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Taxus baccataEnglish Yew

By Leanne Downs9 September 2019

English Yew or Taxus baccata is one of the UK’s three native conifers and is commonly found in churchyards. They can grow to be extremely old, in fact, the oldest tree in the UK is an English Yew which is thought to be up to 3000 years old.

Where to find English Yew

English Yew trees are commonly planted to form hedgerows and a common feature in the graveyards of churches across the country. There are many Yew trees in Southern England, however the oldest trees are in Wales. It is very tolerant to a wide range of growing conditions, thus is can thrive in many places.

How to identify English Yew

The trees are easily identifiable for their rich deep red-brown trunks, dark green needles which grow in opposite each other along the stem. Differing to typical conifers Female Yew trees have red ‘berries’ instead of cones called Aril’s. Male trees do not grow berries or cones but they do produce pale yellow globular flowers.

Yew trees keep their greenery in the winter months

Uses for English Yew

The wood of these trees is extremely strong and durable making it suitable for a wide range of building projects. It was traditionally popular for making bows for archery.

All parts of the yew are very toxic to humans and animals, apart from the flesh of its fruits – however the seeds in the fruits are also toxic, so anyone who wishes to consume the flesh should carefully make sure not to eat any of the seeds or crush them. However, the poisons present in yew are used by the pharmaceutical industry in the development of anti-cancer drugs.

Leanne Downs

About Leanne Downs

Leanne Downs is the content editor for Thryve and works as an outdoor writer, blogger and photographer. She loves hiking, hillwalking and wild camping.

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