Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It’s the tree initially generally known as yew, although with different associated bushes turning into identified, it might now be generally known as English yew, or European yew.
Taxonomy and naming
The phrase yew is from Proto-Germanic *īwa-, presumably initially a loanword from Gaulish *ivos, examine Irish ēo, Welsh ywen, French if (see Eihwaz for a dialogue). Baccata is Latin for bearing pink berries. The phrase yew because it was initially used appears to confer with the colour brown. The yew (μίλος) was identified to Theophrastus, who famous its desire for mountain coolness and shade, its evergreen character and its gradual progress.
Most Romance languages, with the notable exception of French, saved a model of the Latin phrase taxus (Italian tasso, Corsican tassu, Occitan teis, Catalan teix, Gasconic tech, Spanish tejo, Portuguese teixo, Galician teixo and Romanian tisă) from the identical root as poisonous. In Slavic languages, the identical root is preserved: Russian tis (тис), Slovakian tis, Slovenian tisa, Serbian-Croatian-Bosnian tisa/тиса. Albanian borrowed it as tis.
In Iran, the tree is named sorkhdār (Persian: سرخدار, actually “the pink tree”).
The widespread yew was one of many many species first described by Linnaeus. It’s one in all round 30 different conifer species in seven genera within the household Taxaceae, which is positioned within the order Pinales.
It’s a small to medium-sized evergreen tree, rising 10–20 metres (33–66 ft) (exceptionally as much as 28 metres (92 ft)) tall, with a trunk as much as 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) (exceptionally Four metres (13 ft)) diameter. The bark is skinny, scaly brown, coming off in small flakes aligned with the stem. The leaves are flat, darkish inexperienced, 1–Four centimetres (0.39–1.57 in) lengthy and a couple of–Three millimetres (0.079–0.118 in) broad, organized spirally on the stem, however with the leaf bases twisted to align the leaves in two flat rows both aspect of the stem, besides on erect main shoots the place the spiral association is extra apparent. The leaves are toxic.
The seed cones are modified, every cone containing a single seed, which is 4–7 millimetres (0.16–0.28 in) lengthy, and partly surrounded by a fleshy scale which develops right into a tender, brilliant pink berry-like construction referred to as an aril. The aril is 8–15 millimetres (0.31–0.59 in) lengthy and huge and open on the finish. The arils mature 6 to 9 months after pollination, and with the seed contained, are eaten by thrushes, waxwings and different birds, which disperse the exhausting seeds undamaged of their droppings. Maturation of the arils is unfold over 2 to three months, rising the probabilities of profitable seed dispersal. The seeds themselves are toxic and bitter, however are opened and eaten by some hen species together with hawfinches,greenfinches and nice tits. The aril shouldn’t be toxic, it’s gelatinous and really candy tasting. The male cones are globose, 3–6 millimetres (0.12–0.24 in) diameter, and shed their pollen in early spring. The yew is usually dioecious, however occasional people could be variably monoecious, or change intercourse with time.
Taxus baccata can attain 400 to 600 years of age. Some specimens reside longer however the age of yews is usually overestimated. Ten yews in Britain are believed to predate the 10th century. The potential age of yews is unimaginable to find out precisely and is topic to a lot dispute. There’s not often any wooden as outdated as the complete tree, whereas the boughs themselves usually turn into hole with age, making ring counts unimaginable. There are claims as excessive as 5,000–9,500 years, however different proof primarily based on progress charges and archaeological work of surrounding buildings suggests the oldest bushes (such because the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland) usually tend to be within the vary of two,000 years. Even with this decrease estimate, Taxus baccata is likely one of the longest-living vegetation in Europe. One attribute contributing to its longevity is that it is ready to cut up below the burden of superior progress with out succumbing to illness within the fracture, as do most different bushes. One other is its skill to offer rise to new epicormic and basal shoots from minimize surfaces and low on its trunk, even at an outdated age.
The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland, has the most important recorded trunk girth in Britain and consultants estimate it to be 2,000 to three,000 years outdated, though it might be a remnant of a post-Roman Christian web site and round 1,500 years outdated. The Llangernyw Yew in Clwyd, Wales, could be discovered at an early saint web site and is about 1,500 years outdated. Different well-known yews embody the Ankerwycke Yew, the Balderschwang Yew, the Caesarsboom, the Florencecourt Yew, and the Borrowdale Fraternal 4, of which poet William Wordsworth wrote. The Kingley Vale Nationwide Nature Reserve in West Sussex has one in all Europe’s largest yew woodlands.
The oldest specimen in Spain is situated in Bermiego, Asturias. It is named Teixu l’Iglesia within the Asturian language. It stands 15 m (49 ft) tall with a trunk diameter of 6.82 m (22.4 ft) and a crown diameter of 15 m. It was declared a Pure Monument on April 27, 1995 by the Asturian Authorities and is protected by the Plan of Pure Assets.
A novel forest fashioned by Taxus baccata and European field (Buxus sempervirens) lies inside the metropolis of Sochi, within the Western Caucasus.
Yews on this genus are primarily separate-sexed, and males are extraordinarily allergenic, with an OPALS allergy scale score of 10 out of 10. Fully feminine yews have an OPALS score of 1, and are thought-about “allergy-fighting”. Male yews bloom and launch ample quantities of pollen within the spring; utterly feminine yews solely lure pollen whereas producing none.
All components of a yew plant are poisonous to people excluding the yew berries (nevertheless, their seeds are poisonous); moreover, male and monoecious yews on this genus launch cytotoxic pollen, which might trigger complications, lethargy, aching joints, itching, and pores and skin rashes; additionally it is a set off for bronchial asthma. These pollen granules are extraordinarily small, and may simply cross via window screens.[need quotation to verify]
The foliage itself stays poisonous even when wilted, and toxicity will increase in efficiency when dried. Ingestion and subsequent excretion by birds whose beaks and digestive programs don’t break down the seed’s coating are the first technique of yew dispersal. The key toxin inside the yew is the alkaloid taxine. Horses have a comparatively low tolerance to taxine, with a deadly dose of 200–400 mg/kg physique weight; cattle, pigs, and different livestock are solely barely much less susceptible. A number of research have discovered taxine LD50 values below 20 mg/kg in mice and rats.
Signs of yew poisoning embody an accelerated coronary heart price, muscle tremors, convulsions, collapse, problem respiratory, circulation impairment and ultimately cardiac arrest. Nevertheless, there could also be no signs, and if poisoning stays undetected demise might happen inside hours. Deadly poisoning in people may be very uncommon, normally occurring after consuming yew foliage. The leaves are extra poisonous than the seed.
Makes use of and traditions
One of many world’s oldest surviving wood artifacts is a Clactonian yew spear head, present in 1911 at Clacton-on-Sea, in Essex, UK. It’s estimated to be about 450,000 years outdated.
Within the historical Celtic world, the yew tree (*eburos) had extraordinary significance; a passage by Caesar narrates that Catuvolcus, chief of the Eburones poisoned himself with yew slightly than undergo Rome (Gallic Wars 6: 31). Equally, Florus notes that when the Cantabrians had been below siege by the legate Gaius Furnius in 22 BC, most of them took their lives both by the sword, by hearth, or by a poison extracted ex arboribus taxeis, that’s, from the yew tree (2: 33, 50–51). In the same approach, Orosius notes that when the Astures had been besieged at Mons Medullius, they most popular to die by their very own swords or by the yew tree poison slightly than give up (6, 21, 1).
The yew is usually present in churchyards in England, Wales, Scotland, Eire, France and northern areas of Spain. Some examples could be present in La Haye-de-Routot or La Lande-Patry. It’s stated that as much as 40 folks may stand inside one of many La-Haye-de-Routot yew bushes and the Le Ménil-Ciboult yew might be the most important one (13 m diameter). Certainly, a few of these bushes are exceptionally giant (over 5 m diameter) and could also be over 2,000 years outdated. Generally monks planted yews in the course of their cloister, as at Muckross Abbey (Eire) or abbaye de Jumièges (France). Some historical yew bushes are situated at St Mary the Virgin Church, Overton-on-Dee in Wales.
In Asturian custom and tradition the yew tree has had an actual hyperlink with the land, the folks, the ancestors and the traditional faith. It was custom on All Saints Day to convey a department of a yew tree to the tombs of those that had died just lately so they are going to discover the information of their return to the Land of Shadows. The yew tree has been discovered close to chapels, church buildings and cemeteries since historical instances as an emblem of the transcendence of demise, and is normally present in the primary squares of the villages the place folks celebrated the open councils that served as a approach of normal meeting to rule the village affairs.
It has been advised that the Sacred Tree on the Temple at Uppsala was an historical yew tree. The Christian church generally discovered it expedient to take over present pre-Christian sacred websites for church buildings. It has additionally been advised that yews had been planted at spiritual websites as their lengthy life was suggestive of eternity, or as a result of being poisonous they had been seen as bushes of demise. One other advised rationalization is that yews had been planted to discourage farmers and drovers from letting animals wander onto the burial grounds, the toxic foliage being the disincentive. An additional doable cause is that fronds and branches of yew had been usually used as an alternative choice to palms on Palm Sunday.
In conventional Germanic paganism, Yggdrasill was usually seen as an enormous ash tree. Many students now agree that previously an error has been made within the interpretation of the traditional writings, and that the tree is most certainly a European yew (Taxus baccata). This error would discover its origin in another phrase for the yew tree within the Outdated Norse, specifically needle ash (barraskr). As well as, historical sources, together with the Eddas, talk about a vetgrønster vida which suggests “evergreen tree”. An ash sheds its leaves within the winter, whereas yew bushes retain their needles.
Conifers had been previously usually seen as sacred, as a result of they by no means lose their inexperienced. As well as, the tree of life was not solely an object from the tales, but in addition believers usually gathered round an present tree. The yew releases gaseous toxins (taxine) on sizzling days. Taxine is in some situations able to inflicting hallucinations. This has some similarities with the story that Odin had a revelation (the knowledge of the runes) after having been hanging from the tree for 9 days.
In 1021, Avicenna launched the medicinal use of T. baccata for phytotherapy in The Canon of Medication. He named this natural drug “Zarnab” and used it as a cardiac treatment. This was the primary identified use of a calcium channel blocker drug, which weren’t in huge use within the Western world till the 1960s.
Sure compounds discovered within the bark of yew bushes had been found by Wall and Wani in 1967 to have efficacy as anti-cancer brokers. The precursors of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (taxol) was later proven to be synthesized simply from extracts of the leaves of European yew, which is a way more renewable supply than the bark of the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) from which they had been initially remoted. This ended some extent of battle within the early 1990s; many environmentalists, together with Al Gore, had opposed the harmful harvesting of Pacific yew for paclitaxel most cancers therapies. Docetaxel can then be obtained by semi-synthetic conversion from the precursors.
Within the Central Himalayas, the plant is used as a remedy for breast and ovarian most cancers.
Woodworking and longbows
Wooden from the yew is classed as a closed-pore softwood, much like cedar and pine. Straightforward to work, yew is among the many hardest of the softwoods; but it possesses a exceptional elasticity, making it superb for merchandise that require springiness, equivalent to bows.
Yew can also be related to Wales and England due to the longbow, an early weapon of struggle developed in northern Europe, and because the English longbow the idea for a medieval tactical system. The oldest surviving yew longbow was discovered at Rotten Backside in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. It has been given a calibrated radiocarbon date of 4040 BC to 3640 BC and is on show within the Nationwide Museum of Scotland. Yew is the wooden of selection for longbow making; the heartwood is at all times on the within of the bow with the sapwood on the skin. This makes best use of their properties as heartwood is finest in compression while sapwood is superior in pressure. Nevertheless, a lot yew is knotty and twisted, and subsequently unsuitable for bowmaking; most trunks don’t give good staves and even in an excellent trunk a lot wooden must be discarded.
There was a convention of planting yew bushes in churchyards all through Britain and Eire, amongst different causes, as a useful resource for bows. “Ardchattan Priory whose yew bushes, in keeping with different accounts, had been inspected by Robert the Bruce and minimize to make not less than a few of the longbows used on the Battle of Bannockburn.”
The commerce of yew wooden to England for longbows was so strong that it depleted the shares of good-quality, mature yew over an enormous space. The primary documented import of yew bowstaves to England was in 1294. In 1350 there was a critical scarcity, and Henry IV of England ordered his royal bowyer to enter non-public land and minimize yew and different woods. In 1423 the Polish king commanded safety of yews in an effort to minimize exports, going through practically full destruction of native yew inventory. In 1470 obligatory archery apply was renewed, and hazel, ash, and laburnum had been particularly allowed for apply bows. Provides nonetheless proved inadequate, till by the Statute of Westminster in 1472, each ship coming to an English port needed to convey 4 bowstaves for each tun.Richard III of England elevated this to 10 for each tun. This stimulated an enormous community of extraction and provide, which fashioned a part of royal monopolies in southern Germany and Austria. In 1483, the worth of bowstaves rose from two to eight kilos per hundred, and in 1510 the Venetians would solely promote 100 for sixteen kilos. In 1507 the Holy Roman Emperor requested the Duke of Bavaria to cease slicing yew, however the commerce was worthwhile, and in 1532 the royal monopoly was granted for the standard amount “if there are that many.” In 1562, the Bavarian authorities despatched a protracted plea to the Holy Roman Emperor asking him to cease the slicing of yew, and outlining the harm performed to the forests by its selective extraction, which broke the cover and allowed wind to destroy neighbouring bushes. In 1568, regardless of a request from Saxony, no royal monopoly was granted as a result of there was no yew to chop, and the subsequent yr Bavaria and Austria equally failed to provide sufficient yew to justify a royal monopoly. Forestry data on this space within the 17th century don’t point out yew, and evidently no mature bushes had been available. The English tried to acquire provides from the Baltic, however at this era bows had been being changed by weapons in any case.
Right now European yew is extensively utilized in landscaping and decorative horticulture. As a result of its dense, darkish inexperienced, mature foliage, and its tolerance of even very extreme pruning, it’s used particularly for formal hedges and topiary. Its comparatively gradual progress price implies that in such conditions it must be clipped solely as soon as per yr (in late summer season).
Properly over 200 cultivars of T. baccata have been named. The most well-liked of those are the Irish yew (T. baccata ‘Fastigiata’), a fastigiate cultivar of the European yew chosen from two bushes discovered rising in Eire, and the a number of cultivars with yellow leaves, collectively generally known as “golden yew”. In some places, e.g. when hemmed in by buildings or different bushes, an Irish yew can attain 20 toes in peak with out exceeding 2 toes in diameter at its thickest level, though with age many Irish yews assume a fats cigar form slightly than being actually columnar.
The next cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Backyard Advantage:-
- T. baccata
- T. baccata ‘Fastigiata’
- T. baccata ‘Fastigiata Aureomarginata’
- T. baccata ‘Icicle’
- T. baccata ‘Repandens’
- T. baccata ‘Repens Aurea’
- T. baccata ‘Semperaurea’
- T. baccata ‘Standishii’
European yew will tolerate rising in a variety of soils and conditions, together with shallow chalk soils and shade, though in deep shade its foliage could also be much less dense. Nevertheless it can not tolerate waterlogging, and in poorly-draining conditions is liable to succumb to the root-rotting pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.
In Europe, Taxus baccata grows naturally north to Molde in southern Norway, however it’s utilized in gardens additional north. Additionally it is in style as a bonsai in lots of components of Europe and makes a good-looking small to giant sized bonsai.
The late Robert Lundberg, a famous luthier who carried out in depth analysis on historic lute-making methodology, states in his 2002 guide Historic Lute Development that yew was traditionally a prized wooden for lute development. European laws establishing use limits and necessities for yew restricted provides obtainable to luthiers, nevertheless it was apparently as prized amongst medieval, renaissance, and baroque lute builders as Brazilian rosewood is amongst modern guitar-makers for its high quality of sound and wonder.
Clippings from historical specimens within the UK, together with the Fortingall Yew, had been taken to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh to kind a mile-long hedge. The aim of this “Yew Conservation Hedge Challenge” is to take care of the DNA of Taxus baccata. The species is threatened by felling, partly resulting from rising demand from pharmaceutical corporations, and illness.
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- Andrews, W.(ed.)(1897) ‘Antiquities and Curiosities of the Church, William Andrews & Co., London 1897; pp. 256-278: ‘Amongst the ancients the yew, just like the cypress, was considered the symbol of demise… As, to the early Christian, demise was the harbinger of life; he couldn’t agree together with his traditional forefathers in using the yew or the cyprus, “as an emblem of their dying for ever.” It was the very antithesis of this, and as an emblem of immortality, and to indicate his perception within the life past the grave, that led to his cultivation of the yew in all of the burying grounds of those that died within the new religion, and this should be considered the first concept of its presence there… Evelyn’s opinion is extra decisive: —”that we discover it so universally planted in our churchyards, was probably, from its being thought an emblem of immortality, the tree being so lasting and at all times inexperienced.”‘
- Andrews, W.(ed.)(1897) ‘The vast majority of authorities agree that in England; branches of yew had been typically employed; and a few specific the opinion, that the principal object of the tree being planted in churchyards, was to provide branches of it for this objective.’
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- Dún Laoghaire Parks Some yew bushes had been really there earlier than the church was constructed…King Edward 1st ordered yew bushes to be planted in churchyards to supply some safety to the buildings… Yews are toxic so by planting them within the churchyards cattle that weren’t allowed to graze on hallowed floor had been protected from consuming yew. Yew was the normal wooden used for making lengthy bows – planting in churchyards ensured availability in instances of want. Yew branches on touching the bottom take root and sprout once more – this turned the image of demise, rebirth and subsequently immortality.
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