Information on Yew

Common Name: Yew
Scientific Name: Taxus baccata
Irish Name: Iúr
Family Group: Taxaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Yew is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


Evergreen tree or shrub renowned for its place in old churchyards, Yew can grow to over 20 metres high.  Best known for its fruit, it is less well-known for its very small green-yellow flowers.  The male and female flowers grow on separate trees, the male flowers bearing yellow pollen which they shed in February and March.  The 'flower' in the picture below is a female. The fruit is a fleshy red cup-shaped berry which contains one extremely poisonous seed.  In winter, these seeds are much loved by the Fieldfare and Redwing and pass unchanged through the guts of these birds. The tree bears lanceolate leaves spirally along it stems, the spirals twisted to align the leaves into two rows. The leaves are also very poisonous.  The bark is red-brown and scaly and quite flaky. This is a native plant and it belongs to the Taxaceae family.

I first recorded this tree at Timolin, Co Kildare in 2002 and photographed it there in 2008.  

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please record your sighting for the 2010 wildflower mapping survey at http://www.biology.ie/home.php?m=wildflowers 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Yew
Yew

Yew was planted in churchyards as a symbol of life, the evergreen endurance of the leaves seen as a symbol of the continuation of life.  Some of the oldest trees in Europe are Taxus baccata and among these are some said to be over 2,000 years old.

In his 'Ode to Melancholy',  Romantic poet John Keats (1795 -1821) wrote:

'Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.'