Best Practice Guidelines

Trees and Vegetation

Best Practice in Managing Vegetation in Relation To Built Structures in Cemeteries Built structures in cemeteries consist of the following:

1. Mausoleums (large stately and often ornate tombs)
a. Constructions above ground
b. May contain a crypt
2. Crypts & Vaults (underground chambers)
a. Normal grave and marker
b. Larger plot
c. Underground chamber
d. May have been concreted over for security
3. Grave markers
a. Granite
b. Marble
c. Sandstone
d. Slate
e. Cast iron
f. Wood
4. Grave fences
a. Cast iron
b. Wrought Iron
c. Wood
d. Granite
5. Grave kerbs
a. Concrete
b. Brick
c. Brick and plaster
6. Grave covers
a. Concrete
b. Gravel
c. Woodchips
7. Heavily vandalised and smashed stones

Vegetation in cemeteries consists of:

1. Plantings by the deceased’s family at time of burial
2. Later plantings by the family
3. Plantings by the cemetery manager
4. Plantings by community groups, bird and/or wind-sown
5. Wildings

Types of Vegetation consist of:

1. Memorial ornamental trees such as yew, holly
2. Memorial climbers such as ivy
3. Memorial roses
4. Memorial Spring bulbs
5. Other ornamental shrubs planted by family
6. Wilding shrubs and trees
7. Plantings by cemetery manager

The Issues

1. Roots
a. Seek food and moisture with tremendous power
b. Damage kerbings, covers and fences
c. Uproot grave markers
d. Aggressive trees’ roots can cover entire graves
2. Foliage
a. Hides inscription on marker
b. Rubbing against stone wears it away
c. Branches can knock urns and other carvings
d. Evergreens make the cemetery cold and dark in winter
3. Trunks
a. As they grow they expand and exert pressure
b. Can push over headstones and fences
4. Moisture
a. Foliage draws moisture to stone
b. Moisture migrates
c. Effects of heat and cold
d. Stone delaminates
5. Drainage
a. Structures above ground (mausoleum) attract and hold moisture if not maintained regularly
b. Vegetation grows in crevices and gutters
c. Inadequate ground drainage leads to subsidence which can seriously damage graves
6. Seeding
a. Wind-blown
b. Bird dropped
7. Suckering
a. Roses
b. Ivy
c. Trees
8. Chemical damage
9. Management
a. Early removal of seedlings
b. Regular pruning of family plantings
c. Regular pruning of roses
d. Early removal of weed species
e. Removal of suckers
f. Spraying regime
g. Poisoning of stumps to inhibit regrowth – use “Vigilant” gel.
h. Removal of mature trees originally planted by family, removal of stumps and replanting same.
i. Bark chip covering of graves to be banned, as it provides an ideal nursery host for seeds.


1. Some plantings and tree removal in historic cemeteries (including urupa) may require an archaeological authority under the Historic Places Act 1993.
2. Planting on graves to be discouraged on grounds of possible damage in future and ongoing maintenance needed.
3. Erect signage at cemetery gates and other gathering points explaining ‘Planting Policy’
4. If family is determined then an “Application to Plant” form to be used
5. Proposed plantings to be subject to prior advice of NZHPT, HCCTNZ, Cemetery Manager
6. Plantings by families be restricted to
a. non-invasive species
b. non aggressive species
7. Plantings to be at least 1 metre from any built structure (mausoleum, headstone, fence, gate)
8. Maintenance regime as under ‘9. Management’ above