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Symbolism of Trees and Tree Burials

Symbolism of Trees and Tree Burials

Trees are a vital part of nature and the earth’s ecosystem. Humans and trees have a unique and special relationship and trees have come to represent a wide range of meanings for people across many different cultures. They provide beauty, color, scents, shade, windbreaks, soil stability and containment, medicine, wood, and food and an ecosystem to support birds, animal and other life. Trees also sustain life on earth though a fascinating process called photosynthesis where light energy from the sun is used to put carbon dioxide from the air with water to give off the oxygen we breathe. Now, with The Living Urn, families can honor a loved one and give back to nature with a tree burial including a special biodegradable urn and a person’s cremation ashes to create a tree memorial.  Growing a memory tree with The Living Urn gives families a beautiful living memorial and perpetuates this wonderful and essential connection between mankind and trees. 

The symbolism associated with trees across many cultures are plentiful. In some, trees are mystical and majestic and are considered ancient living beings with energy and wisdom believed to flow through them. Trees are important symbols in many religions, including the Tree of Life in the Bible. Today, trees are one of the most common symbols used in the logo for companies and brands.

Taking it a step further, certain types of trees have their own cultural meaning and significance, stories and connections to humans - here are some interesting examples:

Oak:  The "king of trees". The oak symbolizes wisdom, strength and longevity. Oaks can live hundreds of years and grow into large stately sights. It is the national tree of many nations including the U.S., Germany and England and has stood the test of time. Americans used the oak in shipbuilding starting in 1700.  Early famous ships constructed with wood from oak trees include the USS Constitution, built in Boston in 1797 and an important addition to America’s fleet involved in the War of 1812 where the strength of its oak hull was put on full display. On the afternoon of August 19, 1812 off of the coast of Massachusetts, The USS Constitution was in a fierce battle with the British frigate Guerriere. Positioned about fifty yards away from each other, the Guerriere fired its 22 cannons directly at the USS Constitution. However, this barrage from the British ship had little effect as its bombardment of cannon balls bounced off the USS Constitution's rugged oak sides, later granting it the famous name "Old Ironsides".

Maple: Strength, intelligence, beauty, adaptive – just a few of the many words that describe the majestic maple tree. With its intelligence, the maple can adapt its root system to a variety of soil types and climates. It has one of the widest geographic reaches of any tree in the U.S. It also displays a striking and beautiful array of colors throughout the year.  Maples trees can produce maple syrup, which was an important part of the diet of native Americans.

Dogwood: Loyalty, Safety, Determination. Its flowers form a perfect cross and many associate the dogwood tree with Easter as a tree of new beginnings and renewal.  Its flowers display bright, striking colors, a main reason why it is one of the most popular landscape trees in the U.S. It is also a giver – the fruit it produces is a favorite among songbirds.

Willow: Nature, fertility, life, balance, learning, harmony – just a few of many of the words that symbolize the beautiful willow. Its wood has been used in ceremonies honoring the enhancement of mental ability. The shade of a willow helped comfort Napoleon during his exile on the Island of St. Helena. Later, Napoleon was buried under a willow, his favorite tree, and cuttings from this tree became a valued prize among admirers worldwide.

Crape Myrtle: Love, beauty longevity, good fortune. The crape myrtle is a common emblem of marriage in many societies. The flowers it produces are considered to be the flowers of the gods, sacred to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Throughout history, many cultures have believed that cultivating a crape myrtle will bring love and peace to your family.

Japanese Flowering Cherry: Beauty, rebirth and the brilliance and fragility of life – a timeless metaphor of human existence. Its blooms are beautiful and glorious, however, short lived – a visual reminder that our lives are also short and to live every day to its fullest.  The beautiful flowering blossoms are also a symbol of rebirth and signified agricultural reproduction in Japan starting in the 700s. Many people in the United States associate Flowering Cherry Trees with our nation’s capital as these striking beauties dominate the landscape in Washington, DC's Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

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