Memory Tree - What it is, Where to Plant, Is it a Good Choice for My Family?

When a loved one passes, one of the biggest concerns family members have is how to keep their memory alive. There are many ideas and different ways to remember and honor a loved one - one relatively new choice that is gaining in popularity is with a memory tree. Many families choose to do this in a yard or on other private property, in a park (with permission), on a golf course, or you can be planted in a Memory Forest. Memory Forests are of interest to many families who are looking for something special in place of traditional options, or even in addition to traditional burial and remembrance choices. Memory Forests can be a wonderful, peaceful, and more natural way to remember those who have passed. 

o   Can trees replace gravestones? 

o   If you plant a memory tree, can you still bury your loved one?  

o   Can I plant a memory tree in a National Forest?  

o   How to choose the right tree for a Memory Forest

o   Memory Forests instead of Cemetery

o   Is a Memory Forest right for me?

Can trees replace gravestones?

memory tree

A memory tree (also known as a remembrance tree) is a tree planted in addition to, or in place of a gravesite, for people to visit and remember the loved one.  You can choose multiple types of trees to plant (depending on the memory forest location). Many families will choose to either have the tree planted on their own property, on a smaller patio (or apt) sized memory tree that can move with them, or plant it in a Memory Forest for generations to visit. Depending on your option, trees can replace, or be planted in addition to gravestones. The replacement appeals to people who don’t like the idea of a cemetery, and can be a good alternative for those who do not want to visit their loved one's memorial in a cemetery surrounded by other graves. Instead, they would have a quiet, dedicated place to go, that is still easily accessible to visit whenever they want. The memory tree option also avoids the challenge faced when you choose to scatter ashes, which can be challenging to visit the actual site where the ashes were spread.

If you plant a memory tree, can you still bury your loved one?

You can absolutely choose to do both a traditional cemetery burial, as well as plant a memory tree. You can even choose to do both at the same place. Doing both will give you the ability to visit a gravesite, and leave flowers when appropriate, while still having a place to go walk and remember the one that you have lost. 

Can you do both a remembrance tree and scatter ashes? 

You can also still choose to scatter ashes, while planting a memory tree as well (giving you the benefit of both experiences, and having two special places to visit in memory).

Scattering ashes can provide a desired ceremony at a place that was special to the loved one – you can visit occasionally, and mark the particular place to visit when you can. Having a memory tree planted in a Memory Forest or another special place, enables another beautiful place that everyone can visit and reflect on a loved one whenever they want.

What if I want to plant a tree in a National Forest instead?

You can choose to plant a tree “in honor” or “in memory” of a loved one at your favorite National Forest, using the Forest Service Plant a tree program

The Forest Service "Plant-A-Tree" Program permits individuals and groups to donate money for the planting of trees on National Forests. The trees may be planted to memorialize loved ones or to commemorate special events such as births, weddings, or anniversaries. The disadvantage of this, is you will never know what tree was actually planted, and you cannot go back and visit it like you can with a Memory Forest. 

Choosing the right tree 

Each tree has its own sense of meaning – you can choose the favorite tree of the loved one (if they have one) or you can select a tree based on the meaning that it holds. If this is going to be a tree that lives outside, as opposed to a patio or indoors, you need to take the local climate and the sun shade requirements of the tree into consideration. You can find your perfect tree here (you just need your zip code!)   

Memory Forests (instead of a cemetery)

There are quite a few Memory Forests in the United States, and new locations are being established quite often. Memory Forests provide a quiet, peaceful atmosphere to walk through and either think quietly to yourself, or to spend time with family or friends and reflect on the loved one who passed. Current places where you can plant a tree in a Memory Forest include:

Is a Memory Forest right for me? 

Memory Forests can provide a peaceful, more natural alternative to traditional gravesites, and provide an easier place to visit (particularly with children)  to walk and remember. Planting a tree at a Memory Forest to honor a loved one can be done in addition to the more traditional ways to remember people.