taxus baccata


  • There was a tradition of planting yew trees in churchyards throughout Britain and Ireland, among other reasons, as a resource for bows, such as at “Ardchattan Priory whose
    yew trees, according to other accounts, were inspected by Robert the Bruce and cut to make at least some of the longbows used at the Battle of Bannockburn.

  • [citation needed] Significant trees The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland, has the largest recorded trunk girth in Britain and experts estimate it to be 2,000 to 3,000
    years old, although it may be a remnant of a post-Roman Christian site and around 1,500 years old.

  • Evidence based on growth rates and archaeological work of surrounding structures suggests the oldest yews, such as the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland, may be in the
    range of 2,000 years,[23][24][25] placing them among the oldest plants in Europe.

  • It is said up to 40 people could stand inside one of the La-Haye-de-Routot yew trees, and the Le Ménil-Ciboult yew is probably the largest, with a girth of 13 m.[51] Yews
    may grow to become exceptionally large (over 5 m diameter) and may live to be over 2,000 years old.

  • There is rarely any wood as old as the entire tree, while the boughs themselves often become hollow with age, making ring counts impossible.

  • It has also been suggested that yews were planted at religious sites as their long life was suggestive of eternity, or because, being toxic when ingested, they were seen as
    trees of death.

  • The Irish Yew has become ubiquitous in cemeteries across the world, and it is believed that all known examples are from cuttings from this tree.

  • It was tradition on All Saints’ Day to bring a branch of a yew tree to the tombs of those who had died recently so they would be guided in their return to the Land of Shadows.

  • In 1562, the Bavarian government sent a long plea to the Holy Roman Emperor asking him to stop the cutting of yew, and outlining the damage done to the forests by its selective
    extraction, which broke the canopy and allowed wind to destroy neighbouring trees.

  • Forestry records in this area in the 17th century do not mention yew, and it seems that no mature trees were to be had.

  • [2] T. baccata normally appears individually or in small groups within the understory, but also forms stands throughout its range,[2] such as in sheltered calcareous sites.

  • [4] It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may now be known as common yew,[5] English yew,[6] or European yew.

  • [37] Fallen leaves should therefore also be considered toxic.

  • Another is their ability to give rise to new epicormic and basal shoots from cut surfaces and low on their trunks, even in old age.

  • It is also popular as a bonsai in many parts of Europe and makes a handsome small- to large-sized bonsai.

  • when hemmed in by buildings or other trees, an Irish yew can reach 20 feet in height without exceeding 2 feet in diameter at its thickest point, although with age many Irish
    yews assume a fat cigar shape rather than being truly columnar.

  • It rarely develops beyond saplings on acid soil when under a forest canopy, but is tolerant of soil pH when planted by humans, such as their traditional placement in churchyards
    and cemeteries, where some of the largest and oldest trees in northwestern Europe are found.

  • In 1423 the Polish king commanded protection of yews in order to cut exports, facing nearly complete destruction of local yew stock.

  • The common yew was one of the many species first described by Linnaeus.

  • It is now endangered in parts of its range due to intensive land use.

  • The most popular of these are the Irish yew (T. baccata ‘Fastigiata’), a fastigiate cultivar of the European yew selected from two trees found growing in Ireland, and the
    several cultivars with yellow leaves, collectively known as “golden yew”.

  • Due to its dense, dark green, mature foliage, and its tolerance of even very severe pruning, it is used especially for formal hedges and topiary.

  • It is one of around 30 conifer species in seven genera in the family Taxaceae, which is placed in the order Pinales.

  • However, much yew is knotty and twisted, and therefore unsuitable for bowmaking; most trunks do not give good staves and even in a good trunk much wood has to be discarded.

  • Dried yew plant material retains its toxicity for several months[36] and even increases its toxicity as the water is removed.

  • A further possible reason is that fronds and branches of yew were often used as a substitute for palms on Palm Sunday.

  • [61] In the Crann Ogham—the variation on the ancient Irish Ogham alphabet which consists of a list of trees—yew is the last in the main list of 20 trees, primarily symbolizing

  • One characteristic contributing to yews’ longevity is that unlike most other trees they are able to split under the weight of advanced growth without succumbing to disease
    in the fracture.

  • Due to the ability of their branches to root and sprout anew after touching the ground, yews became symbols of death, rebirth, and therefore immortality.

  • [20] Due to all parts of the yew and its volatile oils being poisonous and cardiotoxic,[4][7][65] a mask should be worn if one comes in contact with sawdust from the wood.

  • “[70] The trade of yew wood to England for longbows was so robust that it depleted the stocks of good-quality, mature yew over a vast area.

  • [62] Uses Yew wood was historically important, finding use in the Middle Ages in items such as musical instruments, furniture, and longbows.

  • Supplies still proved insufficient, until by the Statute of Westminster in 1472, every ship coming to an English port had to bring four bowstaves for every tun.

  • The yew tree has been found near chapels, churches, and cemeteries since ancient times as a symbol of the transcendence of death.

  • European yew will tolerate a wide range of soils and situations, including shallow chalk soils and shade,[74] although in deep shade its foliage may be less dense.

  • European legislation establishing use limits and requirements for yew limited supplies available to luthiers, but it was apparently as prized among medieval, renaissance,
    and baroque lute builders as Brazilian rosewood is among contemporary guitar-makers for its quality of sound and beauty.

  • In the modern day it is not considered a commercial crop due to its very slow growth, but it is valued for hedging and topiary.

  • [30][31] If any leaves or seeds of the plant are ingested, urgent medical attention is recommended as well as observation for at least 6 hours after the point of ingestion.

  • [4][7] The seed cones are modified, each cone containing a single seed, which is 4–7 mm (3⁄16–1⁄4 in) long, and partly surrounded by a fleshy scale which develops into a soft,
    bright red berry-like structure called an aril.

  • This ended a point of conflict in the early 1990s; many environmentalists, including Al Gore, had opposed the destructive harvesting of Pacific yew for paclitaxel cancer treatments.

  • [2] Clippings from ancient specimens in the UK, including the Fortingall Yew, were taken to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh to form a mile-long hedge.

  • The word yew as it was originally used seems to refer to the colour brown.

  • As the ancient Celts also believed in the transmigration of the soul, there is in some cases a secondary meaning of the eternal soul that survives death to be reborn in a
    new form.

  • [66] One of the world’s oldest surviving wooden artifacts is a Clactonian yew[67] spear head, found in 1911 at Clacton-on-Sea, in Essex, UK.

  • [2] Medical[edit] Certain compounds found in the bark of yew trees were discovered in 1967 to have efficacy as anti-cancer agents.

  • [1] In centuries past T. baccata was exterminated from many woodlands as a poisonous hazard to the cattle and horses that often grazed in the woods[citation needed].

  • [20] It also regenerates readily from stumps and roots, even when ancient and hollow.

  • [68][69] Longbows[edit] Yew is also associated with Wales and England because of the longbow, an early weapon of war developed in northern Europe, and as the English longbow
    the basis for a medieval tactical system.

  • [12] The yew was known to Theophrastus, who noted its preference for mountain coolness and shade, its evergreen character and its slow growth.

  • In Iran, the tree is known as sorkhdār (Persian “the red tree”).

  • [50] Two localities in particular, Idhult and Idebo, appear to be further associated with yews.

  • “[52][53] In Asturian tradition and culture, the yew tree was considered to be linked with the land, people, ancestors, and ancient religion.

  • [35] Taxine remains in the plant all year, with maximal concentrations appearing during the winter.

  • [49] The area of Ydre in the South Swedish highlands is interpreted to mean “place of yews”.

  • With its soft bark, the tree can be killed over time by rubbing such as by climbing children.

  • Easy to work, yew is among the hardest of the softwoods, yet it possesses a remarkable elasticity, making it ideal for products that require springiness, such as bows.

  • [85] Another conservation programme was run in Catalonia in the early 2010s by the Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC) in order to protect genetically endemic yew populations
    and preserve them from overgrazing and forest fires.

  • Some scholars now believe errors were made in past interpretations of the ancient writings, and that the tree is most likely a European yew (Taxus baccata).

  • Most parts of the plant are poisonous, with toxins that can be absorbed through inhalation and through the skin;[7] consumption of even a small amount of the foliage can result
    in death.


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Photo credit:’]