Plants in Cemeteries

October 17, 2015 post by Find a Grave on Facebook:

When a tree meets a tombstone. Original photo by Jameson,

Just one of the many interesting sites seen by Find a Grave volunteers out this weekend in support of our global community. #FGDay

Plants in cemeteries

October 16, 2021 post by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on Facebook:

German names can be found in almost every cemetery in Indiana; every county has thousands of gravestones of persons with German heritage. Friendship Methodist Church Cemetery, in Samaria, (left photo) and St. Ferdinand Catholic Cemetery, in Ferdinand, contain good examples (right photos). Some gravestones are written in German or indicate a German place of birth. Some cemeteries and markers contain only hints of German heritage. Planting yucca to keep souls in the ground is a folk tradition from Germany and Northern Europe which came with immigrants as they settled southern Indiana. The shape or material of a marker can indicate heritage, such as wrought iron crosses, which are often found in Catholic German cemeteries. For more information on these and other historic places visit our online database at

Goats eat plants in overgrown cemetery landscape

July 1, 2021 post by Woodland Cemetery, Staten Island, New York on Facebook:

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the green goats! 🐐�

� We're thrilled to share that these hoofed beauties will be spending their summer at Woodland Cemetery.

The green goats act as natural landscapers, clearing overgrowth from the cemetery while enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet of weeds and invasive plants.

But we must share a few ground rules when visiting the cemetery this summer. 🛑

✋ 1. Please do NOT pet the goats! Cute as they are, they may be covered in poison ivy, poison sumac, and ticks. They may also bite or kick if provoked, and the cemetery will not be responsible for any injuries or damages.

2. Please do NOT climb into the fenced area.

3. Please do NOT feed the goats ANYTHING. They have plenty to eat here at Woodland: it's their job to spend the day feasting! Second, and most importantly, some human-grade foods or plants can make the goats sick and cause serious injury or death. Kale, for example, and other everyday vegetables could make them seriously ill.

4. PLEASE feel free to take photos or videos of the goats... at a respectful and safe distance!

5. Please be respectful. Woodland Cemetery may not be in the best condition, but it is still a cemetery.

Visitors please note that the back road of the cemetery will be closed until September.

July 8, 2021 post by ARCH, Inc. on Facebook:

Have you seen this unusual building in Lindenwood Cemetery and wondered what it was? Currently it is used for storage, but it had a grand life before its cemetery days. The building was located at Brookside, the John Henry Bass estate, where University of Saint Francis is now. The building used to be the “Palm House.” Tropical plants were grown in this building.

December 22, 2021 post by Arlington National Cemetery  on Facebook:

As the seasons change, so do the colors and textures of the plants at Arlington National Cemetery, revealing dynamic contrast and depth to these hallowed grounds.

Plant partnerships take on a new life during this transitional period, and the changes in color give these pairings new life.

Take a tour with ANC Horticulturalist Kelly Wilson of some of our autumn plant partners.

We encourage you to incorporate them in your own garden or visit the cemetery to see these partnerships for yourself.

Honor. Remember. Explore.

(U.S. Army video by Vincent Pecoraro / Arlington National Cemetery) 

April 22, 2022 post by Arlington National Cemetery  on Facebook:

Happy Earth Day from Arlington National Cemetery!

We take our commitment to environmental stewardship very seriously at Arlington National Cemetery. Our Memorial Arboretum is a living tribute to those who have honorably served their nation. Rolling green hills, majestic trees, and a diverse collection of plants create a rich natural tapestry to honor our veterans.

This impressive landscape serves as a tribute to the service and sacrifice of every individual laid to rest within these hallowed grounds. It is our commitment to preserve this sacred shrine to honor our nation's heroes.

To learn more about our commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, visit our website at Memorial Arboretum and Horticulture.

Honor. Remember. Explore.

U.S. Army video by Vincent Pecoraro / Arlington National Cemetery

May 15, 2023 post by Ellen Wilson-Pruitt on Facebook:

Yesterday with family gathered we began discussing cemeteries and plantings etc. I thought with the upcoming Memorial Day so many people will be visiting final resting places and I thought it would be appropriate to revisit a previous history post.

Bury Me Not On the Lone Prairie [ YouTube - Sons of the Pioneers - 1965 - Johnny Cash - 2005 ]

In colonial America the Scottish-Americans viewed cemeteries as a wild place and a place for demons so the plantings were chosen to help with “protection” from these menacing spirits. The colonial Puritans treated cemeteries with purpose as a statement against the reverence of the Catholics. The Puritans chose infertile soil for their cemeteries and allowed them to become overgrown with scraggily vegetation to make a statement about how vanity has nothing to do with one’s immortality. They even planted turnips in them as well as allowing livestock to graze to further drive home the point that one’s soul was all that mattered. The Southern colonists had a different view and began planting weeping willows, cedars and crepe myrtles in their family plots for symbolism and ornamentation.

Here in Indiana there are common plantings found in older established cemeteries. Some of these plants are peonies, cedars and yuccas. Let’s start with the Eastern red cedar. You will find these in practically every cemetery with the exception of the newer “sterile” looking cemeteries of the last 50 years. First of all the red cedar is plentiful in this area of the country and it is truly hardy tolerant of drought, wind, heat and salt. It roots deeply and lives to be a very old age. The fact that it is evergreen it symbolizes eternal life. Now the red cedar does have some ominous superstitions tied to it as well. There is an old Ozark superstition that if a red cedar you plant grows tall enough to shade your grave site you will die. So don’t plant any cedars on your family plot before you die….let the family do it after you are gone. It is considered bad luck to bring cedar boughs into the house any time other than at Christmas time. I personally have developed a dislike of cedar because it is so prevalent in cemetery plantings. If you have ever been in an old cemetery the sound of the wind through the cedars I think sounds mournful.

Some cemeteries have old roses planted in them. Rose enthusiasts often search old cemeteries to obtain cuttings of old rose cultivars for their grafts and hybridizing. The use of the red rose with thorns often is used to symbolize the Passion Story as well as the rose being synonymous with love. Peonies and iris can be found many cemeteries in Morgan County. These are not only long lived plants requiring little or no attention to thrive and they also tend to bloom in our area around Memorial Day or “Decoration Day” as it was referred to.

The yucca plant is prevalent in cemeteries. Referred to as the eternity plant, yucca plants can live for hundreds of years. If you have every tried to get rid of one you will know that it is almost impossible to eradicate them. These plants were usually planted by head stones or along the boundary lines of the cemeteries. Because of its resilience it was common in African-American and slave cemeteries to mark a grave when a gravestone was not used. My grandma always called them “Devil’s Darning Needles” or also known as Adam’s Needle in some regions. I am not sure where that came from but apparently it was a term passed down through the generations. Yucca Plants where often used to symbolize motherhood, eternity, mourning, and to ward off evil spirits. Yucca Plants are also said to keep restless spirits in their graves. Because of the prevalence of their use for these purposes spotting them may aid you in finding an abandoned cemetery or a lost grave [Not native to Indiana it has naturalized in some places and yucca has been discussed on the Indiana Native Plant Society on Facebook.]

Creeping myrtle or periwinkle is an evergreen plant that was often used over grave sites. It is low growing, evergreen and vigorous thus inhibiting grass. When looking for unmarked burial sites this plant can serve as a possible indicator of location. Because of its hardiness and spreading habit it may be misleading as to the exact site. There is even a cross-disciplinary science Phytoarchaeology which is the study of vegetation in archaeology. [Periwinkle, Vinca minor is on the Indiana Invasive Plant Species Fact Sheet at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.]

Many cemeteries also double as arboretums with beautiful green spaces and plantings. There are several in the South. There is one rather close in Louisville, KY known as Cave Hill Cemetery. Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis is a history lesson in itself with its famous people buried there and the expansive beautiful scenery. Cemeteries have many stories to tell us if we are willing to be observant and inquisitive. They often answer questions but also often raise more questions begging for further investigation.

Indiana DNR is responsible for cemeteries in Indiana. To learn more about regulations and preservation etc. visit the Indiana DNR at this link: Cemetery Preservation

A cemetery in Australia adding native plants to the cemetery.

September 19, 2023 post by Melbourne General Cemetery on Facebook:

We're adding 127,000 indigenous plants to Melbourne General Cemetery as part of Project Cultivate, a pilot that aims to bind our rich heritage with our vision for a more sustainable future. 🏛️

🌿 We're excited for the return of native grasslands across the site, including the nostalgic Kangaroo Grass and Wallaby Grasses.�

These are locally native plants with a purpose: think of improved soil, increased biodiversity, less runoff, and reduced use of herbicides. Good for the environment and good for creating a sustainable future for our iconic site.

Prairie plants

September 25, 2023 post by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on Facebook:

NATURAL COMMUNITIES IN INDIANA: Our next natural community type this week is prairies! In the early- to mid-1800’s when settlers moved into western and northwestern Indiana following the removal of Native Americans, they encountered thousands of square miles of rolling prairie. Natural disturbance forces like fire, drought, and grazing from bison favored species like prairie dock, big and little bluestem grass, rattlesnake master, and many other hardy plants with deep roots. Some of the last remaining prairie remnants are areas never turned over by a plow: along old railroad tracks like at Spinn Prairie Nature Preserve [White County] and pioneer cemeteries like Smith Cemetery Nature Preserve [Vermillion County].

Learn more about Indiana nature preserves at

Top photo: Hoosier prairie. Bottom left photo: Blazing Star in an unprotected railroad prairie. Bottom center photo: Culver's root. Bottom right photo: Michigan lily in an unprotected railroad prairie

September 26, 2023 post by Lindenwood Cemetery on Facebook:

Garden of Remembrance update…we have plants! To be exact, we have 500 plants! More photos to come soon.

See Lindenwood Cemetery.

October 9, 2023 post by Graceland Cemetery & Arboretum on Facebook:

We are part of enduring indigenous influences on Chicago. Graceland Cemetery’s western border has lay along Clark Street since 1860, but this well-known Chicago route is a fitting example of the erasure of Indigenous influence on the city’s development.

• Long before European settlers came to the Chicago region, it was home to the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi, Miami, and other Indigenous tribes and nations.

Indigenous footpaths, for centuries not much wider than five or six feet across, were some of the first roads in Chicago to be widened and normalized. A vision of regular six-mile square plots was proposed in the Land Ordinance of 1785, the city’s first plat map wasn’t made until 1830, and later Graceland resident Daniel Burnham would co-author the 1909 Plan of Chicago.

• Capitalism and Native removal worked hand in hand, and while today Chicago’s grid-system is iconic, it could not have existed without the legwork carried out by generations of Native Americans.

• To find out more on the Indigenous land you are a part of, you can visit to see a map of your area📍

🗺️ • You can also learn about and celebrate Chicago’s native plants and wildlife at Graceland Cemetery, where we are continuing to embrace our responsibility to our community, city, and ecosystems by growing and evolving our beloved green-space.😌🌿

Back to top

Page updated: