Thursday, July 11, 2013

West Laurel Hill Cemetery - Horticultural Buried Treasure

By Linda and Sandy Grimwade

Across the Schyulkill River from the famous Laurel Hill Cemetery, is the lesser known West Laurel Hill cemetery in Bala Cynwyd. Less than a mile from City Avenue, this 187-acre cemetery is the largest open space in Lower Merion and is on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to the large number of 19th century notables buried there. But, in addition to the over-the-top Victorian mausoleums, this beautiful area showcases over 2300 specimen trees.

To draw attention to this wonderful collection of trees, the cemetery is running 4 tours – one for each season – led by their arborist, Brian Terraciano. We joined him for the summer tour on June 15, and spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon learning about deciduous tree foliage.

The cemetery is currently preparing to become certified as an arboretum, and is going through the arduous task of identifying and labeling all of its trees. The cemetery is open every day from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM and is free to visitors. There is plenty of parking. Click here for a map. If you are interested in the Fall or Winter arboretum tours, which are also free, email

Tricolor beech Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-Marginata'
Thornless Honeylocust Gleditsia triacanthos inermis

Mausoleums and acers
Corkscrew willow Salix matsudana
Leaves, stems and branches -- all are twisted.
Sawtooth Oak Quercus acutissima
It doesn't look like an oak, but it has acorns.
Bigleaf magnolia Magnolia macrophylla
aptly named
Kousa dogwood Cornus kousa
in full bloom
Three 100+ year old copper beeches Fagus sylvatica

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