English yew

English yew, (Taxus baccata), also called common yew or European yew, (all three are lumber trade names), an ornamental evergreen tree or shrub of the yew family (Taxaceae), widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia as far east as the Himalayas. Some botanists consider the Himalayan form to be a separate species, called Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana). Rising to a height of 10 to 30 metres (about 35 to 100 feet), the tree has spreading branches and slightly drooping branchlets. The bark is reddish brown and flaky, sometimes deeply fissured in very old trees. Yews are among the few conifers that produce new growth easily from behind the ends of cut branches; thus, English yew is one of the only conifers regularly trimmed into hedges. All parts of an English yew, except the fleshy aril surrounding the seed, contain alkaloids that are poisonous to humans and several other animals. After swallowing the seed whole, thrushes and other birds are known to digest the aril and pass the seed intact in their droppings.

English yew (Taxus baccata)G.E. Hyde—NHPA/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Many horticultural varieties have been developed, some of which are small shrubs. One of the most popular is the Irish yew. It has a compact columnar form and is used in formal plantings. Several hybrids have been obtained by crossing the English yew with the Japanese yew; the most common, Taxus × media, has several varieties.

English yews can live a very long time. For example, the Fortingall Yew, named for the small Scottish village where it has been growing for some 2,000 to 5,000 years, is the oldest living tree in Great Britain and one of the oldest living trees in Europe.

Spreading English Yew

Spreading English Yew

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 4 feet

Spread: 12 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 4b

Other Names: syn. Taxus baccata Repandens, Common Yew

Description:

A beautiful evergreen shrub with a sprawling and extremely wide-spreading habit of growth, very deep green color and bright red berries; excellent form for garden use, reasonably hardy for this species

Ornamental Features

Spreading English Yew has dark green foliage which emerges light green in spring. The ferny leaves remain dark green throughout the winter. The flowers are not ornamentally significant. The fruits are showy red drupes displayed from early to late fall.

Landscape Attributes

Spreading English Yew is a dense multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with a ground-hugging habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance shrub, and can be pruned at anytime. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Spreading English Yew is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • Hedges/Screening
  • General Garden Use
  • Topiary

Planting & Growing

Spreading English Yew will grow to be about 4 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 12 feet. It tends to be a little leggy, with a typical clearance of 3 feet from the ground. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live to a ripe old age of 150 years or more; think of this as a heritage shrub for future generations!

This shrub performs well in both full sun and full shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America, and parts of it are known to be toxic to humans and animals, so care should be exercised in planting it around children and pets.

Landscape Plants

  • Conifer, evergreen tree/shrub, wide spreading, 30-60 ft (9-18 m) high with a 15-25 ft (5-8 m) spread, densely branched, many forms. Needles radially arranged around the stem but appearing more or less 2 ranked, 1-3 cm long, 1.5-6 mm wide, linear, tapering to a horny point, shining, very dark green on the upper surface, yellowish green below (lack a conspicuous stomatal band). Usually dioecious, yellowish male strobili, arise on the axils of leaves on the underside of branches. Fruits have a fleshy, scarlet, cup-shaped covering (aril) which is 8-15 mm long and open at the apex, it encloses a single seed. Seeds are poisonous.
  • Sun or shade. Tolerates many soil conditions, except strongly alkaline or acid soils.
  • Hardy to USDA Zone (5)6 Native to Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia; cultivated in England for over 1,000 years and many selections made. If fact, shrubby cultivars are much more often used in landscaping than the species. Here are a few cultivars:
    • ‘Amersfoort’ – dwarf shrub, upright irregular habit, slow growing, feaves flat, small, light to dark green
    • ‘Fastigiata’ – (Irish Yew) narrowly columnar or spindle-form, branches are rigidly upright; needles are dark green
    • ‘Repandens’ – dwarf, wide spreading form, 2-4 ft high (0.6-1.2 m), branches horizontal, tips of branches pendulous
    • ‘Repandens Aurea’ – variegated, low growing shrub, green leaves brightly edged with yellow-turning-to-cream
    • ‘Standishii’ – tree/shrub, columnar, compact, upright shoots, leaves golden-yellow above, light yellow-green below
  • Leaves, bark, and broken seeds are poisonous, although the toxicity varies from plant to plant. Symptoms may include cardiac or respiratory failure. The poisonous substances in yew are pseudo-alkaloids known as taxines. They are a mixture of polyhydroxyditerpines (taxinins) esterified with ß-dimethylamino-ß-phenylpropionic acid and/or acetic acid (Frohne, D. and H.J. Pfänder, 1984).
  • baccata: Latin, berry-bearing.
  • Oregon State Univ. campus: lower campus, on 11th St. across from Dixon Lodge

Taxus baccata

Linnaeus 1753

Common names

European, English, or common yew (Hartzell 1991).

Taxonomic notes

The hybrid T. baccata × T. cuspidata is T. × media (Hils 1993). All yew species are quite similar. Pilger (1916) described them all as subspecies of T. baccata, reserving subspecies eubaccata for the populations treated here.

Primarily dioecious evergreen trees 10-20(-40) m tall and up to 4 m dbh. Crown normally pyramidal, becoming irregular with age; but many cultivated forms depart dramatically from this. Bark thin, scaly, brown. Leaves flat, arranged spirally but appearing 2-ranked, 10-40 × 2-3 mm, dark green. Pollen cones globose, 3-6 mm diameter, shedding pollen in early spring. Seed cone consists of a single seed surrounded by a soft, bright red aril 8-15 mm long. Arils mature gradually 6-9 months after pollination, and seeds are dispersed by birds (L’Herbier Virtuel 2008).

Distribution and Ecology

Big tree

The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland, has a nominal girth of 15.8 m. The trunk is riven in two halves and much of the heartwood is gone, so this figure implies a substantially greater basal area than the tree in fact possesses. It appears (based in a photograph in ) to be about 13 m tall with a crown spread of about 20 m (Hartzell 1991).

Data on two other U.K. trees are: 29 m tall and 89 cm dbh for a tree at Belvoir Castle, Leics.; and 13 m tall, 334 cm dbh for a tree at Ulcombe Church, Kent (Mitchell et al. 1990).

Some yews in a special reserve in Hosta, on the Russian coast of the Black Sea (formerly a sacred grove of the Shapsug people), are more than 40 m high (Vladimir Dinets e-mail 1998.01.10).

Oldest

The yew is a fine example of a tree to which great age is often attributed without much in the way of hard evidence. The oldest known yews have invariably lost most of their heartwood to decay and in any event tend to be isolated individuals, usually growing in places that have been regarded as sacred since before the Christian era. Consequently, tree ring-based age estimation is usually impractical or impossible. A few researchers have tried to estimate ages by extrapolation from observed growth rates, a very dubious proposition in view of the fact that when tree ring data are available they usually show extrapolated age estimates to be gross exaggerations. Nonetheless, it seems very likely that many of the largest yews encountered around the Christian shrines of the British Isles were in fact planted during the pre-Christian era by Celtic groups who saw the yew as sacred. It is therefore plausible that yews aged 2000 years or more occur in the British Isles. An age of 4000 years has been attributed, without much basis, to the Tisbury Yew in Wiltshire and the Crowhurst Yew in Surrey, both in England (Hartzell 1991).

Dendrochronology

The oldest known wooden tool is a spear made of yew wood, about 400,000 years old, from Clacton-on-Sea, England (Allington-Jones 2015). Archeological excavations have found found yew bows and knives in Swiss lake dwellings from 10,000 years ago. Historically, yew bows were the weapon of choice for both hunting and warfare throughout most of Europe until the invention of firearms. Yew was also employed in a less forthright manner, as a poison, used for assassination, suicide, as an arrow poison, and to poison fish and mammals. Due to its hardness, yew wood was used for shuttles, cogs, axle-trees, and pulley-pins. The colorful wood (red heartwood, white sapwood) was used to veneer furniture, to make lute bodies, bowls, tankards, combs, tool handles, pegs, and various art objects. As noted below, it was used in many ways by various religions, and certain yew objects such as drinking-cups are still regarded as having a certain spiritual potency. It was used medicinally to treat viper bites, hydrophobia (rabies) and heart ailments, and as an abortifascient. Currently, its principal use is as an ornamental plant. Many cultivars exist, and it is a preferred subject for topiary. It is also known to contain the anti-cancer drug taxol, but has not been widely exploited in this connection (Hartzell 1991).

The foliage and seeds contain several alkaloids, in particular taxine, very poisonous, which alters to hydrotaxine by hydrolysis; also one glucoside, taxicatine. The wood, bark, foliage and seeds are toxic. The foliage is the principal source of taxine. Old and desiccated foliage is more poisonous than young and fresh foliage. Poisoning is frequent in animals. Horses, asses and mules are extremely sensitive and can be killed in less than one hour. Rabbits, guinea-pigs and cats are insensitive to taxine. In humans, the yew generates digestive, nervous, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders which can result in death. Symptoms include excitation, hyperventilation, and tachycardia, followed by deceleration of the heart, hypotension, nausea, stomach pains, cramps, giddinesses, colic, violent diarrhoea, dizzy spells, convulsions, coma and death (L’Herbier Virtuel 1999-2008).

The red aril surrounding the seed can be eaten just as it is like delicacy with the proviso of not chewing the seed. It is sweetened and very mucilaginous. The arilles, removed from their seeds, have diuretic and laxative effects (L’Herbier Virtuel 1999-2008).

Observations

As seen in the photos on this page, there are some remarkable yews in the British isles. An excellent resource for finding them is this interactive map at The Woodland Trust, which catalogues many remarkable British trees (mostly angiosperms). You can also search by species, and there are photographs of most of the trees.

Reservations containing significant populations of wild yew have been established in Wierzchlas Forest on Mukrz Lake, Polska (Poland); near Great Fatra and in the Bakony Forest of Magyarország (Hungary); and near Kolomya in Ukraine (Hartzell 1991).

A good location in southern France is the Massif de la Sainte-Baume, located E of Aubagne which is 20 km from Marseille. Paths go up the Massif from the Monasterio. The old protected forest is on the N side of the massif. All along the paths there are big Taxus baccata mixed with Ilex aquifolium beneath a canopy of huge Fagus sylvatica. The paths lead to a summit cave with a sanctuary inside where there are an altar and relics of Maria-Magdalena who is said to have lived and died there (Réjean Drouin email 2013.12.16).

Remarks

T. baccata has played a major role in several religious traditions. This may have occurred because the tree is poisonous, valued for a variety of medicinal purposes, and symbolic of eternal life due to its evergreenness, exceptional longevity, and the wood’s resistance to decay. Thus the tree unites of death (by poison) with eternal life, a concept well explored by Laqueur (2015). The Greeks wove funeral wreaths from it in honor of Hecate, whose dominion was death. The Celts used its wood for for votive and funerary artifacts, planted it in their holiest shrines (or perhaps chose its groves to site those shrines), and attributed to it a host of magical properties memorialized in their folklore. Following conversion of the Celts to Christianity, many of the Celtic shrines were appropriated as sites of churches and other Christian shrines, and ancient yews resident at these locations were preserved – perhaps to further legitimize the new religion. Whatever the reason, this cultural preservation of ancient yews accounts for the existence of the oldest and largest known individuals (Hartzell 1991).

Some palynological evidence suggests that the yew was substantially more abundant in Europe during the late Pleistocene (10,000 years ago) (Hartzell 1991).

Robin Hood used a bow of yew to win the Maid Marion, to whom he was betrothed under the branches of a yew. At his death, he was buried beneath a yew. This and much more are available in Hartzell’s remarkable book “The Yew Tree” (Hartzell 1991).

Citations

Allington-Jones, Lu. 2015. The Clacton Spear: the last one hundred years. Archeological Journal 172(2):273-296.

Mitchell, A.F., V.E. Hallett, and J.E.J. White. 1990. Champion trees in the British Isles. Forestry Commission Field Book 10.

See also

Elwes and Henry 1906-1913 at the Biodiversity Heritage Library (Photos). Note that they treat all yews as Taxus baccata, but the majority of their discussion addresses this species in Europe. This series of volumes, privately printed, provides some of the most engaging descriptions of conifers ever published. Although they only treat species cultivated in the U.K. and Ireland, and the taxonomy is a bit dated, still these accounts are thorough, treating such topics as species description, range, varieties, exceptionally old or tall specimens, remarkable trees, and cultivation. Despite being over a century old, they are generally accurate, and are illustrated with some remarkable photographs and lithographs.

I highly recommend you visit the website of the Ancient Yew Group.

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The Arboretum in Hørsholm > Plant Descriptions – Plant of the Month > Common Yew

Common Yew – Taxus baccata

English name:
Common Yew

Scientific name:
Taxus baccata

Family:
Taxaceae (yew)

Height:
up to 16 M in Denmark

Flowering:
March

Range:
Europe, North Africa, Western Asia

The 48 year old group of Taxus baccata in the main picture comes from Munkebjerg Strandskov near Vejle on the Jutland peninsula. This place is thought to be the only remaining natural occurrence of this species in Denmark. Our specimens are found by our collection of European conifers: square 1507 position 3218.

Plant description:
The yew or Taxus baccata is a remarkable plant once one begins to understand its importance in history. Many ancient myths are associated with this plant and holy yew trees occur across Europe. Its wood and bark has helped man survive and flourish through the millennia. The oldest wooden tool ever found is reported to be a yew spear more than 250,000 years old. Recently yew has achieved fame as a source of the important anti-cancer drug, Taxol. But yew has probably been best known for making bows.

The genus Taxus is widely distributed in the Northern hemisphere and even extends south of the equator in Malaysia. About 10 different species of yew are recognised. However, they are very similar in many respects and more research is needed in defining the different species. All are evergreen, needle-leaved trees or bushes. The poisonous seed is subtended by a fleshly coat (aril) which is normally red when ripe and the only part of the plant that is not poisonous. Since the seed is poisonous caution is strongly advised. Yew is not just poisonous to man but is strongly poisonous to cattle and especially horses.

We have 5 species of Taxus growing in the Hørsholm Arboretum and there are 57 specimens of Taxus baccata. Most are of garden origin, like for example the yellow fruited cultivar Lutea in one of the pictures. This cultivar was found near Dublin Ireland in 1817. Wild collected specimens come from Denmark, France, Norway, and Poland.

Yew re-invaded Denmark about 7000 to 8000 years ago following the last ice age and although only reported to be naturally occurring at one place, it was once much more common. An old Nordic name for yew, Yr, is also reported to be adapted to Y or I and added to many place names in Denmark like Ibæk, Idum, Ikast, Inæs, Irup, Isted, and Yding.

Like in the rest of Europe, many ancient stands have been exterminated or reduced to a few remnants. Now the yew is seen across the country as garden escapes.

Taxus baccata, an evergreen conifer, forms a large bush or small tree up to about 16 m tall in Denmark. The flaky bark is red-brown or purplish, often fluted, and thin. Twigs are green for about 2 years. The ovoid green buds are about 2-3 mm. The leaves are flat with a raised rib on the dark-green upper side and have a green petiole and are light green underneath. Normally they are arranged in one plain on shaded shoots but form a V-shape on more exposed branches. However, strong variations in leaf size, shape and colour can be seen on the many cultivars that exist. Male and female flowers normally occur on different plants but occasionally plants are bisexual. The male flowers send out a shower of pollen when shaken in March.

This species is very shade tolerant and can even survive under a beech forest. It is also strongly tolerant of air pollution and tolerates pruning. Once established it is quite tolerant of drought. Yews may live to be more than 1000 years old, but secure ages can not be given because the oldest trees are hollow inside so one can not count the growth rings. The well-known Bromølle yew in Denmark was measured to be 12.4 m tall in 1991 and 113 cm in diameter and is probably about 200 years old.

Farjon, A. 2001. World Checklist and Bibliography of Conifers. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 309 pp.

Lange, J. 1968. Bromølletaksens alder (Bromølle yews age). Dansk Dendrologisk Forenings Årsskrift 3(1): 73-79.

Lewington, A. & Parker, E. 1999. Ancient Trees. Trees that live for a thousand years. Collins & Brown Ltd. London. 192 pp.

Møller, P.F. & Staun, H. 2001. Danmarks Træer og buske. Politikens Forlag A/S, Copenhagen, 336 pp.

Ouden, P. den, Boom, B.K. 1965. Manual of Cultivated Conifers. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague. 520 pp.

Rushforth, K. 1999. Trees of Britain & Europe. Harper Collins Publishers. 1336 pp.

Japanese yew

Size and form

Plants range from 40 feet high trees to 10 feet high shrubs.
Habit is erect to broadly narrow to wide-spreading, depending upon the cultivar.

Tree & Plant Care

Yews grow in full sun to dense shade, but best with some shade to provide winter protection from strong winds.
Prefer moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Yews will not tolerate wet soil.
Shallow roots benefit with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperatures and conserve moisture.
Water well in fall before the ground freezes.

Disease, pests, and problems

More tolerant of windy sites than other yews, but drying winds and reflecting sun can cause desiccation and winter browning.
Root rots in wet soil conditions.
Black vine weevil and scale can be a problem on stressed plants.
Deer can be a problem.

Native geographic location and habitat

Japan, Korea, China

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Cardinal, waxwing, thrushes and many other birds are attracted to the plant’s fruit and use the plant as a nesting site and shelter.

Bark color and texture

Older plants have reddish-brown bark, exfoliating in patches.
The leaves, bark, and seeds of all yew are poisonous.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Short-stalked, 1-inch long, glossy, dark green leaves.
The leaves of all yew are poisonous.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Dioecious, male flowers are tiny, globose strobli in axils of leaves.
Female strobili (cone-like) solitary, green in leaf axils

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fleshy red fruit (arils) resemble berries, ripening in August-November

CAUTION: The leaves, bark, and seeds of all yew are poisonous.

Cultivars and their differences

Captain yew (Taxus cuspidata ‘Fastigiata’): 8 to 10 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide ; pyramidal shape; grows larger and more open if left unpruned.

Upright yew (Taxus cuspidata ‘Capitata’): 25 to 30 feet high; the only tree form of Japanese yew tree; dark green leaves

From magic to mythology, the Yew tree has impacted the world well beyond its roots in horticulture. In ancient times the small specimen was revered for its ability to remain green year-round. These days the evergreen is still prized, though more for its landscaping value than its supposed secret powers. Homeowners looking to grow a natural border around their property often select the Yew tree to create a dense green boundary.

Appearance of the Tree

Yews have a dense, shrubby appearance and a uniform growth habit with one-inch needles year round and attractive red berries in fall. Only female plants produce the berries, but only if they are pollinated by a male nearby. In the nursery, they are often labeled as to whether they are male or female, so check the label before making a purchase.

It can be found in Perthshire, Scotland, where it maintains the same identifying features as its younger cousins:

  • Leaves: Flat, needle-shaped leaves which stay green throughout the year.

  • Fruit: Bright red berry-like fruits called “arils” contain a highly poisonous seed which can harm humans and livestock. The sweet flesh surrounding the seed is safe to consume and is often eaten by birds.

  • Bark: The tree’s reddish bark is highly malleable, yet incredibly durable. Its flexibility makes it a prime material for bows and fence poles. In addition, the tree’s thin, scaly bark flakes off quite easily, especially if it is exposed to excessive sunlight.

The slow-growing tree ranges in height from one to 50 feet tall, with some rare specimens exceeding 80 feet.

One of the most noteworthy characteristics of the Yew tree is its longevity. Some trees have survived for more than 2,000 years; however, the oldest Yew on record is estimated to be about 5,000 years old.

The Many Looks of a Yew Tree

Where the Yew Grows

Yews grow in sun or shade though they will appear a bit sparse in full shade. Their primary requirement is well-drained soil — if this is provided, yews tend to be robust, long-lived plants; if not, they will quickly decline and are likely to perish. Yews are quite cold hardy but are difficult to grow in places with extremely hot summers.

The Yew tree thrives in full shade, though it can withstand small amounts of sunshine. In order for the Yew to survive, it should not be exposed to excess water or high winds which can punish the small tree.

Yew trees are often found lining cemeteries and churchyards throughout Great Britain and Ireland. It also prospers in most of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and Iran, as well as parts of North America.

In the United States and Canada, the Yew tree is typically used as a hedge. There are very few tall Yews in North America. Rather, the tree resembles a shrub and is more tolerant of cold weather than its taller counterparts. Regardless of their size, Yews should not be planted in areas where kids or pets play due to the toxicity of its fruit. If you own grazing livestock, you might consider fencing off Yew trees in order to avoid having the animals ingest the poisonous red arils.

Garden Uses

Larger yew trees are excellent specimens to use as a focal point in the landscape while some of the smaller prostrate yews are suitable as a large scale groundcover.

The majority of yews, however, are used for hedges; there is a yew for almost any desired hedge height. They are often sheared into a formal shape and are one of the few evergreen needle-bearing plants that are suitable for hedges in shady conditions.

Other Yew Tree Uses

During the Middle Ages, Yew wood was used to craft spears, bows, and darts until the advent of firearms. Since then, the wood has been reserved to make ornate weapons, bowls and tool handles.

Today, the Yew tree’s wood remains a hot commodity, especially with bow makers.

The tree also has medicinal value. Prior to advances in modern medicine, flesh from the tree’s berries was used to treat heart ailments and problems with the cardiovascular system. More recently, the tree’s bark and leaves have been found to contain taxol, which is used to treat cancer patients in an effort to stop cell mutation.

Interesting Facts

The Yew’s mystical symbolism is well documented over the ages. In ancient Europe, the trees were planted to guard cemeteries, as it was widely believed that the Yew had powers to ward off evil spirits and help souls find the afterlife.

Other interesting facts about the Yew tree include:

  • Yew sprigs were once used as diving rods to help locate lost items.
  • The Celts placed the Yew on a short list of sacred woods.
  • Swiss mountaineers call the Yew “William’s tree,” in memory of William Tell.
  • In Austria, the Yew tree is planted near main squares to bring luck to village affairs.
  • Yew hedges are also used to create mazes to decorate public green spaces.

Growing Yew Trees

Yews are commonly available in nurseries in the regions where they are well-adapted. They are typically grown from nursery transplants. Some varieties are pyramidal, some are columnar, and some are low and spreading, but they all have the same growing requirements. They are hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7.

Yew Overview

Yews (Taxus spp.) are an evergreen species that can grow to either shrub or tree-like proportions, depending on the variety. They are one of the slowest growing (and longest-lived) ornamental plants, offering a very formal appearance to gardens with their uniform shape and deep green needles. The foliage, seeds, and bark of yews are extremely toxic, so these plants should not be planted where children or pets may be tempted to sample them.

Preparing the Soil

If the growing site does not already have excellent drainage it is important to plant yews on a mound at least six inches above the surrounding grade. They appreciate high quantities of organic matter in the soil, so mixing compost into the growing area helps to ensure a successful planting. Gently loosen the roots before planting and make sure the root crown is planted at or slightly above the soil line.

Care and Maintenance

Yews generally take on an attractive shape with no pruning, yet they respond well to pruning so it is often used to limit their size or to create a hedge with a particular shape. Once the evergreens are placed in the ground as a hedge or shrub border, you can enhance their ornamental value by following these simple tips:

  • They have low to average water needs, but because of their sensitivity to poor drainage, it’s best to err on the side of under-watering a yew than to risk over-watering. Keeping a deep layer of mulch over the root zone is beneficial for cooling the soil and reducing water loss.
  • Add compost to the base of young Yew Trees.
  • Water the tree generously immediately after you plant it. However, once you notice that the tree is acclimating to its new home, reduce the amount of water you give it.
  • Yew trees need full to partial shade to thrive. Do not plant a Yew in a spot where it receives excessive sunlight all day.
  • Remove other plants that may interfere with the Yew tree’s spread. Some species can grow as wide as 20 feet.

Finally, while Yews respond well to trimming, don’t overprune the tree while it is in its infancy as you may interfere with its growth.

Yew Diseases

If yews are given the proper growing conditions, pests and disease are rarely a problem. However, it is susceptible to a number of diseases if it’s not properly cared for, including:

  • Root Rot: This disease attacks the tree when it is made to sit in excessively wet soil. Symptoms include wilting leaves and black, rotting roots. In severe cases, the disease can kill the tree.
  • Needle Blight: This fungal disease preys on the tree’s tissue and causes spotting or wilting foliage. If left untreated, the blight will spread from the needles to the twigs, and eventually infect the entire tree.
  • Sooty Mold: This black fungus is caused by the presence of mealybugs and scale which emit a sweet substance that is left on the tree’s leaves. The mold is a direct result of untreated insect infestation.

In addition to these diseases, Yew trees can also sustain damage from cold winds. Excessive exposure to dry, cold winter winds and direct sunlight can cause major damage to the tree. To avoid winter drying, avoid planting Yews on the south or southwest sides of buildings.

Yew Tree Varieties

Roughly eight different species of Yew trees exist throughout the world. Among the most prevalent are:

  • Japanese Yew: This type of Yew is often used as a bonsai tree. While it can grow upwards of 45 feet tall, it is typically pruned into shorter, decorative topiaries. Its leaves remain dark green throughout the year while its fruit ripens in the summer months. The Japanese Yew does not tolerate drought conditions and cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • European Yew: A typical European Yew will reach heights of 40 feet, though it is often pruned to form tall dense borders or privacy screens on properties. The European Yew has dark green leaves, red berries, a long life span and a slow growth rate.
  • Capitata Yew: This tree has a conical shape and grows to about 50 feet tall.
  • Fastigiata Yew: This tree grows in an extremely narrow columnar shape to about 10 feet tall.
  • Green Wave Yew: This yew is a spreading form that grows about four feet tall and eight feet wide.

Three other Yew tree types – Florida, Mexican, and Pacific – are so rare they often appear on the list of threatened or endangered trees. In fact, in the early 1970s, the Pacific Yew was removed from the commercial tree market after scientists found the tree’s bark contained taxol. Taxol, the compound used to create a powerful cancer-fighting drug, led to the tree to being overharvested in parts of North America. Consequently, a ban was put in place to keep it from becoming extinct.

A Plant for the Future

Planting a yew correctly is an endowment to future generations as they are capable of living for several thousand years! Such longevity adds a special dimension to the hobby of horticulture.

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Yew Trees

Description

The tree of Eternity

Plant a tree to remember those who died in the War of Wars.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

A war of useless slaughter and appalling suffering of the young and brave.

On the 11th November 1918 the guns ceased firing and the world grew still although the horror and destruction of life and values remain with us to this day. And still we go to war!

To remember them we have chosen the Yew tree, the Symbolism of Resurrection, to plant to commemorate those that lost their lives and those whose lives were changed forever by the outbreak of war on August 4th 1914.

The evergreen Yew is a tree of extreme longevity and was revered as a sacred tree. The ancient custom of mourners putting sprigs of Yew into the graves of the departed showed that they believed death was not the end but a passing through into the continuance of life to come.

Yew trees are able to live for thousands of years, due to its ability of perpetual growth. It shows that the source of life is continually renews itself. Hence the planting of Yew to remember those who lived and died for their country.

Yews provide food and shelter for many birds and other wildlife. They are under threat and many magnificent old Yews have been chopped down for no other reason than the dreaded ‘Health and Safety’.

Please plant a Yew to honour and remember our War Dead for year to come.

For every tree ordered, Trees Direct will give a donation to the Royal British Legion.

In Flanders Field

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row by row,

That mark our place: and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high,

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though the poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

The English Yew, Taxus baccata, is steeped in history and revered for its medicinal and magical qualities. Long lived, up to 2000 year or more, it will certainly be a lasting memorial to someone or something we love!

Broadly conical, later domed head, the Yew is a slow growing (worth the wait) evergreen with fern-like leaves on horizontal branches. Bright red berries feed the birds and wildlife throughout the winter months and its deep thick habit provides a safe warm haven for lots of birds.

It makes an impressive and magical specimen tree in large gardens and parks. Famous for topiary, it is easily clipped to any shape. Growing happily in sun or shade, Yews are fully hardy, will tolerate most soils and situations, including chalk and shade but good drainage is essential. Although slow growing they make the most marvelous, elegant hedges, protective from the wind, humans and other animals. These days they can be bought bare rooted or rootballed, establishing a hedge in no time.
The wonderful Yew in our garden is a source of great delight as we watch the variety of small birds popping in and out of the magical tree. A marvellous home with its own food supply for birds.

Height in maturity 25m x 15m x 2m / 80ft x 50ft
Common Name: English Yew
Latin Name: Taxus baccata
Soil: Tolerant of most soil
Habit: Broadly conical, later domed
Position: Sun or shade
Flowering period: Spring
Colour: Red berries
Hardiness: Fully hardy
Eventual Height/Spread: 25m x 15m / 80ft x 50ft
Special features: Evergreen needle like leaves and horizontal branches

Symbolism, Folklore & Old Wives Tales The Tree of Knowledge and revered by the Druids and then the Christians, Yews have come to Symbolize Resurrection. It is very unlucky to chop down a Yew and considering how long it takes to grow, it would indicate a vandal, a person of little sensibility. And did you know the bows used at Agincourt to win the war against the French were made from the English Yew.

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