(18) Common Yew

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  • Species
    • Common Yew
  • Botanical Name
    • Taxus baccata
  • Location
    • St Mary's churchyard, Ridgeway gardens
    • Grid Reference: TQ 14875 55522
    • Latitude, Longitude: 51.28726 , -0.35408
    • What3Words: bids.ranges.freed
  • Identification
    • Yew trees are dense evergreen trees that shade the ground underneath so that little will grow. The trunk is often twisted and the bark is reddish and peeling. The dark green needles are flattened on either side of the twig in the manner of an untidy two-sided comb. Male and female trees are separate and have tiny flowers which are only noticeable on close inspection. The bright red arils are berry-like fruit, found only on female trees. The seeds inside are very poisonous.
  • About this species
    • Yew is one of only three native conifers. The other two are Scots Pine and Juniper. Of these three, only the Scots Pine has a typical cone. The yew's cone looks like a red berry and its proper name is an aril. These are popular with birds who deposit the seeds, which like the rest of the tree, are poisonous. Ancient yews are often hollow, so it is not possible to take a core and count the rings to date the tree. There are different yew species and cultivars. Extract from yew bark is closely related to taxol, used in cancer treatment.
  • Local information
    • Yew trees may live for thousands of years. They are often found in churchyards, either planted as these probably were, or dating from the pre-Christian era when they were associated with pagan places of worship. Yews thrive on well-drained chalk slopes such as The Druids Grove at Norbury Park (which recalls the Celtic people who venerated the yew) and on Box Hill on the steep slope down to the Stepping Stones. Most planted yews, as here, are of the tidier fastigiate (upright) Irish yew variety. There are a number of old yew trees along School Lane.

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