The Memorial Tree

This column originally appeared in the October, 2012 issue of Funeral Home and Cemetery News by Nomis Publications, Inc.

The Memorial Tree

A simple gesture and a lasting legacy

Plant a Memorial Tree
For thousands of years and around the world people have been planting trees in honor of loved ones lost.  For survivors, planting a memorial tree is a simple gesture that will benefit the earth and many generations to come.  It is a yin-yang of a sort--the end of one life honored by the creation of a new life.  It is in this simple act that many people find comfort.  For some, a living memorial tree is a pleasant reminder as the years pass and the tree grows to maturity keeping the memories of loved ones alive to share with the children of the next generation.

There is so much value in trees.  There are few opportunities in life where a tiny investment--less than a few pennies to plant a single tree from seed--can return so much value year after year.  The rewards compound each year as a tree matures and continues to sequester carbon, absorb storm water runoff, and shade our streets and homes.  Real estate sales data shows that property with mature trees sells for a 15% to 20% premium over property without trees.  The shade of one tree and the cooling affect of releasing water vapor from its leaves on the south side of a home can reduce energy costs by as much as 12% for a home or small business.  Various methods of appraising different species of trees suggest the value of even a 15 year old tree is at least $1000 and could be upwards of $10,000.  There are very few investments that can compound from a few pennies to thousands of dollars in 15 or 20 years--perhaps none as certain as a tree.

The Memorial Tree is one way the entire death care industry could participate in sustainability.   Any service provider in death care--funeral homes, churches, cemeteries, hospices, hospitals, vault companies--could complement their products and services with a memorial tree planting kit.  This inexpensive gift would not only help green our industry, but would also generate much goodwill as a kind gesture to the family of the deceased.

Many in the death care industry have made a memorial tree a standard part of their practice.  Years ago, Steve Mitchell, owner of Thompson Funeral Home in Wonewoc, Wisconsin, would send a memorial tree in time for Arbor Day to all of the families that he serviced in the previous year.  Steve expressed to me how he received thank-you letters and goodwill from those families for years and years afterward.  Sadly, Steve discontinued this practice when the partnering vendor who prepared and shipped the trees stopped providing the service several years ago.  This story is the reason that we, at the Northwoods Casket Company, have worked with the DNR and forestry experts to create our own memorial tree planting kit.

What if the death care industry were to expand the practice of planting a memorial tree to all funerals?  What if planting a memorial tree were as common place in funerals as sending flowers?  Imagine the goodwill, the value created in our communities, and the environmental impact of the trees we could plant.  Would you like to give it a try?

If you'd like to try a memorial tree planting kit, we'll send you one for free.  Our kit includes 50 seeds for up to 5 species of trees appropriate for planting in both urban and forest settings.  We've prepared simple 3-step instructions for germinating and planting the seeds.  The little peat pots included in the kit are easy to start indoors and then you simply transplant the whole pot come Arbor Day (in North America, anyway).  Learn more about our memorial tree kit and get one for free on-line at  (Enter coupon code MAPLE.)