Na­tive Bri­tain

Plants, flow­ers and fungi of Great Bri­tain at a glance

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Latin name: Taxus bac­cata Com­mon name: Yew

How to spot it and where to find it: The yew is dif­fer­ent from other conifers in that it doesn’t pro­duce seeds in a cone. In­stead, each seed is en­closed in a red, fleshy struc­ture known as an aril, which is open at the tip. Yew’s straight nee­dle-like leaves grow in two rows along the twig and each has a raised cen­tral vein on the un­der­side. Male flow­ers are small and whitish-yel­low; fe­male flow­ers are bud-like and scaly, re­sem­bling acorns as they age. Both ap­pear in March or April.

In­ter­est­ing facts: In 1800, Queen Char­lotte of Mecklenburg-stre­litz, wife of King Ge­orge III, is said to have in­stalled the first dec­o­rated yew at Wind­sor Cas­tle, a tra­di­tion she brought from her na­tive Ger­many and that con­tin­ues to this day, though firs are more pop­u­lar. The yew was held sa­cred by the Druids and came to sym­bol­ise death and res­ur­rec­tion in Celtic cul­ture. It is sym­bolic in Chris­tian­ity, too, with boughs of yew rep­re­sent­ing palms in church at Easter. Yew trees are of­ten found near churches and some 500 of them in this coun­try are thought to pre­date the build­ing it­self. The wood, too, is in­cred­i­bly strong and durable. One of the world’s old­est sur­viv­ing wooden ar­ti­facts is a yew spear­head, found in 1911 at Clactonon-sea in Es­sex. It is es­ti­mated to be about 450,000 years old. Taxus bac­cata,

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