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Tree Tattoo Meaning – What do Different Tree Tattoos Symbolize?

Traditionally, tree tattoo designs symbolize knowledge, growth, and wisdom, while also being linked to strength, spirituality, nourishment, immortality, fertility, and freedom.

Trees are known as the ultimate symbol for majestic beauty and enduring strength over time, and are the essential providers of that most basic element of our survival, oxygen. 

Because they’ve been a highly used symbol of life and healing in historic texts, folklore, and fiction, trees give us an affinity for nature. 

Many tree tattoos – particularly popular in Norse and Celtic tattoo culture – incorporate the Tree of Life, often demonstrated by circular tree artwork with branches and roots intertwined.

For others, specific types of trees are used as inspiration. There is a great range of tree species for collectors to choose from; recognizable trees such as the oak tree, redwood tree, or weeping willow tree, or harder to pick motifs such as the aspen tree, ash tree, or birch tree brought to life on the skin.

The following article outlines some of the most important tree tattoo concepts across symbolic meaning and specific tree ink expressions, to style and applications techniques. It will provide you with plenty of options to take to your tattoo artist.

1. The Tree of Life

Guys Lower Leg Tree Of Life Yin Yang Tattoo Designs

The Tree of Life is an archetype, with similar variations across all continents and cultures. It’s a classical symbolically and relevant tattoo design that offers a great intersection between meaning and art

The Tree of Life design represents the interconnected nature of the world, with all the different life on this planet falling under the eaves of this mystical tree.  It provides a physical representation of the divine nature of all life, from the heights of humanity all the way to the lowliest beetle – we are all one cosmic entity.

Evidence of the Tree of Life design concept has been found in Ancient Egypt as well as featuring prominently in the Celtic tree of Ireland (known as the Crann Bethadh) and Norse Mythology.

The Tree of Life is also found in a number of sacred tree traditions from the Middle East, Meso-America, and North America.

Negative Space Guys Small Circle Tree Of Life Tattoo Design On Inenr Forearm

2. Yggdrasil Tattoo Meaning

leg Yggdrasil complex version design solid black

The Yggdrasil is a particularly impressive piece of sacred tree symbolism from Norse Mythology.

As explained by the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Yggdrasil, Old Norse Mimameidr, in Norse mythology – the World Tree, a giant ash tree supporting the universe.”

The legend of the great and beautiful tree states that one of its roots went into the underworld, another went into the land of the giants, and still, another went into the land of the gods.

You’ll see many different Yggdrasil interpretations, including ones that incorporate leaf, branch, and root in a family tree tattoo, or those featuring cool watercolor and tribal tattoo design concepts.

tree top bird perched multiple emblem accent

3. Skull and Dead Tree Tattoo Designs

Cool Tree Inner Forearm Skull Tattoo For Guys

A common, but slightly different tree tattoo motif combines a dead tree or leafless tree and a human skull.

This design concept juxtaposes the symbols of life and death to illustrate the concept of duality – we can’t have life without death, and the creation of one type of beauty forms at the expense of another.

Skull tree tattoo designs come in many forms and take on different meanings, but they usually involve a dead tree or leafless tree that takes the shape of the head of a skull/skeleton or shows one lurking in the decaying roots of a once-proud bower.

3d Skull Tree Guys Tattoo Ideas On Arm

4. Forest Tattoo Symbolism

Forest Tree Silhouette Tattoo mr_and_mrs_ink

Source: @mr_and_mrs_ink via Instagram

For ink enthusiasts, no concept offers more options for customization than a dense collection of trees. 

Forest and evergreen tree tattoos allow the collector to include other symbols, such as animals, skylines, or plant life, while the treeline is made for a multitude of tattoo interpretations linked with things you can see but can’t quite touch.

The horizon lends itself to a range of imagery, from the alpine forest to lakeside vistas and shorelines.

Birds and insects add depth and subtlety to your forest sleeve tattoo art, while bigger forest creatures such as bears, deer, and wolves are also popular in adapting greater symbolism to a tree tattoo design of a cedar tree or birch tree.

Men's Wrist And Forearm Pine Tree Tattoo Designs

5. Tree Root Tattoos

Guys Cool Tree Tattoo Design Ideas

Tree tattoos often deploy designs that focus on the roots as much as the rest of the tree, in order to show the whole picture.

These designs are often intricate and highly detailed, put together with clean linework and the canny use of quality technical application, such as shape manipulation, negative spacing, and contrasting shadow to deliver variety.

Each tree root tattoo can explore finite depths while simultaneously tying the creation to expansive heights, or adding an extra layer of tattoo meaning that builds on the entire tree’s relationship to life around it.

Cool Geometric Tree Roots Mens Leg Tattoos

6. Tree Branch Tattoo Meaning

Leg Guys Square Simple Tree Tattoo

The tree branch tattoo idea is often used in design to symbolize connection.  

These connections may be positive ones such as links to family and friends, or to remember a particular situation or feeling of happiness and inclusion. 

They can also be more nuanced tree branch tattoos aimed at associations of mental strength and the overcoming of obstacles. 

Tree branch tattoos offer great versatility, with beautifully delicate images of cherry blossoms as equally likely to be etched as more sparse heavy black ink iterations or strikingly angular slashes of branches.

Tree Branch Forearm Tattoo sophiancholettattoo

Source: @sophiancholettattoo via Instagram 

7. Palm Tree Tattoo Design

Tropical Palm Tree Tattoo For Guys On Arms

A palm tree tattoo design can be placed almost anywhere to exhibit a beachside personality and carry a tropical vibe everywhere you go.

Palm tree tattoos represent love for the ocean lifestyle, helping bring shade and calm everywhere you travel.

They are a universal symbol of relaxation and leisure, either as stand-alone pieces or when included in larger designs with a beach or tropical focus.

Ghastly Skulls On Palm Tree Tattoo On Legs For Men

8. Pine Tree Meaning

Black Half Arm Men's Pine Tree Tattoo

The pine tree, a humble evergreen tree, and its stronger, tougher relative the cedar tree, are the most commercially important species in the world thanks to their wood pulp and timber.

Pine, cedar, and cypress tree tattoos all hold significant meaning in many cultures. For example, the Iroquois viewed the pine as a symbol of peace. By burning the bare branches it would ward off frightening nightmares and ghosts.

Other tribes, like those of the Plateau and Great Basin, believed that burning the pine branches would change the weather and deliver more rain upon the land.

Mens Cool Tree Tattoo Designs

9. Oak Tree Tattoo Art

Male With Cool Tree Tattoos

Oak tree tattoos are universally renowned for their association with wisdom, clarity, and longevity, and are particularly important in Celtic culture.

Celtic Druids believed that the oak tree is host to the strength and energy of their gods. Catching a falling oak leaf brings good luck and prosperity.

Each part of the tree reflects a different meaning. The leaves reach for the sky, indicating drive and ambition. In contrast, the roots demonstrate a desire to be cozy, digging for strength and deeper meanings, while the trunk remains calm and patient.

Unique Cool Tree Tattoos For Men

10. Symbolic Olive Tree Tattoo Ideas

Awesome Olive Tree Branch Thigh Tattoos For Men

Olive trees and their fruit are cited widely in texts, mythologies, and stories from the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions.

Some of the oldest trees known in existence are olive trees.

When perfected, an olive tree tattoo can flow easily between other ideas or make a quality standalone piece. Roots and branches may envelop or embrace the vines or filigree of existing art.

Rib Cage Side Olive Tree Guys Tattoos

11. Cherry Blossom Tree Tattoo Meaning

Tree Branch Shoulder Tattoo kevkapo_dg

Source: @kevkapo_dg via Instagram

The cherry blossom tree, also known as sakura, is one of Japan’s most enduring cultural icons and often part of traditional Japanese tattooing.

The gentle cherry tree and its blooms are often etched in fine color tones, nuanced black and gray, or even vividly bright neo-traditional ink to symbolize fresh beginnings.

Often the tattoo artist depicts a sakura flower tattoo, branch, or bare tree as a secondary (keshoubori) motif to signify the short life of samurai, or as a symbol of feminine beauty evening up a hyper-masculine design.

Cherry Blossom Tree Mens Chest Tattoo

12. Christmas Tree Tattoo Designs

Awesome Christmas Tree Tattoos For Men

As much a work of art as a time-honored tradition, the Christmas tree naturally makes for one-of-a-kind tattoo inspiration.

Simple and elegant or decked to the boughs with lights and ornaments, there are as many pine tree tattoo renditions of Christmas trees as there are trees themselves.

Just as no two families decorate their evergreens with the same lovingly crafted ornaments and festoons, no two Christmas tree tattoos are alike.

Christmas Tree Themed Tattoo Ideas For Men

13. Tree Silhouette Tattoos

Tree Silhouette Forearm Tattoo nandosato art

Source: @nandosato.art via Instagram

A preferred aesthetic for bold tattoo art is the tree silhouette tattoo, where the (usually) black ink is balanced against other technical aspects of the piece or negative space.

It’s a technique that looks easy but is not. The key to a quality tree silhouette is often the tattoo artist’s skill in being able to utilize subtle shifts in color, shading, and application technique to bring the entire piece to life.

Tree silhouette tattoos can incorporate saplings, branches, and shrubs through to the massive redwood tree, or incorporate broader themes such as forests, treelines, landscapes, and animal scenes.

Mountain Tree Silhouette Tattoo kuba.ink

Source: @kuba.ink_ via Instagram

14. Small Tree Tattoo Ideas

Mens Cool Cool Camping Tent Tree Tattoos

Simple tree tattoos are definitely worth considering if you’re a collector looking for a meaningful piece with little ostentation. Trees make a solemn and dignified choice for a small tattoo design.

Various types of trees have different spiritual meanings. For example, the apple tree represents abundance while the ash tree represents sacrifice. 

A talented professional tattoo artist can help you design a small tree tattoo to express the symbolic message you hope to convey in ink.

Pine Tree With Black Ink Guys Small Simple Forearm Tattoo Ideas

15. Watercolor Tree Tattoos

Color Blast Watercolor Tree Tattoo Male Forearms

There’s nothing quite like a tree inked in watercolor tattoo style.

Where many tattoos offer stately tree design and realistic use of color and shape, watercolor tattoos offer a vibrant use of bright color and the opportunity for tattoo art to be more charismatic and exciting.

Contrasting a black tree tattoo and branches with swirling blends of colored leaves and flowers can change a design from merely cool, to become a truly unique and beautiful tree.

Guys Arms Purple Dotted Watercolor Tree Tattoo

16. Large Tree Tattoos

Amazing Mens Full Arm Sleeve Realistic 3d Olive Tree Tattoo Designs

Often, large tree concepts incorporate the entirety of the tree alongside other imagery to fully flesh out an important symbolic meaning or group of details.

A large tree piece often uses the flow of muscle and the bones underneath the skin to help weave the branches and trunk into a unique, individual piece focused on nature’s path.

The thematic diversity of large tree sleeve tattoos are commanding nature concepts in body art, ranging from simplistic tattoo ideas to hauntingly rich landscapes and images incorporating animals. 

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