A Piece of Living History

I recently included the photo below of a new shoot on a Irish Yew tree and a few people expressed interest in it so I thought it would be good to do a whole post about this ancient tree. As it is National Tree week here in Ireland it is as good a time as any to share some insight of this wonderful tree with everyone.

Irish Yew

Irish Yew

The tree is traditionally associated with graveyards in Ireland and spectacular specimens can be found in many of the older graveyards here. It is believed the tree was planted in graveyards as it is a symbol of immortality because it so long living nature.

Taxus baccata, also known as the English Yew or the European Yew is a tree associated with many old houses and estates in Ireland. The tree is native to Europe as well as parts of Africa and Asia. It is considered a small to medium tree growing to around 20 metres tall. The tree is extremely slow growing and can live upwards of 2000 years. The oldest recorded Yew tree is believed to be the Llangernyw Yew in Wales, United Kingdom which is believed to be between 4000 and 5000 years old. Taxus baccata is one of the oldest living trees in Europe.

Irish Yew in Co Wexford

Irish Yew in Co Wexford

The tree is generally conical in shape but can become broad in its old age (Just like us so we won’t judge it for that!). In modern day landscaping yew is kept clipped as a low hedge but in old estates it was often used as a specimen tree. One of the most interesting features of the tree is the scarlet red fruit which appear on it in autumn. The berries are extremely toxic, however birds can eat the red flesh and then deposit the seed undigested on the ground where it will eventually germinate.

Berries on the yew tree

Berries on the yew tree

The tree is not only a lovely tree to look at but also gives back to its society. The chemotherapy drug Paclitaxel can be derived from the leaves of the Irish Yew or from the bark of the Pacific Yew. For more information on Taxus baccata visit Tree Council Of Ireland WebsiteΒ .

Advertisements