Churchyard trees


The type of trees found in churchyards will vary depending on the region, climate and local traditions. Some common species that may be found in churchyards include:

Yew (Taxus baccata)

A traditional tree found in many British churchyards. Yew trees are often very old and have great cultural significance. They are evergreen and can live for centuries. Yew trees have a long history of symbolism in Christianity and other religions and are often associated with the resurrection and eternal life. Yew wood has been used for various purposes throughout history, including making longbows, furniture and carvings. Often they were planted in churchyards to benefit the community.

Oak (Quercus robur)

Another traditional tree in British churchyards, oaks are a symbol of strength and longevity. They are deciduous and can live for hundreds of years.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

This tree is known for its smooth grey bark and oval shaped leaves with wavy edges. Beeches are often planted in avenues and can form a majestic canopy over a churchyard.

Lime (Tilia spp)

A tree known for its fragrant flowers and heart shaped leaves. Limes can be very large and are often found in the centre of a churchyard.

Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

Ash trees have characteristic black buds and diamond shaped bark. They can grow tall and provide a good habitat for birds.

What trees does our churchyard hold?

A particularly fine example of a Juniper (Juniperus communis) can be found on the North side of the church. Junipers have always had a close association with churchyards because of their historical and symbolic significance and are associated with protection, purification, and spiritual guidance. They were also believed to protect against evil spirits and as such, were often planted near entrances to churches and monasteries. 

They also have practical uses in churchyards being hardy, low maintenance plants that can withstand a variety of environmental conditions, making them well suited for cemetery landscaping. Additionally, the berries of some juniper species were used in the making of medicines.

The northern corner of the churchyard is dominated by a large Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), the ‘conker’ tree of everyone’s youth. These large, deciduous spreading trees can be found in churchyards for a variety of reasons, one being ornamental. Not only do they produce beautiful showy flowers resembling white candles in spring, but the large, attractive leaves provide shade during the summer months. It must be very relaxing to sit underneath one listening to the hum and buzz of insects, in particular the Honey Bee which is associated with Horse Chestnuts.

Again, they have historical significance when associated with churchyards. Introduced to Europe in the 16th century from the Balkans, they quickly became popular ornamental features in gardens, public spaces and in churchyards where they became associated with European cultural and religious traditions.

Elsewhere along the borders of St John’s churchyard can be found Silver Birch (Betula pendula), Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), and Oak, or to give it its proper title Pendunculate Oak (Quercus robur).


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