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Aussies Living On After Death, As 'Tree Urn' Burials Grow In Popularity

Two weeks before he was killed in a freak kayak accident, Mark Jordan-Hill told his wife that when he died he wanted to be buried in a tree urn.

After hearing about biodegradable urns on the radio, Mark told his wife Philippa he wanted his ashes to be planted on the family's farm in Victoria.

"He pointed to a spot on the farm and said 'I want to buried with a strong gum tree so I can overlook the farm'," she told 10 daily.

"I laughed and said 'don't be ridiculous, you're only 45'," she said.

That's how old Mark was when he died, leaving behind wife Philippa and their four children.

Philippa and Mark had four children together. Image: Supplied

Philippa was so devastated by Mark's death that it took her a year to go and collect his ashes.

Three years have passed since the family planted Mark's ashes on the farm, and the gum tree is now tall and strong.

"We planted the tree on the anniversary of his death. He had such a connection to this land. I remember driving through the gate [after collecting his ashes] and knowing that he'd be here forever," Philippa said.

To make sure the tree urn survived, Philippa bought three separate trees, built a fence around his memorial and watered it constantly.

The family have a memorial for the tree on the anniversary of Mark's death each year. Image: Supplied

She drives past Mark's grave every day, and can see his tree from her bedroom window.

Having Mark on the property has helped kept her anchored there through tough times on the farm, Philippa said.

"I've already told the kids that when I die I want to do the same thing, get an urn and plant my own tree and be there with Mark," she said.

What are biodegradable urns?

Biodegradable urns first blossomed out of the desire to convert cemeteries into forests and give dead loved ones a 'second life' through the planting of trees.

It is currently illegal in Australia to bury bodies in backyards, but planting biodegradable urns are permitted.

Mark's tree urn on his family's farm in Victoria. Image: Supplied

Spanish company Bios Urns has sold more than 60,000 urns worldwide -- including 1,500 urns in Australia -- since the product arrived here in 2016.

While the ​​​​​​NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages said they do not collect data on the number of tree urns planted in Australia, other companies like The Living Urn claim "tens of thousands of Australians" have bought their product.

Biodegradable urns are generally divided into two sections with the top holding the soil and the bottom part being for the ashes.

This is to keep the plant healthy as ashes turn to rock when planted.

National

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While The Living Urn offers a range of seedlings, the Bios Urn is shipped from Spain, meaning you have to buy the plant separately due to Australia's strict quarantine standards.

Tree urns are an eco-friendly alternative to burials as cemeteries run out of space to bury the dead, said Val Bianco, Australia's distributor of Bios Urn.

"The urns are 100 percent biodegradable and break down in a few weeks," Bianco told 10 daily.

"They are specifically made to allow the roots to grow and become stronger before it has contact with the ashes."

Val Bianco is the Australian distributor of Bios Urn. Image: Supplied

Bianco said people are turning to planting trees as a more intimate way of remembering loved ones, rather than burying them in cemeteries.

"The idea of giving back to nature and becoming a tree is really beautiful," she said.

Mark's family said they're glad with their decision.

"If Mark didn't tell me what he wanted, I probably would have buried him in a cemetery but now I can visit the tree, listen to music and ask questions," Philippa said.

"Even if he doesn't answer back, it's a wonderful way to remember him."

Contact Eden at egillespie@networkten.com.au