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Memorial trees and other natural memorials

A guide to memorial trees and other eco-friendly memorial options

Last updated: 30 January 2024

green tree against blue sky

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

If you are planning to have a green funeral for a loved one, bear in mind that any memorial tribute that you’d like to purchase or sponsor in their memory will usually have to be eco-friendly. The memorial options on offer at each natural burial ground will vary according to the local environment and rules of each site.

There are different choices available to commemorate the life of your loved one - from planting a memorial tree, wildflower or shrubs on the grave, to memorial benches and wildlife boxes which can be dedicated in their memory.

Here are a few options that are commonly offered by woodland burial grounds.

Planting a memorial tree

Planting a memorial tree for a loved one is a poignant and everlasting way to remember their life, and often brings comfort in the idea that their memory lives on forever.

Some natural burial grounds allow you to choose a memorial tree to mark your loved one’s grave or there are designated areas in the woodland or meadow burial site where you can plant a tree in memory of them.

In keeping with the natural environment of the site, woodland burial sites usually offer indigneous species including ash, oak, wild cherry, field maple, lime, rowan, silver birch, hawthorn, aspen, beech, holly, hazel and crab apple, among other varieties.

How do you choose a memorial tree?

As a living celebration of their life, you might want to consider a tree unique to the personality of the person whose life you are commemorating. Below are popular choices for memorial trees and the meanings they symbolise.

  • Oak - Courage, strength and truth
  • Hazel - faith, inspiration
  • Hawthorne - love, protection
  • Holly - peace, goodwill
  • Silver birch - renewal, protection, new beginnings

The cost of a memorial tree depends on the type you choose - an English Oak, for example, is more expensive than a Crab Apple tree.

Planting a wildflower, plant or shrubs

As an alternative to planting or dedicating a memorial tree, you could also choose to plant a local, wildflower or shrub either as a grave marker or at sectioned areas in meadow burial sites. Some sites offer these free of charge, while others will need to be purchased.

Wooden plaques and grave markers

Woodland burial or green burial sites sometimes offer plaques made of teak or oak that can be inscribed and placed flat on the ground as a grave marker or fixed to a remembrance tree.

Grave markers may also be made of slate, sandstone or natural York stone. Some sites will offer alternatives such as stone or wooden vases, memorial benches and memorial wall plaques.

Woodland funeral flowers

Freshly cut floral tributes and wreaths are usually allowed on gravesites but these need to be free from any artificial material such as plastic, packaging, ribbons or cellophane.

Memorial benches

Some natural burial grounds allow you to donate, purchase or sponsor a memorial bench to honour somebody you love. The bench can be inscribed with you favourite quote to remember your loved one or can simply be engraved with their name and dates of birth and death.

These might be limited in availability, so it's worth checking if this option is available at your chosen woodland burial site.

Wildlife box

If your loved one was a lover of wildlife, then an alternative memorial tribute would be to sponsor a wildlife box.

Some natural burial sites want to encourage the growth of local birds and wildlife and offer a unique memorialisation in the form of a wildlife box that can provide a habitat for a chosen species such as bats, owls, birds, butterflies, ladybirds or bees.

Read about how you can arrange a green funeral or find a natural burial ground in our guide to woodland burials.

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