Henry ThompsonPath through Cemetery headstonescross

Bringing Linwood Cemetery Alive!

Nature Table

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.

Information and links about some of the more distinctive or significant trees, plants and birds will be added to this page to help you identify them easier.  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

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)

Monarch butterflies overwinter on the trunks of the trees of Linwood Cemetery.  In Spring when the temperature is over 13°C they can be seen basking in the sun or feasting on plant nectar.  Find out more about the Monarch Butterfly in Christchurch and the work of the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust.

Updated by Alexandra on 21st September 2015.