Land Management

Leaving the Gravesites Undisturbed

An important custom in most natural burial cemeteries is to allow the native vegetation to return in areas where the graves have been used. As might be expected, the sort of vegetation that will regenerate depends on the location of the cemetery. ‘Woodland’ cemeteries are prevalent in the United Kingdom and may involve periodic mowing of the grass under and near a stand of deciduous trees. In contrast, natural regeneration of the flora found on Canada’s Pacific Coast will, eventually, result in a towering forest.

Natural burial grounds do not allow families to undertake gardening or cultivation of any sort, although some allow flowers to be placed on the grave at the time of burial. Thereafter, the usual practice is to leave the land undisturbed except, perhaps, for the removal of undesirable non-indigenous plants. With this practice, instead of visiting a particular grave, as is customary in a conventional cemetery, families and friends spend time in the area set aside for communal memorialization.

The other practice used to encourage the return of native vegetation is to allot individual graves in a sequential manner at the time of their use. People planning ahead do not purchase a particular burial plot but instead purchase the right to burial, with the understanding that the location of the plot will be determined at the time of its use. This practice is analogous to starting in the far corner and painting one’s way out of a room.