Written sometime before 1874, this poem, composed by early female pioneer, Susanna O’Docharty of San Patricio, Texas, reveals a forgotten truth about cemeteries of the past: hardly the monotonous, neatly mowed lawns we’ve come to associate with modern perpetual-care graveyards, many cemeteries in Texas were once wild prairie landscapes populated with wildflowers.
In other parts of the U.S., cemeteries were ecologically dynamic spaces, cultivated as wilderness destinations for the public before public parks became the norm in the U.S. Excursions to cemeteries were commonplace in the mid-19th century, especially among city-dwellers who sought out green spaces to escape from the crowded and often unsanitary conditions of cities. This, of course, was a departure from the typical conditions of graveyards prior to that time, which were often places to avoid, built beside churches and crammed full with shallow graves.
Over time, as alternative recreational and green spaces were created for the public, and cemeteries adopted a solemnity that shifted the norm away from, say, spending the afternoon strolling among headstones, cemeteries ceased to be the tourist attractions they once were. But thanks to doting caretakers and a renewed interest in native plant life, these spaces are experiencing a revitalization that makes them excellent destinations for wildflower seekers.