Yew
(Taxus baccata)
Simple
Needle/Flattened
Flattened

leaves

tree

Irish Yew
Irish Yew

fruiting branch

fruits

distribution map

The leaves are narrow and flat, 10-30 mm long, and blunt at the tip, except for a small point (mucro). They are bright green above, paler below with a prominent midrib on both sides, and have a very short leaf-stalk.

ID check

Yew is an evergreen tree up to 20 m high with a round crown and spreading branches in the wild, with a massive but much divided trunk, with a bark flaking off to leave reddish patches. It is native in woods and scrub and grows mainly on lime-rich soils and rocks, but also is widely planted for ornament and hedges.

Male and female flowers are usually borne on different trees (dioecious) and appear in February and March.

The male flowers are in small cones which release clouds of pollen. The females are solitary or in pairs at the base of a leaf.

The female flowers develop into fruits with red flesh surrounding a single seed.

Facts

  • The bark, cut foliage and the seeds (but not the red flesh) are POISONOUS.

  • The form often planted in churchyards, with upright branches forming a tight, easily clipped bush, is commonly called Irish Yew.

  • Recent studies of massive churchyard yews show that some may be over 4000 years old.

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