Arlington Cemetery’s Headstone-Eating Trees
The rogue roots are
gradually consuming some of the historic marble grave markers.
National Cemetery is hallowed ground for the U.S. Armed Forces, with
around 400,000 burials since 1864 representing every American war. The
sprawling rows of white marble headstones and grassy lawns are shaded by more
than 8,600 majestic trees. As a work of landscape architecture, the effect is
But a few rogue trees are currently in the process of
consuming some of the headstones. You can see it here and there in the older
parts of the cemetery, where the marble markers are thickly embedded in the
arboreal roots and stick out of the timber like stubby molars. Find
A Grave puts the count at 11 afflicted markers, with most of the
entombed having served in the Civil War, World War I, or World War II.
The headstone absorption is actually progressing much
more rapidly than it would initially appear. The case of Corporal Chas Ippel is
a prime example. Find a Grave has photos
dated from 2008 that show the stone as relatively unmolested, with the
inscribed text still clearly readable. However, as of September 2017, a
nearby willow oak’s roots have expanded by inches and begun to absorb the
grave. Now all that’s readable is “S IPPEL.” Anecdotal calculations suggest
that the tree will eat another character from the inscription every year.
When the tree eventually dies, it will be interesting to
see how authorities handle the embedded stone. Perhaps some future
chainsaw-wielding arborist will be asked to wade into the solid timber in
search of the lost marker.
Know Before You Go
Lat/Long tags the headstone of Corp Charles
“Chas” Ippel, who was killed in 1863 during the Civil War. Go to
Section 13 Site 8000.