The Yew Tree

This tree is surrounded by myth and legend. In ancient times it was used as a poison and it was associated with both witchcraft and religious beliefs. It is found to grow in churchyards and there are suggestions that churches were build in locations where they were growing.

ln the years from 1300 to 1600 its main use was to make long bows. They were made with the heartwood, which resists compression on the inside of the bow and the sapwood, on the outside which resists stretching. A lot of the Yew is knotty and twisted and had to be discarded. Due to a serious shortage to keep our army supplied with bows, Henry IV gave permission to go on private land to obtain supplies of Yew. Richard III increased the demand for yew supplies and it was imported from all over Europe. Concern was raised by the Pope regarding the depletion of Yew trees due to their religious connection. However with the development of the fire arms the demand eventually died out.

Yew trees are the longest living plant in Europe, between 400 and 600 years, It is sometimes difficult to put an age to these trees because a lot of them rot from the inside leaving no annual rings to be counted.

Some say that they can live forever. Because when the main tree supposedly dies, the wide root formation can start sending up new growth in a ring formation and the tree has perpetuated its life.

The poison that is in the Yew leaves and berries are deadly to animals, three berries if chewed, will kill. But it has its good side in the medical world, Chemotherapy for one, as a cure for Cancer.

Last but not least, Yew is a great wood for woodturners.

That's all for now, but don't eat the leaves.

Next time, The Kauri Tree.

Back