When you begin thinking about end-of-life plans, you may come across topics such as remembrance trees and memorial forests. If you are considering a green burial, these options might be something you’d like to know more about, and you may wonder how you can include a tree in your end-of-life plans. In our guide below, we detail these green options to help you decide if it’s something you may want to consider as part of your legacy.  

Memorial trees

If you’re considering alternatives to a traditional burial, a memorial tree may be the right option for you. Follow our guide to find out more about what these natural memorial spaces entail. 

What is a memorial tree?

A memorial tree, also called a remembrance tree or sympathy tree, has a few different meanings. Sometimes, it can refer to a tree planted in someone's honor or memory in a place of significance to them or their family. A memorial tree can also refer to a tree in a memorial forest that serves as a resting place for cremated ashes of you or your loved one. In this article, we'll explore memorial trees as a final resting place, where ashes are returned to the earth at the base of a private, established tree.

Memorial trees are located in memorial forests, which are protected pieces of land designed for spreading ashes. These forests offer a meaningful location for family and friends to visit you beyond your time on Earth but also allow you to help with conservation efforts to sustain and give back to the planet.

As part of your end-of-life plans, you can choose to have your ashes scattered in the soil at the base of a memorial tree. With countless options of tree species, you can find just the right tree to represent your life or the life of your loved one. You can pick the setting and specific kind of tree you’d like, and you can even include spreading rights for your loved ones or pets to join you when their time comes. 

Benefits of remembrance trees 

There are many reasons why you may decide you’d like to be laid to rest in a memorial forest. We’ve outlined a few of the most important reasons below.

1. Environmentally friendly

For one, traditional burials can be expensive and place a burden on the environment, as coffins take up space in the ground and involve placing chemicals and non-biodegradable materials, such as lacquered wood and metals, into the Earth. However, if you decide to go the memorial forest route, your loved ones will mix your ashes with soil and spread them at the base of the tree, allowing you to become one with nature. 

2. Contributes to forest conservation and reforestation

It’s an affordable, sustainable option that also helps memorial forests like these continue to thrive. In addition, by choosing a tree in a memorial forest, you are further protecting the environment through the conservation efforts of Better Place Forest. For every tree that is purchased, Better Place Forest works with One Tree Planted to plant 50-1,600 Impact Trees in your honor in areas that are in need of reforestation.

3. A lasting memorial in the beauty of nature

Another reason why this is a popular choice is that it offers your friends and family a designated place to visit you. They can explore the peaceful forest for hundreds of years to come. They might reminisce about your life while they sit at the base of your tree, enjoying a picnic, or they might like to hike through the forest, taking in the serenity and beauty of the natural space. However they choose to reflect on and celebrate your life in the forest, they have a protected, secluded area to remember you.

4. Return to nature

What’s more, at Better Place Forest, our memorial trees and memorial forests are protected, giving your loved ones extra peace of mind by knowing your spirit will continue to live on in a beautiful and natural setting for years to come. Through conservation efforts, we work to maintain healthy forests and ecosystems, starting with purchasing land that has high conservation value. Through daily maintenance and upkeep of the forests, we provide a healthy and diverse habitat for all animals and plant life. Our arborists work to ensure that all memorial trees are healthy and thriving.

Read more: Protecting beauty and ritual: the ins and outs of forest and tree protection

Types of remembrance trees 

What’s the best tree for a memorial? The choice is yours. At Better Place Forests, every kind of memorial tree we offer is beautiful and unique in its own way. Whether you’re choosing a tree for you and your family, or for a loved one you’ve lost, there are many ways to think about choosing the right tree based on its size, species, location, and features.

Because our memorial forests are spread out across the nation, each destination has a distinct mix of tree species. For instance, our Lake Arrowhead Forest, located just west of Big Bear, California, features options like incense cedars, sugar pines, and black oak trees. Meanwhile, our River Rock Forest in Illinois is home to hackberry, black walnut, and shagbark hickory trees. In addition to choosing your favorite species, you can also select your ideal size based on the diameter of the tree’s trunk or its beautiful canopy.

Read more: How to become a tree when you die

How to choose a memorial tree

Whatever tree you decide to go with comes down to personal preference. Maybe you spent your childhood climbing the oak trees in your grandparents’ backyard. Or perhaps the smell of cedar always reminds you of your favorite camping spots. Alternatively, you might simply be drawn to a specific kind of tree — there is no wrong choice when choosing your tree or one for someone you’ve lost. 

You might also select a tree based on its location or proximity to certain features in the forest. For example, some trees are closer to accessible trails, making it easier for family members, old and young, to visit and pay tribute. Other trees may be tucked back in the forest, making the visiting experience quiet and peaceful. You might choose a tree that has a view of a sweeping meadow, mountain landscape, or one that looks out over a body of water. In any case, you can find a tree that feels meaningful and personal as a final resting place. 

For inspiration, read this story about the Groves family and how they found a perfect memorial tree for their family of seven.

Read more: Symbolism of trees: spiritual meanings across history

Memorial tree forests 

Here at Better Place Forests, we offer memorial forests in various places across the United States, including: 

Reserving your memorial tree 

If you’d like to return your ashes to the Earth in a forest as part of your memorial plan, Better Place Forests can help. The process is simple. 

Begin by exploring all our memorial forests — you can visit in person with a steward or take an online guided tour. Next, choose your specific location and the type of tree to call your own, and then determine your spreading rights. Our representatives are always available to help customize your plans. 

Once you’ve reserved your tree, you can enjoy peace of mind, realizing you have finalized your memorial plans and provided your loved ones with a special place in nature to remember you. To get started, schedule your welcome call with an advisor today.

Read more: Memorial service ideas for family and loved ones