Graveyard Botany: Flora of the Dead

Which verdant beauties decorate the home of the dead?

Some may keep watch over their bodies, shadowing them in preternatural shade. Others might encircle their coffins like ancient garlands.

the Yew Tree: traditionally a marker of English graveyards. Also a frequent symbol in Sylvia Plath’s poetry.

Reindeer Lichens: flora that dominates cool, damp areas in the cemetery.

Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais, via

Poppies: a flower that symbolizes death – Ophelia holds one in her hands.

Rosemary: a fragrant symbol of remembrance, often used in funeral food.

Geranium Leaves: acted as an aromatic, often scented with other flowers, such as roses, and placed beside the open coffin of the dead or in their hands directly to lessen any smell of decay (1).

Mistletoe: often placed in the hands of the dead; a symbol of life that stems from Norse mythology, as it is connected with the story of raising Baldur from the dead.

Flowering Dogwood Tree: a symbol of rebirth and resurrection, often placed in coffins of the dead.

Cempasuchil or Marigold: In Mexico, the golden-orange marigold, or Flor de Muerto, is often used in Día de Muertos rituals.

Roses: a common yet beautifully classic coffin adornment.


  1. Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem and Mourning Photography from the Thanatos Archive. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Grand Central and Last Gasp, 2015. Print.

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