Graveside Chat: West Laurel Hill Blog

Horticultural Symbolism in Cemetery Memorials

Horticultural Symbolism in Cemetery Memorials

Did you know that many grave markers of the 19th and early 20th century featured intricate carvings in stone of various plants and flowers? Also, each plant or flower had a specific symbolic meaning. So, they are stunningly beautiful as well as iconic. Look through the following photos of various memorials taken at Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries and learn more about the flowers and an interpretation of what they represent.

Wreaths represent eternal life and flowers represent natural beauty. The combination of the two was very popular on gravestones of the late 19th century.


Two flowers are featured on this monument, Lilium longiflorum, the Easter lily and Passiflora incarnata, the passionflower. The lily represents innocence and purity while the passionflower represents the passion of Christ.


The gravestone here features a cross and is covered with Hedera helix, commonly known as ivy. Ivy has come to symbolize many things among them fidelity, prosperity and charity.


Featured here is Papaver rhoeas, the common poppy. It symbolizes many things, among them consolation for a lost loved-one, peace in death and eternal life.


Seen here are branches of a Quercus alba tree, known to us commonly as white oak. For many cultures it symbolizes endurance and strength.


This stone carving features two symbolic flowers, Zantedeschia aethiopica, the calla lily and Nelumbo nucifera, the lotus. The calla lily represents beauty and innocence while the lotus symbolizes creation and rebirth.



Featured here is Cirsium, known to us commonly as thistle. Its shape represents a crown and symbolizes an enlightened person and the known pink color of its petals represents divine love.

To learn more about horticultural symbolism in stone monuments, the Laurel Hill Cemetery gift shop offers this publication “Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography” and can be purchased here: https://bit.ly/2L9GoHB