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Taxus baccataThe Yew Tree
 
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata Taxus baccata Taxus baccata Taxus baccata Taxus baccata Taxus baccata Taxus baccata Taxus baccata
 

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The thick, somber yew has adorned the graveyards of Europe for centuries, casting its dark shadow over the living and the dead. The ancient Druids thought them sacred, possibly because of the yew's longevity, and planted them by their temples. There are yews surviving in Europe that are believed to be 2000 years old. In very old trees the trunk can span 13 feet and becomes fluted and shaggy.

"Bring me yew to deck my graves"
- Blake

The yew is a conifer and native to Europe, northwest Africa and Asia Minor. The needles are dark green, are spirally arranged yet lie flat on either side of the branchlet. Its modified seed cone resembles a red juicy berry open at one end. It is called an aril and much fancied by birds. The aril is the only non-poisonous part of the yew, and covers the single seed which is toxic to animals and humans. Even the needles of the yew have poisonous qualities. Poets have lavished thousands of words over the yew, seeing it as a symbol of the transcendence of death over life.

In the battle of Agincourt, the archers of Henry IV with their longbows of yew wood defeated the French knights who were mounted and dressed in armor. The inside of the longbow is made of the yew's heartwood which resists compression: the outside is made of the sapwood which resists stretching. The popularity of the longbow as a weapon in the wars of the Middle Ages almost caused the extinction of the yew from Europe. In the 1990's, the chemotherapy drug, Taxol, was derived from the bark of the Western Yew, Taxus brevifolia. That species also faced extinction from over-harvesting, until a process was developed using the needles of the European yew, which is far more widespread.

Profile
Scientific Name Taxus baccata
Family Taxaceae
Plant Type Small tree or large shrub
Environment Part shade to full sun; well drained soil kept moderately moist, moderate salt tolerance
Bloom Seed cones contains a single seed surrounded by a succulent red aril open at one end
Uses Widely used in landscaping and ornamental horticulture. Great as a pruned shrub, hedge or topiary
More Info Some of the oldest trees are estimated to be more than 1000 years old, with the belief that some could be 3,000 or more, but no ring count can be taken as all ancient yews have decayed centers

Torreya californica, California nutmeg, is also in the Taxaceae family. The seed is also enclosed in an aril but is green and olive-like

Highly valued in furniture industry for its hard reddish lumber resistant to insects and fungi
Location

Taxus baccata can be found in the Redwood Grove (specifically surrounding the outdoor redwood classroom, Beds 48G and 48N); Temperate Asia Garden (Bed 20); Rhododendron Garden (Beds 73D, 73E); California Garden (Bed 40A.)

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IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor
Text by Docent Kathy McNeil
Profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler

 
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Magnolia dawsoniana

Magnolia dawsoniana

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

February

Magnolia laevifolia'Strybing Compact'

Magnolia laevifolia 'Strybing Compact'

March

Aristolochia californica

Aristolochia californica

April

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

May

Arbutus menziesii

Arbutus menziesii

June

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

July

Cistus sp.

Cistus sp.

August

Rosmarinus sp.

Rosmarinus sp.

September

Dahlia spp.

Dahlia spp.

October

   
Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Magnolia x veitchii

Magnolia x veitchii

March

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

April

Aesculus californica

Aesculus californica

May

Vaccinium ovatum

Vaccinium ovatum

June

Sambucus racemosa

Sambucus racemosa

July

Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoia sempervirens

August

Asarum caudatum

Asarum caudatum

September

Deppea splendens

Deppea splendens

October

Montanoa spp.

Montanoa spp.

November

Bidens sp.

Bidens sp.

December

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

February

Bomaria spp.

Bomarea spp.

March

Rhododendron occidentale

Rhododendron occidentale

April

Polystichum munitum

Polystichum munitum

May

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

June

Salvia leucantha

Salvia leucantha

July

Hydrangea seemannii

Hydrangea seemannii

August

Wollemia nobilis

Wollemia nobilis

September

Cyathea cooperi

Cyathea cooperi

October

Pinus radiata

Pinus radiata

November

Correa spp.

Correa spp.

December

Garrya elliptica

Garrya elliptica

January

Magnolia x soulangeana

Magnolia x soulangeana

February

Senecio glastifolius

Senecio glastifolius

March

Ribes spp.

Ribes spp.

April

Oxalis oregana

Oxalis oregana

May

Calandrinia grandiflora

Calandrinia grandiflora

June

Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Passiflora parritae

Passiflora parritae

September

Malvaviscus arboreus

Malvaviscus arboreus

October

Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress

November

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

December

Aloe plicatilis

Aloe plicatilis

January

Banksia seminuda

Banksia seminuda

February

Zantedeschia elliottiana

Zantedeschia aethiopica

March

Magnolia laevifolia

Magnolia laevifolia

April

Araucaria heterophylla

Araucaria heterophylla

May

Toxicodendron diversilobum

Toxicodendron diversilobum

June

Clarkia sp.

Clarkia sp.

July

Agapanthus

Agapanthus

August

Brugmansia

Brugmansia

September

Cedrus spp.

Cedrus spp.

October

Protea repens

Protea repens

November

Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis

December

Thujopsis dolabrata

Thujopsis dolabrata

January

Gordonia longicarpa

Gordonia longicarpa

February

Rojasianthe superba

Rojasianthe superba

March

Echium spp.

Echium spp.

April

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

May

Digitalis purpurea

Digitalis purpurea

June

Felicia amelloides

Felicia amelloides

July

Ceroxylon quindiuense

Ceroxylon quindiuense

August

Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis belladonna

September

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

October

Acer morrisonense

Acer morrisonense

November

Ilex aquifolium

Ilex aquifolium

December

Picea sitchensis

Picea sitchensis

January

Telanthophora grandifolia

Telanthophora grandifolia

February

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

March

Leptospermum Spp.

Leptospermum

April

Salvia gesneraeflora

Salvia gesneraeflora

May

Lavandula spp.

Lavandula spp.

June

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

July

Fuchsia paniculata

Fuchsia paniculata

August

Luma apiculata

Luma apiculata

September

Luculia

Luculia

October

Arbutus unedo

Arbutus unedo

November

Cycads

Cycad

December

Restionaceae

Restionaceae

January

Hellebores

Hellebores

February

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

March

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

April

Psoralea pinnata

Psoralea pinnata

May

Fremontodendron californicum

Fremontodendron californicum

June

Leucadendron argenteum

Leucadendron argenteum

July

Crocosmia

Crocosmia

August

Gunnera tinctoria

Gunnera tinctoria

September

Pellaea rotundifolia

Pellaea rotundifolia

October

Fuchsia boliviana

Fuchsia boliviana

November

Erica canaliculata

Erica canaliculata

December

Magnolia campbelli

Magnolia campbelli

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Camellia

Camellia

March

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense

April

Acmena smithii

Acmena smithii

May

Eschscholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica

June

Dendromecon harfordii

Dendromecon harfordii

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Eupatorium purpureum

Eupatorium purpureum

September

Epilobium canum sp.

Epilobium canum sp.

October

Grevillea spp.

Grevillea spp.

November

Drimys winteri

Drimys winteri

December

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