Its vast area and privileged location on the slopes of Mount Royal make Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery a favourite for nature lovers. The cemetery grounds are home to a great profusion of plant and animal species to spot and identify – a pleasure for connoisseurs and amateurs alike.
The cemetery’s wooded areas contain over 5,300 trees. Of these, half are ornamental varieties placed along the roadways or in pockets of greenery. These trees include some sixty species, most of them deciduous: silver maples, Norway maples and horse chestnuts. You’ll also find sugar maples, Schwedler’s Norway (king crimson) maples, Siberian crab apple trees and Lombardy poplars. There are other noble species as well: northern red ash, red oak and Colorado blue spruce, and rarer varieties such as butternut, bitternut, American elm, black cherry, American hop hornbeam, white pine and eastern hemlock. Between now and 2017, the cemetery will plant an additional 1,700 trees and 3,000 shrubs.
Three distinct zones
The cemetery’s principal trees can be found in three distinct zones:
- The plain, containing mostly silver maples and older horse chestnut trees
- The sparser plateau areas at the eastern and western ends, where young stands of horse chestnut, sugar maple and Norway maple are found
- The summit, dominated by oaks, sugar maples and American lindens, all part of the natural forest cover
Only about one hundred trees from the natural forest before the founding of the cemetery in 1854 are still standing. These are the red oaks, silver maples and red maples located in the central area of the property or on the summit of Mount Royal. Their ages range from 175 to 225 years. Altogether, over 500 centenarian trees line our roadways. Some of the largest and most beautiful have been identified as eligible for listing in the Répertoire des arbres remarquables du Québec, our province’s list of noteworthy or heritage trees.
Flowers and ornamental plants
Flowers and ornamental plants play a traditional role in Western culture to celebrate the memory of loved ones. Ever since the cemetery’s earliest days they have been associated with the decoration of grave plots.
Prepared floral arrangements are among the many conveniences the cemetery offers to simplify the many stressful details that arise during a bereavement period. For further information, please call one of our consultants at 514-735-1361.
The large forest on Mount Royal harbours a variety of animal species. Grey squirrels, eastern (or “Swiss”) chipmunks, groundhogs, raccoons and striped skunks are the most common mammals. Cottontail rabbits and red foxes are often seen as well, contributing to the mountain’s rustic character...a special treat in a major urban area.
Many bird species also visit this unique environment. At various times of the year you can see song sparrows, redwinged blackbirds, goldfinches, crows, kestrels, European starlings, bobolinks, swallows, American robins, black-capped chickadees, English sparrows, Baltimore orioles, warblers, woodpeckers, kildeers, grackles, white-breasted nuthatches and Eastern kingbirds. Pheasants, still plentiful in the 1960s, have all but disappeared today.
Besides its educational value, the rich bird and animal life in the cemetery adds another dimension of experience, encouraging us as human beings to reflect on our place in nature and the world.