kg water and 500 kg dry mass, of which 47.5% is carbon. This equals 237.5 kg.
  • Furthermore, 3.67 kg of CO2 is required to create 1 kg of carbon inside the tree. This is based on the molar mass of carbon, which is 12, and oxygen mass which is 16. Calculated as CO2, this figure is 44, which means 44/12 equals. 3.67.
  • The calculation based on the above is 237.5 x 3.67 equals 871.63 kg of CO2.
  • In addition to this, if the tree weighs a ton, it is estimated to be 35 years old, which means that its absorption rate is 25 kg of carbon dioxide every year. 1

Which Tree Species Absorbs the Most CO2?

The question then follows, which tree species absorbs the most CO2? The following list indicates the best types of trees for carbon absorption:

As indicated above, it is clear that evergreen trees make good carbon absorbers and oaks sequester loads of carbon, and mangroves have a unique carbon storing ability, making them also indispensable for carbon sequestration.2

Best Trees for Carbon Sequestration (Which Tree Absorbs the Most CO2?)

Speaking of sequestration, what is carbon sequestration exactly? Carbon sequestration refers to the process of storing carbon in a so-called carbon pool.

A carbon pool, in turn, refers to a component within the global climate system that stores and releases carbon. In addition to forests, the atmosphere, oceans, and various types of soils also act as carbon pools.

The best trees for carbon sequestration are:

Illustration of the top 4 trees that are best for carbon sequestration.

Type of TreeCarbon Sequestered (CO2 over Lifespan)
Live Oak10,994 CO2 equivalent over the lifespan
East Palatka Holly7,321 CO2 equivalent over the lifespan
Slash Pine4,930 CO2 equivalent over the lifespan
Bald Cypress4,872 CO2 equivalent over the lifespan3

Out of all conifer species, pine trees work best when it comes to storing carbon, while the blue spruce tree is a great option for northern regions.

Within city limits, a horse chestnut tree is a fantastic option, while for smaller areas the black walnut tree and dogwood tree species should be considered.4

The key benefits of carbon sequestration are as follows;18

  • Long-standing trees sequester more carbon
  • Sequestration cleans water and air
  • Sequestration helps with flood control
  • Sequestration assists in protecting natural resources such as landscaping material, a variety of plants, as well as honey, wild mushrooms, and berries
  • Sequestration blocks out harmful sun exposure, which also limits carbon releases.

Best Trees for Carbon Capture

When rounding up the best trees for carbon capture, the planting of willow tree should be limited. Willow trees are not great carbon absorbers and are known to emit harmful compounds.

The following factors apply to the best carbon-capturing trees around the world:

  • Fast-growing trees, as they store the most carbon during the first decades of their lifespan.
  • Trees have long lifespans because they are carbon sinks that store CO2 for many decades without emitting it into the atmosphere.
  • Trees with wide crowns and large leaves are best for efficient photosynthesis.
  • Native tree species are best for local soil, and disease-resistant trees require no fertilizers which further cuts down on CO2 emissions.

Best Trees for CO2 Absorption

The below table indicates the best trees for CO2 absorption:19

Tree SpeciesUSDA ZoneBenefits of Planting
Yellow Poplar TreeZones 1-6The yellow poplar is one of the top carbon-storing trees, even under non-ideal conditions.
Silver Maple TreeZones 3-9A silver maple tree has the capacity to capture around 25,000 pounds of carbon dioxide over a lifespan of 55 years.
Oak TreeZones 3-10Oak trees are excellent carbon absorbers and can adapt to various different climates.
Horse Chestnut TreeZones 4-7Horse chestnut trees grow very well within city limits and provide excellent cooling.
Red Mulberry TreeZones 3-8Along with great carbon storage abilities, red mulberry trees produce edible fruit.
London Plane TreeZones 5-9London plane trees are resistant to cold climates and a variety of diseases.
American Sweetgum TreeZones 6-9The American sweetgum tree has a long lifespan, which is great for extended carbon capturing.
Dogwood TreeZones 5-9Although the dogwood tree is small, it has a fantastic carbon-capturing ability.
Blue Spruce TreeZones 3-9The blue spruce, as well as the Douglas fir, thrives in northern regions.
Pine TreeZones 6-9Red, white, ponderosa, and Hispaniola pine trees are the best carbon absorbers among the conifer trees.5

What Tree Absorbs the Most CO2?

When it comes to what tree absorbs the most CO2, the oak genus is far ahead of the pack.20 Furthermore, research shows that old oaks will increase their CO2 absorption by up to a third to meet the increasing CO2 levels that are expected by 2050.

An Oak tree with large short trunk and wide green foliage situated near a lake with the sky in the background.

(Image: PublicDomainPictures29)

Their long life spans and large size make them an excellent carbon sink, and a foundation for many types of forests.

It has also been established that English oak trees are absorbing more CO2 than Australian red gum trees.6

Which Trees Absorb the Most Carbon Dioxide?

When answering the question, of which trees absorb the most carbon dioxide, the below trees also make the list.21

Type of TreeBenefits
Aleppo Pine100 Aleppo Pine trees planted in a city, have the capacity to absorb the carbon dioxide of at least 103,730 cars. Aleppo Pine trees have a lot of leaves that, in turn, have high absorption rates.
Stone PineStone Pine trees can absorb the CO2 of around 500,000 cars in an urban region.
Melia TreeMelia trees are some of the most common trees found in urban areas and can absorb around 10 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Acacia TreeAcacia trees populate many rural areas and can absorb 5 tons of CO2 every year.
Jacaranda TreeJacaranda trees are popular for their aesthetic value, but they also absorb 5 tons of CO2 every year. In urban areas, these trees also absorb harmful vehicle pollutants.7
Blooming Jacaranda Trees lining the edge of an orchard.

(Image: Siggy Nowak31)

Pine trees as carbon sinks work very well, but these trees are not generally very popular. This is because it is believed that pine trees cause sour soil and that they harm the environment. But the Pinus Radiata genus practically gulps CO2 while the trees are young, which is very helpful in cleaning the air.

How Much CO2 Does a Redwood Absorb in a Lifetime?

The next question then follows, how much CO2 does a redwood absorb in a lifetime?

Giant redwoods can live up to 2,500 years, and only reach maturity after 1,200 years. Coastal redwoods can sequester around 250 tonnes of carbon over their lifespan, while giant redwoods can store nearly double the amount of CO2.22

Per hectare, Redwood forests capture around 2,600 tons of CO2, with the trees storing most of the carbon in their bark.

Which Tree Absorbs the Most CO2? Sequoia

Another common question about giant trees is, which tree absorbs the most CO2 sequoia?

Giant sequoia trees are the largest trees in the world and the fastest-growing conifer tree. Some sequoia trees are believed to be 3,500 years old.

It is estimated that a grove filled with sequoia trees has the capacity to absorb around ten times more CO2 per acre, compared to a natural UK forest over one hundred years.8

Which Tree Absorbs the Most CO2 in India?

Looking at other parts of the world, which tree absorbs the most CO2 in India?

The Teak tree is known to have the highest CO2 absorption rate in India. During its lifespan, a teak tree with a diameter of around 30 cm can absorb around 3.70 lakh tons of CO2.

How Much CO2 Does a Tree Absorb?

The question, how much CO2 does a tree absorb, leads to equally important questions.

When Do Trees Absorb Most CO2?

When do trees absorb most CO2?

There is an ongoing debate about whether old forests or planting new forests are best for CO2 absorption.

However, the two concepts work hand-in-hand, because young trees absorb more carbon overall when they’re growing densely together, while an aging tree’s absorption rate increases with its years.9

Could Enough Trees Be Planted To Impact CO2?

Another question stemming from how much CO2 does a tree absorb is, could enough trees be planted to impact CO2?

While there should be no debate about the practice of planting trees, there remains some disparity about the number of trees that would need to be planted to offset CO2 emissions.23

According to research, however, it seems that the task of planting enough trees to impact CO2 is an impossible one at the moment.

A single hardwood tree can capture around 48 pounds of CO2 per year, and around 1 ton of CO2 by the time it reaches 40 years. However, human activities cause 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions to be released into the air every year.

This means that in theory, around 40 billion trees would have to be planted every year. In addition to this, the newly planted trees would only fully cancel out the CO2 levels of today, in 40 years’ time.

Some experts disagree with this theory, saying that 100 years of CO2 emissions could be erased by restoring forests over an area the size of North America.10

How Many Trees To Offset a Ton of CO2?

So then, how many trees to offset a ton of CO2?

It is estimated that 6 trees would offset 1 ton of CO2. This means 1 tree equals 0.16 tons of CO2. The carbon figure should be divided by 0.16 to calculate the number of trees.

The below table indicates the number of trees that would need to be planted per person to offset the emissions of popular plane trips (from the UK).

Location (From UK)Trees Required Per PersonReturn Distance MilesCarbon Emissions (in tons)
Phuket, Thailand1912,3182,96 tons of CO2 emissions
Ko, Samui1912,3082.96 tons of CO2 emissions
Las Vegas, US1610,4582.52 tons of CO2 emissions
San Francisco, US16107,362.59 tons of CO2 emissions
Orlando, US138,6722.12 tons of CO2 emissions
New York, US106,9021.67 tons of CO2 emissions
Cancun, Mexico159,8962.39 tons of CO2 emissions
Barbados138,3922.03 tons of CO2 emissions
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic138,5602.07 tons of CO2 emissions
Dubai, UAE106,8401.64 tons of CO2 emissions
Mallorca, Spain66,8400.92 tons of CO2 emissions
Tenerife, Spain53,6420.87 tons of CO2 emissions
Lanzarote, Spain53,3940.86 tons of CO2 emissions
Benidorm, Spain31,8220.46 tons of CO2 emissions
Ibiza, Spain31.7480.44 tons of CO2 emissions
Crete, Greece53,3780.84 tons of CO2 emissions
Rhodes, Greece53,4900.87 tons of CO2 emissions
Santorini, Greece33,2900.82 tons of CO2 emissions
Albufeira, Portugal32,1280.54 tons of CO2 emissions
Amsterdam, Netherlands14620.11 tons of CO2 emissions11

Read More About: How Many Trees to Offset 1 Ton of CO2 (& Why It Doesn’t Matter)

Forest Carbon Offsets

Forest carbon offsets refer to a metric ton of CO2 equivalent that is sequestered and bought by GHG emitters in an effort to compensate for emissions released elsewhere.

Forest carbon offsets provide landowners with the opportunity to monetize carbon captured by trees on their land, and sell it on the popular carbon market.24

Carbon Offset Tree Planting Calculator

A carbon offset tree planting calculator is useful in determining an overall carbon footprint and the number of trees required to offset the emissions.

This calculator requires the following inputs:25

  • Dietary preferences (vegan, vegetarian, etc.)
  • Daily calories consumed
  • Foodprint CO2 emissions in tons per year
  • Type of vehicle
  • Miles drove per week
  • Vehicle CO2 emissions in tons per year
  • Miles flew every year
  • Flight CO2 emissions in tons per year
  • Number of people in a household
  • Utilities used in households (electricity, fuel oil, solar, etc.)
  • Household energy CO2 emissions in tons per year
  • Other CO2 emissions in tons per year

The CO2 emission totals of all these inputs should be combined, after which the calculator will indicate the number of trees required to remove the carbon footprint, as well as the hectares of land required for tree planting and the donation that would remove the carbon footprint.12

Where Trees Are Most Needed?

Where trees are most needed is in the tropical zone, because it is the most suitable location to plant different types of trees in the fight against deforestation and global warming.

The tropical zone lies between the two tropics and is the location where trees would receive the most direct, natural sunlight.

Best Carbon Capture Plants

Both plants and vegetables absorb CO2, with some having greater CO2 absorption capacity than others. The best carbon capture plants include:

Type of PlantBenefits
Paulownia TomentosaThis plant (tree) is believed to absorb at least 10 times more CO2 than any other tree. In addition to this, the Paulownia produces around 4 times more oxygen than other trees. Furthermore, it helps clean the ground by absorbing dust.
BambooBamboo has been around for millennia, and while it is often blamed for deforestation, bamboo is able to absorb 5 times more GHG emissions and produce around 35% more oxygen than its equivalent in trees. One hectare of bamboo can absorb around 60 tons of carbon dioxide every year.
IrokoThe Iroko is a tropical tree found in Africa, which captures carbon dioxide while drawing minerals from the soil. The tree stores the CO2 in the form of calcium oxalate.
The calcium oxalate is eventually transformed into limestone.
IvyIvy is often overlooked in the fight against global warming because it is considered a parasite. However, ivy acts as natural insulation when it grows against facades, and is very effective in the fight against pollution.
Furthermore, ivy plants absorb heavy metals present in the atmosphere.13

What Plant Absorbs the Most CO2?

What plant absorbs the most CO2?

According to a recent experiment, a house plant known as the ‘prayer plant’ was found to be one of the most effective plants CO2 absorbers.26 The prayer plant is part of the Calathea family and absorbs around 14.4% of the CO2 in its vicinity.

Angled-shot of Prayer plants in pots showing its red and greed large variegated leaves.

(Image: Ural-6630)

The below table ranks the rest of the houseplants in the top ten, compared to the prayer plant:

Type of PlantReduction of CO2 (Percentage)CO2 Absorbed (in kg)
Prayer Plant14.40%0.0002677 kg of CO2 absorbed
Rubber Plant12.84%0.0002387 kg of CO2 absorbed
Bird’s Nest Fern12.48%0.0002320 kg of CO2 absorbed
Dieffenbachia11.10%0.0002063 kg of CO2 absorbed
Anthurium10.80%0.0002008 kg of CO2 absorbed
Arrowhead Plant10.08%0.0001874 kg of CO2 absorbed
Peace Lily10.05%0.0001868 kg of CO2 absorbed
Golden Pothos10.03%0.0001865 kg of CO2 absorbed
Yucca3.60%0.0000669 kg of CO2 absorbed
Spider Plant0.10%0.0000019 kg of CO2 absorbed14

From the above information, it is clear that the spider plant is the least effective in reducing CO2 from its immediate vicinity.

Best Plant for Carbon Capture

Another plant that is considered the best plant for carbon capture, or at least one of the best plants for carbon capture, is the humble spekboom tree.27

This tree is predominantly found in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and is known for sequestering more than 4 tons of CO2 per year per hectare. This means that it is more effective at CO2 capturing than the Amazon rainforest.

Read More About: 13 Awesome and Interesting Facts about the Amazon Rainforest

The best types of trees to plant for carbon offsetting include:

Bar graph illustration of the best types of trees for carbon offsetting based on the trees' lifespan.

Type of TreeLifespan of Tree
Sycamore treeup to 300 years
Hornbeam treeup to 300 years
Beech treeup to 400 years
Maidenhair treeup to 1000 years
Black Walnut treeup to 300 years
Tulip treeup to 300 years
Dawn Redwood treeup to 250 years
Corsican Pine treeup to 500 years
Holm Oak treeup to 1000 years
Oak treeup to 500 years
Redwood treeup to 2000 years
Yew treeup to 600 years
Small Leaved Lime treeup to 750 years
Broad Leaved Lime treeup to 750 years15

Tree Carbon Calculator

A tree carbon calculator is essential for calculating how much carbon does a tree capture.28 A tree carbon calculator is usually very simplified and easy to use, require minimal inputs:

  • Type of tree
  • Age of tree

The calculation is then done in pounds of CO2 per year.

A tree sequestration calculator is also simple to use and requires the diameter of the tree at breast height in inches.

Both of these types of calculators are highly effective in determining how much CO2 does a tree absorb.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Much CO2 Does a Tree Absorb

How Much CO2 Does a Tree Absorb?

It is estimated that the average mature tree can absorb more than 48 pounds of CO2, and release oxygen in return.

How Much Carbon Dioxide Do Trees Absorb per Year?

A single tree has the capacity to absorb around 25 kg of carbon dioxide every year.

What Trees Absorb the Most Carbon?

Trees that absorb the most carbon include:

  • Douglas fir trees
  • Ponderosa pine trees
  • Red pine trees
  • Bald cypress trees
  • Oak trees

Which Tree Absorbs the Most CO2?

The oak tree genus is known for absorbing the most CO2, compared to other tree species.

How Many Trees To Offset 1 Ton of CO2?

Up to 46 trees are required to offset one ton of CO2.

What Are the Best Plants for Carbon Capture?

Some of the best plants for carbon capture include:

  • Janet Craig plant
  • Bamboo plant
  • Rubber plant
  • Areca palm plant

Which Trees Should I Plant?

The best types of trees to plant for CO2 capturing include:

  • Oak trees
  • Silver maple trees
  • Yellow poplar trees
  • Pine trees
  • Dogwood trees


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