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Headstone symbolism: what do plants, fruit and vegetables mean on headstones?


When visiting a cemetery, you will see the variety of gravestones with different styles and looks. Some emblems on the gravestones may be obvious like the cross, a dove or roses. But what does it mean when you see plants, fruit and vegetables on a gravestone? It turns out most symbols can have many meanings – and their representation can vary significantly by country and even the nature of death.

Did you know that pineapples are depicted for someone who was considered a good host? So here are just a few of the many meaning for some plants, fruit and vegetables when seen on gravestones:

Acacia: immortality of the soul

Anemone: a symbol of a brief blossoming and an early death and the transience of life

Apple: Eve and sin

Bamboo: an emblem of Budda

Buds: loss of a young soul, a child died too young or renewal of life

Buttercup: cheerfulness

Calla Lily: reminiscent of the Victorian era, the calla lily represents majestic beauty and is often used to represent marriage or resurrection

Chrysanthemum: in Europe, this flower represents the harvest. In Japan immortality, the perpetuity of the Imperial family and the sun.

Corn: rebirth and fertility

Daisy: the innocence of a child, purity of thought

Daffodil: a symbol of love and hope, can signify rebirth and new life

Dogwood: Christianity, divine sacrifice, resurrection

Fern: the symbol of New Zealand, and humility and sincerity

Figs: prosperity and eternal life

Forget me Not: remembrance

Grape: a symbol of fertility and prosperity

Holly: foresight; people believed holly protected tombs from lightning

Honeysuckle: bonds of love, generosity and devotion

Ivy and vines: friendship, fidelity and immortality

Lily: purity, chastity and innocence

Lotus: creation and rebirth

Marigold: believed to attract souls of the dead

Mistletoe: sacred plant and symbol of immortality

Myrtle leaf: undying love and peace

Oak leaves and acorns: signify strength, honour, longevity and steadfastness

Olive branch: often depicted in the mouth of a dove, symbolizes peace - that the soul has departed in the peace of God. The olive tree is also known to represent longevity, fertility, maturity, fruitfulness and prosperity

Palm: a symbol of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life and is also often a symbol of tropical paradise

Pansy: remembrance and humility

Passionflower: a symbol of Christ's passion, sacrifice, suffering and redemption

Pineapple: hospitality and a good host

Poinsettia: a death occurring near Christmas

Pomegranate: immortality, unity, nourishment of the soul

Poppy: a symbol of death, eternal sleep as well as peace, sometimes associated with war-related death

Rose: love, beauty, hope, unfailing love - two roses signify a couple

Rosemary: remembrance

Shamrock: a symbol of Ireland (Eire), often used on Irish Catholic monuments and for luck for a gambler

Snowdrop: hope

Sunflower: symbolic of gratitude and affectionate remembrance

Thistle: may symbolise that the person was of Scottish descent and earthly sorrow

Trees: the enduring symbol of eternal life and protection, with their roots firmly in the ground and their canopy offering protection

Tudor Rose (sometimes called the Union rose): may indicate that the person it commemorates was of English descent

Tulip: love and passion

Violet: humility

Wheat: symbolises the resurrection, the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life

Willow: the weeping willow signifies sadness, perpetual mourning and death

Keep an eye out on our blogs; we will be covering what animals, insects and reptiles mean on gravestones soon. 

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