Interesting Information About Plant:
A Yew is a tree or shrub of the genus Taxus in the family Taxaceae, while English Yew was the first to be described scientifically as Taxus Baccata. The English yew, like all the yews, contains highly poisonous berries which can be fatal to humans if they are ingested without removing the seeds. It is often found in churchyards and the plants live a very long time, often having been there before the churches were. Some suggestions as to why they are near churches are that they were planted at old pagan holy sites, where it was expedient for churches to be built. Some say that English yew was planted as a symbol of long life, or to drive off cattle from burial areas because of their poisonous berries.
Speaking of Churches the yew has played a part in religion for a long time. The Greeks wove funeral wreaths from it in honor of Hecate (whose dominion was death). The Celts planted it in their holiest shrines, and believed it had numerous magical properties. Following the conversion of Celts to Christianity, many of their holy places converted as well. The ancient Yews that resided at these locations were preserved, maybe in an attempt to legitimize the new Christian faith.
Chelsea Gatt. This plant is a gymnosperm but does produce a fleshy seed coat for its seed. It can be either a tree of shrub, depending to the desire for the plant. It has the ability to provide good varnish and veneer. The yew will grow in pretty much any light. It will also propagate very easily from clippings and/or seed growth.
The history of the English Yew is a very interesting one. It was used for the longbows of English archers. It is still today used for making bows and cabinetwork. The oldest known wooden tool was a spear made of Yew wood, dating back 50,000 years from Clacton-on-Sea, England. Robin Hood used a bow of Yew to win the Maid Marion, and they were wedded beneath the branches of a Yew. Upon his death, he was laid to rest beneath a Yew plant.
There are also many medicinal uses for Yew plants, dating back centuries. Historically, Native Americans used Yew to treat ailments like rheumatism, fever, and even arthritis. The Japanese used Yew leaves for things like diabetes and to induce abortions. Paclitaxel and docetaxel are drugs derived from the Pacific and the English Yew, and they are very effective against many types of cancer. Both plants interfere with the process of mitosis, but they go about it differently.
The berries, twigs, and cones of the Juniper plant may be used for human consumption. Juniper berries have been used as a diuretic, stimulant, astringent, nausea, skin problems, aches and pains, anti-rheumatism, and antiseptic. Juniper was also used as a blood tonic by the Great Basin Indians. The Pacific Northwest Indians used Juniper to treat the flu. Juniper was also used to make baskets, textiles, firewood, and building materials for many southwestern tribes. Although Juniper extracts can be fatal in small amounts, it was used as a meat preservative and to make gin. Juniper is also used during religious ceremonies and is worn by the “medicine man” of the tribe.
Plant Growth Habit: Woody Shrub -Tree
Height at Maturity: Between 3-25 feet depending if used as a shrub or tree
Life Span: Perennial
Seasonal Habit: Evergreen Perennial
Growth Habitat: Partial Sun - Shade
Manner of Culture: Landscape Shrub
Thorns on Younger Stem: No
Cross Section of Younger Stem: Roundish
Stem (or Trunk) Diameter: Between The Diameter of a Pencil and a Broom-Handle
Produces Brownish Bark: Yes
Bark Peeling in Many Areas: No
Characteristics of Mature (Brownish) Bark: Patchy Bark – Rough Bark
Type of Leaf: Needle-Like
Length of Leaf (or Leaflet): Less than Length of a Credit Card
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Edge of Leaf: Smooth
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf has Petiole: Yes
Patterns of Main-Veins on Leaf (or Leaflet): Parallel
Leaf Hairiness: No Hairs
Color of Foliage in Summer: Green
Change in Color of Foliage in October: No Change
Flowering Season: Spring
Type of Flower: Like a Pine Cone
Color of Flower: Male Are Small Yellow & Female Extremely Small White
Shape of Individual Flower: Bilaterally Symmetrical
Size of Individual Flower: Smaller than a Quarter
Sexuality: Male and Female on Same Plant
Size of Fruit: Smaller than a Quarter
Fruit Fleshiness: Fleshy
Shape of Fruit: Spherical- an aril
Color of Fruit at Maturity: Red
Fruit Desirable to Birds or Squirrels: No
Common Name(s): English, European, or common Yew
Scientific Name: Taxus baccata
Family Name (Scientific and Common): Taxaceae (Yew family)
Continent of Origin: Europe
Louisville Plants That Are Most Easily Confused With This One: Canadian or American Yew, Bald Cypress, Elder,
Unique Morphological Features of Plant: The formation of a berry-like structure that surrounds a poisonous seed, but still is considered a gymnosperm.
Poisonous: Part of Plant , the seed.
Pestiness (weedy, hard to control): No
Page prepared by:
Kevin Cashman & Mary Beth Craig