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Why are there very huge trees in most cemeteries?

There may be many reasons you see tall trees in “most” cemeteries you’ve passed or visited. First, many cemeteries are set aside for that use. There are no power lines running through the cemetery that require trees to be cut back or removed.

Second, old cemeteries probably started with small trees. The trees don’t get cut down unless they get sick or die and need to be removed. Otherwise, they’re generally left to grow… it takes less work to let trees grow. An 80 year old oak tree can get pretty big.

Mysterious Oak Tree in Cemetery

Cemetery Oak at Glenwood Cemetery.

Folklore, Superstition, and the History of Cemetery and Trees

Yew Trees

The ancient yew, hard as iron yet flowing like water

The yew tree may be the most well-known and recognizable cemetery tree in Europe.

Yew trees are known for their ability to thrive in almost any soil condition and can withstand harsh weather. These attributes are why many yew trees have lived for thousands of years. (Fun fact: Several yew experts have aged a tree known as the “Defynnog yew” as more than 5,000 years old!)

Cypress Trees

Cemetery and Cypress Trees by Vasily Polenov, 1897.

According to scholar Saba Alebrahim Dehkordi, cypress trees are known for their ability to grow in any type of climate and are considered very resilient. Dehkordi writes that in Iranian culture, cypress trees (as well as olive trees) “come from heaven”, while Greeks and Romans thought the tree was “related to the Gods of Hell.”

Zoroastrians considered the cypress tree to be a symbol of immortality and deathlessness, while later Celtics considered the cypress to be a “symbol of death.” Dehkordi adds that Celtic mourners would place their dead in the tree for burial, which would allow the deceased’s body to return to the plants to live again.

Eastern Red Cedar Trees

To close, we’re taking a look at an evergreen cemetery tree that grows in the Eastern and Southern United States and Canada.

Similar to the other trees mentioned here, the Eastern red cedar is hardy. The tree develops deep roots, tolerates wind, heat, and salt. It also can withstand occasional flooding and has drought tolerance.

Similar to the yew, red cedars can grow to be quite old. A red cedar that’s thought to be at least 200 years old resides in the Methodist Lone Hill Cemetery in Coffee County, Georgia.

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