Living Arts Originals features nearly 100 articles on all types of symbols and their meanings. We also offer links to additional resources including books, symbolic jewelry, feng shui decor, symbolic gifts, stock photos, symbolic prints and original art.
Forests have always had deep-rooted symbolic meaning in virtually every culture on earth. Forests are the abode of the nature spirits. Forests are a refuge from danger as well as a source of dangerous wild animals. Forests are mysterious and constantly changing. Tree symbols and forests contains multiple mythic qualities. The deep-rooted symbolism of trees is apparent in common metaphors such as the tree of life and our ancestral heritage depicted in family trees.
In Vedic philosophy, the symbolism of wood claims this element as the primal material of the universe. Christian art depicts Christ as the cosmic carpenter and His ultimate sacrifice is represented by a wooden cross. The Jewish depiction of the Kabbalah is in the form of a modified tree and explains the mystical teachings of Judaism.
The traditional gift for the fifth anniversary is wood. The wood symbolizes a relationship that has become solid and long-lasting, representing the growing strength of the marriage bond. Traditional gifts for a fifth anniversary include planting a tree together in your yard or a park, purchasing a bonsai tree for indoors, going on an outdoor adventure together in the woods or purchasing wooden accessories for your home.
Trees have traditionally been planted in many cultures in honor of an accomplishment or an important rite of passage such as a graduation, wedding, retirement or the birth of a child. This tradition is also appropriate for honoring the life of a loved one at the loved one's passing.
The symbolic meaning of the tree can guide the choice of tree to plant, as well as the practical consideration of the hardiness zone in which the tree will be planted. See symbolic trees below from The Comfort Company, a specialty company offering meaningful gifts for sympathy and significant occasions:
See map below for hardiness zones and links withTree Meaning Guide below to purchase your tree. Hardiness zones divide the US and Canada into eleven areas based on ten degree average temperature differences. Hardiness zones for individual trees are indicated in the tree symbolism and descriptions below.
Try the free hardiness zone lookup tool powered by the Arbor Day Foundation to find out the zones that pertain to any zip code.
The symbols associated with specific trees are summarized below.
Apple trees symbolize magic, youth, beauty and happiness. The apple has long been associated with the symbolism of immortality. The mystical Isle of Avalon, famed place of eternal rest for Celtic heroes including King Arthur, is literally "the apple land" or "apple island." In Scandinavia, the North-European gods and goddesses were fed an apple every evening by Iduna, the goddess of spring who nurtures an apple orchard in Asgard. Apple trees grow in hardiness zones 4-9.
Johnny Appleseed has an official holiday on September 26. Celebrate by reading a book about Johnny Appleseed or planting a tree! Read our full article on this website about apple symbolism and Johnny Appleseed.
Ash trees symbolize sacrifice, sensitivity and higher awareness. The wood is white, strong, and straight-grained. Ash is the timber of choice for production of baseball bats and tool handles. The wood is also favorable for furniture and flooring. Ash is a large deciduous tree with smooth, gray bark on young trees which becomes fissured with age. The leaves are green above, white below, and turn yellow, red, or purple in the fall. Ash trees grow in hardiness zones 4-9.
Aspen tree symbolism includes determination and overcoming fears and doubts. Renowned for their golden autumn foliage, aspen trees are the only broadleaf tree in the Rocky Mountains. Individual aspen trees live only 100 years. However, aspen trees reproduce by sprouting shoots from their roots. This allows them to grow in a cohesive grove. Thus, a grove is actually a single living organism which can reach several thousand years in age.
Beech tree symbolism includes tolerance, past knowledge and softening criticism. The beech family comprises about 900 species of both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. Beech trees have alternate simple leaves with pinnate venation. Beech trees produce edible nuts and are commonly used as timber for floors, furniture, cabinets, and barrels. Beech trees grow in hardiness zones 4-9.
Bonsai tree symbolism includes harmony, peace, balance and all that is good. The cultivation of bonsai trees originated in Chine where they were fashioned into the shapes of dragons, serpents and other mythical animals. Eventually the art of bonsai tree cultivation became a practice of Japanese Buddhist monks who preferred the creation of more elegant forms. Learn more about bonsai trees in our full article on Bonsai Tree Meaning.
Bonsai trees are great for homes, offices and classrooms. They also make wonderful gifts and are easy to care for. To find a bonsai tree for your home or to give as a gift, we recommend visiting Bonsai Boy of New York, an online resource for everything you need for bonsai trees.
Birch tree meanings include new beginnings and cleansing of the past. Birch trees are also associated with vision quests. The common name birch is derived from an old Germanic root meaning "white, bright or to shine." The birch is considered the national tree of Russia, where it used to be worshipped as a goddess during the Green Week in early June. Birch trees grow in hardiness zone 3-8.
The beauty of birch trees is due in part to the contrast between their white bark and their green summer leaves or yellow autumn leaves. As a result, many artists and photographers have used birch trees as subjects.
Cedar trees meanings include healing, cleansing and protection. It is widely grown as an ornamental tree, planted in parks and large gardens for its drooping foliage. It is the national tree of Pakistan. The name "deodar" is derived from modern Indian language derivatives of the Sanskrit name 'devdar', meaning "timber of the gods". Cedar trees grow in hardiness zones 6-9. Buy a symbolic Deodara Cedar tree from The Comfort Company for a significant occasion or to mark the birth or passing of somone you love.
Cherry tree symbols mean death and rebirth and new awakenings. Because of their considerable value as both food and ornamental plants, many cherry and other fruit tree species have been introduced to parts of the world to which they are not native. Many of the Old World species are grown for ornament or fruit, and have been planted throughout the world. Some have become naturalized beyond their native range. Cherry trees grow in hardiness zones 5-8. See Weeping Cherry tree for sale from Nature Hills Nursery.
The copaiba balsam tree is symbolic of vitality and lives in the wooded savanna of Africa. The copaiba grows by runners, allowing it to create groves or forests of trees similar to aspen groves. The copaiba tree has an inverted cone shape that is flat on the top and is considered to be one of the most trees in savanna regions. Copaiba trees can reach a height of twenty meters. The copaiba tree is tapped like a maple tree and the sap can be distilled as an essential oil reputed to assist in common digestive discomforts and in the support of a strong immune system. The sap is also used to make hgh quality soaps and beauty aids. Copaiba trees grow in hardiness zones 10-11. Order a live tree from Nature Hills Nursery.
Cypress tree symbolism includes understanding the role of sacrifice and is associated with the god of the underworld, Hades. Many species are grown as decorative trees in parks and in temples. A few species are grown for their timber, which can be very durable. Cypress oil is also used for shampoo, beauty and personal care products. Cypress trees grow in hardiness zones 6-10. Order a live tree from Nature Hills Nursery.
Elder tree symbols mean birth, death, and the fairy realm. The berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds. Both flowers and berries can be made into elderberry wine and an elderberry brandy is produced in Hungary. The flowers may be used to make an herbal tea, which is believed as a remedy for colds and fever. In Europe, the flowers are made into a cough syrup, which is diluted with water before drinking. Elder trees grow in hardiness zones 4-9. Order a live tree from Nature Hills Nursery.
Elm tree meaning includes strength of will and intuition. During the 18th and 19th centuries, elms were popular as ornamentals by virtue of their rapid growth and variety of foliage and forms. This popularity lasted until World War I when the consequences of hostilities, notably in Germany, and the outbreak of Dutch elm disease saw the elm slide into horticultural decline. Elm wood is valued for its interlocking grain, and consequent resistance to splitting, with significant uses in wheels, chairs and coffins. The wood is also resistant to decay when permanently wet, and hollowed trunks were widely used as water pipes during the medieval period in Europe. Elm trees grow inhardiness zones 2 through 6. Buy an Elm - New Horizon tree from Nature Hills Nursery.
The eucalyptus tree is symbolic of prudence. The name is derived from the Greek word "eucalyptos," which means "well covered." This name referes to the protective membrane that covers the budding flowers of the tree. The eucalyptus tree is also symbolic of Australia, where it is an important native tree. Eucalyptus has been used medicinally to treat the common cold, headaches due to colds, bronchial disease, throat inflammations, rheumatism, coughs, asthma and flu. (Photo courtesy of Ethel Aardvark, Wikimedia Commons) Eucalyptus trees grow in hardiness zones 9-11. Order a live tree from Nature Hills Nursery.
The fir tree has long been a symbol of springtime and immortality. More recently, fir trees are one of the primary trees used for Christmas trees, with the modern practice of Christmas trees beginning around 1500 in Germany. The tradition of bringing green branches into one's home to celebrate faith in eternal life was part of winter rituals as far back as the Egyptians. Today the use of a Christmas tree is nearly universal. The oil of fir trees is known for its antiseptic action and ability to kill airborne germs and bacteria as well as support respiratory health. See article on Christmas Tree Symbolism. Fir trees grow in hardiness zones 2-8. Order a live tree from Nature Hills Nursery.
Hazel tree symbolism includes hidden wisdom, dousing and divination. The nuts of all hazels are edible. The Common Hazel is the species most extensively grown for its nuts, followed in importance by the Filbert. Nuts are also harvested from the other species, but apart from the filbert, none is of significant commercial importance. A number of cultivars of the Common Hazel and Filbert are grown as ornamental plants in gardens. The hazel tree grows in hardiness zones 4-9. Order a live tree from Nature Hills Nursery.
Holly tree symbols include protection, overcoming of anger and spiritual warrior. In many western cultures, holly is a traditional Christmas decoration, especially in wreaths. The wood is heavy, hard and whitish. One traditional use is for chess pieces, with holly for the white pieces, and ebony for the black. Other uses include turnery, inlay work and as firewood. Looms in the 1800s used holly for the spinning rod. Because holly is dense and can be sanded very smooth, the rod was less likely than other woods to snag threads being used to make cloth. The holly tree grows in hardiness zones 5-9. Order a live tree from Nature Hills Nursery.
Maple trees meanings includes balance, promise and practicality. Maples are important as source of syrup and wood. Dried wood is often used for the smoking of food. They are also cultivated as ornamental plants and are beneficial for tourism in the autumn. The maple tree grows in hardiness zones 3-9. See Green-Leaf Japanese Maple trees and Japanese Red-Leaf Maple trees from The Comfort Company. Legacy Sugar Maple trees are also available from Nature Hills Nursery.
The oak is the mightiest of trees and symbolizes strength and courage. The ancient Romans thought oak trees attracted lightening and thereby connected the oak tree to the sky god, Jupiter and his wife, Juno, the goddess of marriage. Thus, the oak is a symbol of conjugal fidelity and fulfillment. The oak tree was regarded by Socrates as an oracle tree. The Druids likewise ate acorns in preparation for prophesying. In addition, the Druids believed the leaves of the oak tree had the power to heal and renew strength. Oak trees (above) grow in hardiness zones 5-9. Photo courtesy of Philip Halling, Wikimedia Commons.
Palm tree symbols include peace and opportunity. In many historical cultures, palms were also symbols for such victory and fertility. Today, palms remain a popular symbol for the tropics and vacations. Many common products and foods are derived from palms, and palms are also widely used in landscaping for their exotic appearance, making them one of the most economically important plants. Most palms are distinguished by their large, compound, evergreen leaves arranged at the top of an un branched stem. The palm tree grows in hardiness zones 6 and above.
Pine tree symbolism includes creativity, life, longevity and immortality. Pine trees are recognizable by both their needle-like leaves and cones. Pines are commercially among the most important of species used for timber and wood pulp in temperate and tropical regions of the world. Some species have large seeds, called pine nuts, that are harvested and sold for cooking and baking. The pine tree grows in hardiness zones 4-10.
Willow tree meanings includes magic, healing, inner vision and dreams. The leaves and bark of the willow tree have been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt as a remedy for aches and fever. Native Americans across the continent relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments. This is because they contain acetylsalicylic acid, also known as aspirin. The willow grows in hardiness zones 2-9.
The willow is a famous subject in many East Asian nations' cultures, and the image has been employed in a variety of Korean poetry. The willow was also part of mourning pieces created in the 19th century (and earlier) by women to commemorate the death of a loved one. These pieces always included one or more mourners in dark dresses bent over a burial vault, tombstone or urn with a willow tree--a symbol of death, tears, mourning, and reflection. Perhaps this is the origin of the term "weeping willow".
The full size chart and map below are courtesy of the US National Arboretum. Visit http://www.usna.usda.gov for more information.
The many types of forests are designated by their distance from the equator and their altitude. Forests fall into the following major categories: tropical rainforests, sub-tropical forests, Mediterranean forests, temperate forests, coniferous forests and montane forests. The type of forest is determined by the types of trees that grow there.
The trees in forests are mainly used to create fuel and paper. About half of the wood harvested from forests around the world is used for heating homes and other buildings. Forests are so important to the economy around the world that they are usually managed by local or national governments to prevent illegal logging, accidental fires or other destructive activities.
Forests are an ecosystem composed of trees, plants, animals, soil, and various microorganisms. Forests cover about 30% of the earth's surface. Forests grow in all types of landscapes including both salt and fresh water areas. In fact, some forests are located on moving glaciers.
For more information on tree symbolism, see the following books from Amazon:
Choose an image of tree based on the symbolism indicated above to decorate your home or office. This will serve as an effective visual reminder of your goals and help you to fulfill your dreams and visions for your life. Or select an image depicting a forest to remind you of places of comfort and mystery! Images of trees and forests are appropriate for any area of the home: entryways, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and family areas.
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Lawlor, Anthony. A Home for the Soul. NY: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 1997.