Topic: Nature in Linwood Cemetery

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A description of some of the nature that thrives in Linwood Cemetery and brings it alive!

We are often asked about the plants, trees and birds that grace Linwood Cemetery.  There is a comprehesive list of trees and plants in Appendix 4 of the Conservation Plan for Linwood Cemetery and the expected management of them by the City Council.

Linwood Cemetery is a most important greenspace for the Eastern suburbs and we hope that finding out more about the plants and wild-life will help you enjoy your time there more.

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

Each May, Linwood Cemetery is brightened by carpets of bright red berries from the Strawberry Trees dotted around the outer perimeter.

14th-may-in-the-cemetery-2_640x480Arbutus unedo is an evergreen native to the Mediterranean regions, France and Ireland. Due to its strange presence in Ireland, it is sometimes referred to as the Killarney strawberry tree. The red fruit have a rough surface and tend not to be eaten raw, as they have a bland mealy taste, but are often used to make jams and liqueurs. Arbutus unedo serves as a bee plant for honey production, and the fruits are food for birds. In folk medicine, the plant has been used for antiseptic, astringent, intoxicant, rheumatism, and tonic purposes.


More at Wikipedia

The Yew (Taxus baccata)

There are 8 Common Yews (Taxus baccata) and 34 Irish Yews (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata') in Linwood Cemetery according to data collected in August 2005 for the Linwood Cemetery Conservation Plan.  Some of the Irish Yews are the oldest and were probably incorporated in the original landscaping.  Though most of the yews were added to gravesides as small shrubs, some are wildings.  The current size of the older yews in the cemetery obscures some of the grave plots and has no doubt done damage to them but it is unlikely that they will ever be removed as they are seen to form the heritage of the cemetery.    Current practice is to trim the lower branches but to leave the height.  It would have been part of the Sexton's role to keep the graveside plantings neat and tidy, not allowing them to become large and dominant to the landscape.  Certainly any wildings would have been removed.

Since antiquity, the Yew is associated with transformation and re-birth.  It is believed that it can connect people to their ancestors and the 'Other World'.  It's tall, cylindrical shape is very distinctive.  Although poisonous, a chemical in the bark 'taxol' is being used to develop a treatment for breast cancer.  Find out more by clicking on these links.

The Yew Ancient Symbol of Transformation and Re-birth

Yew Clippings to Make Chemotherepy

Ice Plant (Carpobrotus Edulis)

Also known as Highway Ice Plant, Pigface or Hottentot Fig and Sour Fig, Ice Plant surrounds the edges of Linwood Cemetery at its hillocked border with Bromley Park Car Park and MacGregors Road.

It is a large thick ground-covering mat with succulent leaves and yellow flowers from October through to February.

A South African plant, it naturalised in New Zealand in 1883 and was probably planted deliberately to keep the dunes of the cemetery from eroding. It is fire and drought resistant, edible and has medicinal properties. On the other hand, it chokes out all other native plants, alters the soil composition and needs to be controlled so it doesn't become invasive as it is fast growing.

From March, edible pulpy fruits replace the flowers which can be used to make a bitter jam. The leaf juice is antiseptic and traditionally gargled to treat infections of the mouth and throat. It is also taken orally for dysentery, digestive troubles, tuberculosis and as a diuretic. It is highly astringent and applied externally to treat excema, wounds, mosquito and jellyfish stings and burns including sunburn. It is also said to be effective against toothache, earache and thrush.  Though the local belief that the juice of the ice plant cures warts still persists, this is not so.  Find out more by clicking on these links.

NZ Plant Conservation Network

Invasive Species Specialist Group

California Department of  Fish and Wildlife

Red Hot Poker [Kniphofia]

Also known as tritoma, torch lily, knofflers or poker plant the Kniphofia is named after Johann Hieronymus KNIPHOF, an 18th-century German physician and botanist.  First described as a genus in 1794 it is known colloquially as Red Hot Poker as, from a distance, it looks like firebrands. The red, orange and yellow flowering stem can reach up to 150cm. The leaves are lily-like, hence its alternative common name of Torch Lily.  It is a perennial native to South Africa and has been introduced into many parts of the world. The flowers produce copious nectar while blooming and are attractive to bees, butterflies, fantails, bellbirds and tui, which will visit as long as the nectar lasts.

Many flower from early summer until autumn, while other kniphofia are spring or autumn flowering. Able to tolerate heat, humidity and frost, seaside and inland conditions, they have been planted for interest, attracting birds and insects and keeping the sandy soil in place in the cemetery.

Find out more at:

NatureWatch NZ

Monterey Pine (pinus radiata, pinus insignis)

"...and when the... Pinus insignis... grow up the new cemetery will be a notable feature in the district." (Papers Past, 11 Oct 1884, pg 3)

Planted around the boundary of Linwood Cemetery are a number of  "majestic pines".   In 2005, 42 were counted; some believed to be those purchased from Kerr & Bennett's Stanmore Road Nursery in June 1884. They were part of a consignment of "1000 ornamental pines of sorts" and cost roughly equivalent to NZ$3,600 today.

First introduced into New Zealand in 1859, it is known here as Radiata Pine and is our most common species of Christmas tree.

Only discovered in 1830, this coniferous evergreen tree native to California and Mexico, is now the most widely planted pine in the world. Radiata Pine is  extensively used in NZ because of its speedy growth and the quality of its wood for building and its pulp for paper.

Pinus radiata lives an average of 80 - 90 years. It is often planted to help control erosion and blowing soils and provides screening against wind, noise, and traffic.

The seeds of all pine species are edible. Native Americans ate pine nuts whole or pounded into flour for porridge or mixed with other foods. The needles of pines contain vitamin C and were brewed into a tea drunk to treat headaches. They also make a good mulch for home-grown strawberries. Pine resin was chewed to treat rheumatism or used as a salve on burns and sores and as glue or sealant. The young, male catkins are edible either raw or cooked.

When the area around is not managed, invasive wilding pines grow. In Linwood Cemetery these take hold in the cracks of grave plots and if not pulled out would grow at a rate of approx 1m per year further damaging the plot.

Find out more at:


Conservation Plan for Linwood Cemetery

Encyclopedia of Life

Lombardy Poplar(Populus Nigra Italica)

A row of 31 Lombardy Poplars forms the un-fenced boarder between Linwood Cemetery and Bromley Park. Two others are close to the site of the Sexton's Lodge. Those estimated to have been planted in the 1940s (possibly to replace an original Macrocarpa shelter belt) are close to the end of their 40-50 year natural life.

The black poplar [Populus nigra] is a species of cottonwood poplar, native to Europe, SW and central Asia, and NW Africa. Fast growing it is 20m-30m tall, a narrow column of about 3-4m of short, upward-pointing branches with a trunk up to 1.5m in diameter. The bark is grey/green on young trees and new growth, but becomes black, thickened, and furrowed on older, larger trunks like those in the cemetery.

The diamond-shaped leaves are bright green on both sides and turn to yellow in the autumn before dropping. The species has male and female flowers in catkins on different plants and pollinates by wind.

Poplars were first grown in NZ in the 1830s as ornamental trees, for shelter, screen or windbreak. Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra ‘Italica’) was especially favoured as it could be seen from a distance.

In about 1880 the Maori prophet Te Kooti planted a Poplar stem at Tamatea pā to symbolise his life taking a new pathway away from war and towards peace. Members of the Ringatū church, which he founded, likened the upright branches of this poplar to the uplifted hand – the central symbol of their faith.



Rosmarinus officinalis, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. It is native to the Mediterranean region and Asia; growing wild on the Gallipoli penisular.

Rosemary is reasonably hardy in cool climates. It can survive a severe lack of water for lengthy periods. Flowering in spring and summer, the plants can be in constant bloom in warm climates. It is easy to grow and pest-resistant.

Surprisingly, Rosemary is a member of the mint family. Its name comes from the Latin for "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea" and not "Rose of Mary" from the myth that the Virgin Mary spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, which turned the flowers blue.

Rosemary has a reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol for remembrance during war commemorations and funerals in European-based cultures which is why it is seen in cemeteries. In Australia, sprigs of rosemary are worn on ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day;

Rosemary can be used fresh or dried in cooking roasted or barbecued with meats or vegetables to add a distinct flavour, it also has properties to help the stomach digest red meat,

As an essential oil with antioxident and anticeptic properties, rosemary is used as an industiral food preservative as well as a perfume in shampoos, soap, room scents and as a decongestant inhalent.

Burning rosemary oil increases concentration, stimulates mental activity and is a good remedy for depression, mental fatigue and forgetfulness. It may slow down Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.

Inhaling rosemary oil and lavender oil for five minutes significantly reduces the levels of cortisol in saliva, Cortisol is released into the blood by the body as a response to stress. Excess cortisol badly affects hormonal balance and the efficiency of the metabolism.

Regular massaging of the scalp with rosemary oil helpings to slowdown the onset of baldness and removes dandruff.



Holly (ilex aquifolim)

Holly is a hardy European species of evergreen shrub introduced into NZ by European settlers. It is recognised by its spiky dark green leaves and deep bitter tasting red or yellow berries which appear in winter. It is used as a traditional Christmas motif carried over from European culture.

The Holly shrub can grow to 25m and the leaves last about five years. It prefers relatively moist areas, is frost and drought tolerant. In NZ it is regarded as an invasive weed and its growth discouraged as it suppresses the growth of native trees and shrubs and is very hard to get rid of.

Smaller birds hide for protection among the spiny leaves and when the berries drop after the first frost they are a useful winter food source for rodents, birds and larger herbivores. The berries need frost to make them softer and more palatable to wildlife.

There are both male and female Holly plants. You can only tell the sex by the flowers which appear when the plant is between 4-12 years old. The male bush has yellowish flowers which appear along the branches. In the female plant the flowers are isolated or in groups of three and are small and white or slightly pink. The berries only appear on female plants which require male plants nearby to fertilise them with the help of pollination by bees though they are also a source of nectar for wasps, flies, and small butterflies.

Holly berries contain alkaloids, caffeine, and theobromine. They are generally regarded as poisonous to humans though people dying from their effects is very rare. The caffeine and theobromine found throughout the plant are much more toxic to dogs and cats.

Holly is rarely used medicinally, but is a laxative, diuretic, and relieves fevers.

Ilex aquifolium's light coloured wood is one of the original woods used for Highland bagpipes. Nowadays black imported dense tropical woods are favoured, though there are “purist” bagpipe makers still making pipes out of traditional woods.



Field aka Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

The Field Poppies in Linwood Cemetery are herbaceous, annual perennials. Many different strains appear in gardens with common names such as Shirley poppy, Himalayan poppy and California poppy. In October, you will find red, yellow and orange poppies growing wild in the cemetery, propagated from their seed spread by the wind a previous year. Each plant can yield 10,000-60,000 seeds which can remain active in the soil for 8 years. This proliferation means the Field poppy is often regarded as a common weed. The pollen of the Field Poppy is grey to dark green in colour and collected by bees.

The opium poppy Papaver somniferum is a different species, the seeds of which are used in cake and bread baking, as an edible oil, in paints, varnishes and cosmetics as well as the production of morphine based drugs.

In Greek and Roman myths, poppies are given as offerings to the dead, the bright scarlet red signifying the promise of resurrection after death. In Persian literature the red Field poppy is the flower of love.

Poppies carved on headstones represent eternal sleep.

Poppies grew in the fields of the Western Front during WW1 and due to the popularity of the 1915 poem In Flanders Fieldsby the Canadian Major John McCrae; Moina Michael, an American humanitarian, devised the idea of making this flower the symbol of Remembrance of soldiers who have died during wartime.


Birds You Might See

Linwood Cemetery is a big garden for local birds.  As well as seeing Sparrows, you are likely to see Australian Magpies and Canadian Geese resting on the headstones before their next flight, and also hear Bellbirds .  Landcare Research have a great poster to help you identify birds for you to download and take with you to the cemetery.


Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

The Monarch is probably the most recognisable butterfly in NZ. Originally from North America, it became established here on its own at the beginning of the 20th century, so is considered a native species (though technically it is not).

Whereas Monarchs in the northern hemisphere travel up to 5,000 kilometres to overwinter in warmer climates, NZ Monarchs have adapted to overwinter in NZ which is why they are less common the further south you go. When the air temperature drops to 12.8°C, Monarchs flock together in overwintering sites. They prefer to overwinter at sites that don't drop below 10°C, are sheltered from the wind, have trees with a rough bark surface on which to cling and have a nearby source of nectar. They find these conditions in Linwood Cemetery.

Although the Monarch is inactive over winter, on warm days in spring you can see them flying around the cemetery, basking in the sunlight and feeding on the nectar rich plants. When the temperatures warm up, butterflies move inland to reproduce, having three generations in a normal year.

The larva (caterpillar) grows to a large size and consumes a lot of foliage in its lifetime living on their only food source swan plants (milkweed) (though mature catapillers can eat pumpkin). The Monarch is an indicator species. Like bees, the size and health of their population enables scientists to measure changes in our environment. There are now real concerns that their numbers have been declining partly due to the increase in its main preditor the Asian Paper Wasp and also the reduction in the availability of swan plants.

Advice from the Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust is that there is a swan plant crisis. It isn't enough to buy a few swan plants when you see the first Monarchs in spring as a plant will only feed 1 or 2 caterpillers. The MBNZ Trust is asking people not only to provide swan plants for this year's crop of caterpillars but to also plant swan plants now for next year's Monarchs. This can be done by keeping some of your swan plants covered so that they'll grow to 1 or 2 metres tall. Those large plants will flower, set seed and in future years seedlings will pop up in the most unexpected of places.

So little is known about the migration of the NZ Monarch, the MBNZ Trust operates a Monarch butterfly tagging programme which anyone can join. It's free - all you need is a computer, the internet, and Monarch butterflies.

For gardners, the MBNZ Trust has devised a home-study course, completed over five weeks.

Check out the MBNZ Trust website for more information and cool resources about the Monarch Butterfly at and see the CCC map of overwintering places in Christchurch at


Friends of Linwood Cemetery

 Updated on 26th August 2018 by Alexandra.


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Nature in Linwood Cemetery

Previous name :Corporation Cemetery
Suburb :Bromley