Champion trees

Learn more about some of Fulham Cemetery's most distinctive trees. 

Note: identification of the trees was made by eye, and some may be misidentified. Contact us if you have more information.

"Kanzan" Japanese cherry

Prunus serrulata

Developed in the Edo period. Produces clusters of large, deep-pink double flowers.

The southwest avenue of pink cherry blossoms has long been one of the cemetery's most distinctive features. 

Japanese cherries do not get very old. This avenue was probably planted in the 1950s, and not many remain, most in poor health. There were probably at least 12 trees in the avenue, only 6 remain. 

There are also at least 3 specimens elsewhere in the cemetery – see map.

New trees: 9 new "Kanzan" cherries have been planted in 2024.

Tai-haku "great white" Japanese cherry

Prunus serrulata

This variety has an interesting history. It was lost for ages in its native Japan, until a specimen was found growing in a British garden in 1923. Cuttings from this tree were subsequently used to re-introduce it into Japan.

It is the largest flowered cherry known with its bright white blossoms reaching up to 60mm across. The tree has a wide spreading habit – the ones in Fulham Cemetery are much wider than they are tall!

There appear to have been 2 Tai-haku avenues in the cemetery: north of the chapel, and the north central path. Only 3 trees remain between them, but you can count at least 10 stumps. They were probably planted at the same time as the "Kanzan" cherries, making them around 70 years old.

New trees: 5 new Tai-haku cherries have been planted in 2024.

"Ukon" Japanese cherry

Prunus serrulata

There is only a single specimen of this cultivar with its unusual creamy-white, almost greenish blossoms. It grows right behind the large Cross of Sacrifice war memorial.

Developed during the Edo period in Japan, where it is also called "turmeric" blossoms, for its light yellow colour.

Medlar tree

Mespilus germanica

The fruit of this tree has been cultivated since Roman times, but are a novelty in this day and age. Very popular in the Victorian period and before, being referred to in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The fruit require a period of bletting, a lovely word meaning in essence to be matured off the tree to the point of rotting. Then they can be made into sauces, jellies, tarts, pies, or medlar cheese. (I have not tried this myself.)

There were several medlar trees along the south path and southeast path. Only 1 tree remains. 

Medlars do not usually get much older than 60 years, and rarely grow as large as this. There are not many medlar trees in London! 

Crabapple trees

Malus sylvestris

Also called the European wild apple, their scientific name means "forest apple". They were long thought to be the progenitor of the cultivated apple, but this has been shown to be primarily from the central Asian species.

While not edible off the tree, crabapples are edible when cooked and rich in pectin, so are often made into jellies. 

The south path and south central path were lined with crabapple trees, although most have been lost over the past 20 years and only 6 large trees remain. Their white blossoms still create a beautiful display in spring.

New trees: 4 new crabapple trees were planted in 2024: two European crabapple (malus sylvestris) in the south of the cemetery, and two Lebanese crabapple (malus trilobata) in the north of the cemetery.

Norway maple 'Crimson King'

Acer platanoides

This enormous purple leaved maple tree grows right in the centre of the cemetery on the main avenue. In spring it's covered by yellow-green catkin-like flowers.

It's probably still a fairly young tree, under 30 years. 

Magnolia & climbing rose

Magnolia kobus

The magnolia blooms in spring and the rose in summer, creating a bright beacon in the north of the cemetery. The climbing rose – possibly Rambling Rector – is as large as the magnolia and is partially supported by an elder tree that grows within the magnolia. Underneath they form a secret green room for children to discover.

New trees: 2 new magonolia 'kobus' trees have been planted in 2024.

Zelkova serrata

Also called Japanese elm or keyaki, this large tree with its distinctive saw-toothed leaves is in the north of the cemetery, with a mysterious plaque dedicated to one Spider Baker. A mini forest of new trees have grown up from its roots.

There is another specimen not far from this one, in Section 2 near the central path.

Keyaki wood is valued in Japan and used often for furniture, as well as being considered the ideal wood for the creation of taiko drums. The city of Sendai is called the "City of Trees" for the many zelkova trees lining its streets.

In Korea, Zelkova serrata has been considered a symbol of protection for villages since ancient times, and can still be found planted at central points in cities, towns and villages around the country. Some are over 1,000 years old.

Horse chestnut

Aesculus hippocastanum

This giant specimen grows near the south border of the cemetery. Horse chestnut trees are famed for their shiny "conkers" in autumn, and beautiful upright clusters of white flowers in spring. Unfortunately, since the early 2000s, all trees in London suffer from the horse chestnut leaf miner – an insect infestation that turns the leaves prematurely brown from mid-summer.

New trees: A new Indian horse chestnut has been planted in 2024. They don't get as big as this, and their leaves and conkers are also smaller, but they have better resistance to the leaf borer.

Read more: Horse chestnut [London Wildlife Trust]

Ginkgo biloba

A single large ginkgo tree grows in the northeast of the cemetery, right at the bottom of Strode Road. 

Also known as the maidenhair tree, it is the last living species in the order Ginkgoales, which first appeared over 290 million years ago, widely regarded as a living fossil. Originating from China, they have been cultivated in Europe for over 300 years.

They are frequently planted as street trees, being highly resistant to pollution and disease, and for their stunning yellow colour in autumn. Its leaves are also made into a dietary supplement, but there insufficient clinical evidence of its efficacy.

Only male trees are usually planted, as the fruit produced profusely by the female produce a very strong smell when they drop. The downside of the male trees is that their pollen is very allergenic. This one appears to be male.

Read more: Ginkgo biloba [Wikipedia]

Lime tree avenue

Tilia

A narrow avenue that runs the the length of the southern half of the cemetery, changing into an ash tree avenue near the top. The trees grow dense suckers from their base every year, regularly pruned by council contractors.

Old maps of the cemetery show all paths lined by trees, which may have been limes, but this is speculation. (See photo from 1900.)

Lime trees, also called linden, produce vast amounts of fragrant flowers in early summer. Their smooth, knot-free wood is favoured by ornamental woodcarvers.

The west boundary of the cemetery along Fulham Palace Road, and the south boundary, are also lined with lime trees.

Read more: Tilia [Wikipedia]

Photo from 2011

Japanese crabapple

Likely Malus × floribunda Siebold ex Van Houtte

Several of these showy trees grew along the southeastern path. Only two remain, in poor health.