What Is Often Seen as Neatly Clipped Hedge or Shrub?
What Is Often Seen as Neatly Clipped Hedge or Shrub? Yew is often seen as neatly clipped hedge or shrub, but if left to grow naturally it will develop into a 12 m (40 ft) high tree. The yew is an evergreen tree with needle-like leaves. The leaves, seeds and branches are all poisonous. Yews do not produce cones, but instead produce a bright red, jelly-like cup called an aril, in which the seeds develop. The fleshy red seed coverings (arils) are eaten by many bird species, including fieldfares and blackbirds, and mammals such as squirrels and dormice. Yew leaves are a food source for some caterpillars.
Yews are common as ornamental hedging and ground covers, either as a tree or as clipped hedges and topiary of all shapes. Yew timber is used for wood veneers, fences and gate posts. Once, it was highly prized for making longbows and crossbows. Yews used to be planted in English graveyards as a Pagan symbol of immortality, and many can still be seen in these places.
As an evergreen tree, the yew is symbolic of everlasting life and rebirth; it was held sacred by Druids in pre-Christian times. Yew came to symbolise death and resurrection for the ancient Celts which continued into the Christian era; yew branches were carried on Palm Sunday and at funerals for many centuries. Today, ancient yew trees are often associated with churchyards. The yew is often brought indoors at Christmas and used as decoration.
Most parts of the Yew tree (except for the bright red arils) are highly poisonous to mammals when ingested because they contain toxic compounds called taxines.
Aqueous extracts of the yew have been used for years in Native American folk medicine for the cardiotonic, expectorant, antispasmodic, diuretic, and antiseptic properties. Experiments are being conducted on the potential for some extracts to possess central nervous system depressant, analgesic, antipyretic, cytotoxic, and antileukemic properties. Paclitaxel (Taxol) is an antineoplastic agent derived from various Taxus species used to treat numerous types of cancer including ovarian, breast, nonsmall cell lung and Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Did you know?
It is impossible to determine the actual age of yew trees using the traditional ring counting method. This is because a fungus rots the inside of their trunks with age until they become hollow.
The oldest tree in wild botanic garden in Wakehurst is a yew – it dates back to around 1391.
Yew berry seeds are poisonous to most mammals, but the fruit’s bright red colour attracts woodland creatures. Badgers can eat the fruit and pass the intact seeds in their poop without being poisoned.
Yew is one of only three coniferous species (trees that bear cones and needle-like leaves) native to the UK.
Yew has sparked much horticultural interest as a popular ornamental plant so there are multiple cultivated varieties (cultivars), some of which have bright yellow arils around the seeds.
Content for this question contributed by Mischelle Thomas, resident of Burgettstown, Washington County, Pennsylvania, USA