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Historic Cemetery Symbols: The Meaning of Oak Leaves & Acorns

FREE Cemetery Symbols Guide:

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Oaks – America’s National Tree

Oak leaves and acorns adorn many tombstones in historic cemeteries in the USA, but even today, oak trees are appreciated and admired for their many special qualities. Not only were they voted America’s favorite tree, but in 2004, the U.S. Congress signed a bill making the Oak America’s National Tree.

Oak leaf & acorn on a historic cemetery headstone (photo by Tui Snider)
Oak leaf & acorn on a historic cemetery headstone (photo by Tui Snider)

So what make the oak tree so special to Americans?

For one thing, the oak is the most widespread hardwood tree in the USA, with over 60 different species growing throughout the nation.

Specific oak trees have played major roles in pivotal parts of United States history. On his way to the Battle of New Orleans, for instance, Andrew Jackson camped out beneath Louisiana’s Sunnybrook Oaks.

Here in Texas, we have the Turner Oak, which is not only a Bicentennial Tree, but played a major role in the founding of Fort Worth thanks to some gold buried beneath it! (More info and photos of it here: Famous Texas Tree – The Turner Oak.)The United States Armed Forces even uses oak leaf clusters to denote acts of valor. 

Oak Tree & Acorn Symbolism

Let’s take a look at the symbolic meanings that oak trees and acorns convey: Although oak trees are slow growing, many species can live for centuries. Its seed, the acorn, is easily recognizable and symbolizes how greatness may arises from humble beginnings. The fact that oak trees matures slowly symbolically reminds us how great strength and power can be achieved through patience and faith.

So, in a nut shell (hehe!) acorns and oak trees symbolize: longevity, humble beginnings, patience, faith, power, endurance, and strength.

That’s a whole lot of meaning packed into a leaf and seed, isn’t it? But that’s part of what makes symbols so powerful. Symbols are a visual shorthand for ideas and emotions, and that is why they work so well on headstones.

Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism:

I am currently writing a field guide to historic cemetery symbolism. Each week, I share a small snippet from my upcoming book. It’s my goal to create a handy-dandy pocket guide for taphophiles, genealogists, ghost hunters, and anyone else interested in the historic graveyard symbols that have become forgotten over the years.

Which symbols are you curious about?

Let me know in the comments if there is a certain symbol that you are curious about. Also, if you would like to know when the cemetery symbolism guide is available for purchase, scroll down and sign up for my newsletter! I look forward to hearing from you!

FREE Cemetery Symbols Guide:

Would you like a FREE guide to historic cemetery symbolism? If so, click the image below:

Want to read more like this?

To read about more weird, offbeat, and overlooked places, check out my best-selling travel guide: 
UNEXPECTED TEXAS: Your Guide to Offbeat & Overlooked History, Day Trips & Fun Things to do near Dallas & Fort Worth

For ghost hunting hot spots, check out my best-selling travel guide to haunted places: 
PARANORMAL TEXAS: Your Travel Guide to Haunted Places near Dallas & Fort Worth

For a strange-but-true tale of Texas history, check out this bizarre piece of West Texas history: 
The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber



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Published inCemeteries & SymbolismHistoric CemeteriesTravel Photo Essays


  1. Chris blanchard Chris blanchard

    Thanks for the entry here on two levels! One, I love funerary art and different eras symbols – anchors, etc. Also, I’m a painter with an odd obsession with Oak trees. Just FYI cemeteries are one of the best places to find great trees!

  2. John Holloway John Holloway

    Great article, Tui,and on the Turner Oak! Had no idea! Can’t wait to see what else is in store. Happy writing!…John

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Thank you, John! Isn’t the Turner Oak amazing? I only learned of it through stumbling across a dusty old book at antique shop. I think it should be much more widely known and celebrated. Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m having so much fun exploring historic cemeteries, researching and learning – and I will keep sharing it here. :)

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