At some of our burial grounds, families can dedicate a tree in memory of someone buried there. These trees are not planted directly on top of the grave. Instead, we are creating copses of trees in areas of the burial grounds where their roots will not be damaged by digging new graves.
The desire to plant a tree on an individual grave is strong, but is it a good idea to do so?
Here are some of the practicalities that we have to consider…
- Trees need a lot of space in which to grow to maturity and graves are not spaced so far apart, which means that many people’s trees will not survive to maturity.
- To develop woodland, trees are planted in stands of trees with similar characteristics (not individual specimens). Later the weaker trees are felled to give space to the stronger specimens. This would cause upset to those families whose trees are selected for felling.
- As new trees are planted, roots grow and branches spread, new woodland becomes inaccessible and positioning new graves next to old is impractical and would cause unacceptable damage. Future grave locations amongst trees cannot be guaranteed so double plots are not feasible.
- The soil structure where graves have been dug is disturbed and weakened.
- Trees planted on graves are more susceptible to being blown over by the wind (and might expose graves).
- Cremated remains should be spread thinly or mixed with a balancing compost or earth. If not, they can form a concentrated chalky, salty mass which doesn’t help plants.
- Graves settle with time and trees planted on top settle with them and their growth points may end up below the ground level, which is not good for the health of the tree.
- Woodland requires long-term management and the income from timber is not sufficient to provide for the maintenance and management of a woodland burial ground. That model would not be financially sustainable after the income from burials ends.