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Overview

Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Taxus baccata is capable of growing under (not entirely closed) canopy of beech (Fagus spp.) as well as other deciduous broad-leaved trees, but it will only develop to large trees in more open situations. In Switzerland, the richest area of Central Europe for yew, it forms a yew-beech wood on cool, steep marl slopes in the Jura and the foothills of the Alps up to 1,400 m a.s.l. (Ellenberg 1988). Under the evergreen Common Yew, nothing else will grow. In England, T. baccata is best developed on chalk downs - again on steep slopes - and can form extensive stands outside the beech woods invading down grassland. In much of Europe where the climate is less oceanic it survives better in mixed forests, coniferous as well as mixed broad-leaved-conifer forests, again mostly on limestone substrates, and often occupying rocky cliffs and slopes. On acid soils yews perform less well under canopy and usually do not develop beyond a sapling stage in woods. Its northern limits in Scandinavia are determined by its sensitivity to severe frost. Its toxicity (all parts except the red arils around the seeds) prevent browsing by cattle and sheep, but not by rabbits and deer, as these animals have developed a level of immunity to the dangerous alkaloids. Apart from seed germination (dispersed by birds), T. baccata readily regenerates from stumps and roots (suckers); ancient hollow trees may rejuvenate constantly in this way. When planted, e.g. in church yards and cemeteries, soil pH seems unimportant; some of the largest and presumably oldest specimen trees in NW Europe, in particular Brittany (France) and the British Isles, are known from such locations and were planted probably since Celtic times

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Associations

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Acrogenospora dematiaceous anamorph of Acrogenospora sphaerocephala is saprobic on rotten wood of Taxus baccata

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Plant / associate
fruitbody of Agaricus altipes is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Agaricus augustus is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Agaricus gennadii is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Agaricus phaeolepidotus is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Agaricus subfloccosus is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / epiphyte
fruitbody of Aleurodiscus aurantius grows on dead stem of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / ectomycorrhiza
fruitbody of Amanita gemmata is ectomycorrhizal with live root of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / ectomycorrhiza
fruitbody of Amanita inopinata is ectomycorrhizal with live root of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / ectomycorrhiza
fruitbody of Amanita singeri is ectomycorrhizal with live root of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Plant / epiphyte
resupinate fruitbody of Amylostereum laevigatum grows on dead bark of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed perithecium of Anthostomella formosa var. taxi is saprobic on dead leaf of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 9-5

Foodplant / pathogen
Armillaria mellea s.l. infects and damages Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Auricularia mesenterica is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Battarrea phalloides is associated with Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Bjerkandera adusta is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / open feeder
larva of Blastobasis lignea grazes on leaf of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: autumn-spring

Foodplant / saprobe
larva of Brachyopa scutellaris is saprobic on sap run of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Brevicellicium exile is saprobic on decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Brevicellicium olivascens is saprobic on decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Calocera pallidospathulata is saprobic on decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 1-12

Fungus / parasite
effuse colony of Capnobotrys dematiaceous anamorph of Capnobotrys dingleyae parasitises live twig of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / gall
Cecidophyopsis psilaspis causes gall of live bud (flower) of Taxus baccata

Plant / epiphyte
podetium of Chaenothecopsis caespitosa grows on rotten wood of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 10

Foodplant / saprobe
colony of Catenularia dematiaceous anamorph of Chaetosphaeria cupulifera is saprobic on fallen, dead branch of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 12-6

Foodplant / saprobe
colony of Chalara dematiaceous anamorph of Chalara cylindrica is saprobic on leaf litter of Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Clavaria acuta is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Clavaria incarnata is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Clavaria purpurea is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Clavicorona taxophila is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Clavulinopsis umbrinella is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Clitocybe ditopa is saprobic on dead, rotting litter of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Clitopilus hobsonii is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Coniophora arida is saprobic on decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Coniophora olivacea is saprobic on decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
usually tufted colony of Corynespora dematiaceous anamorph of Corynespora pruni is saprobic on bark of Taxus baccata

Animal / parasite
Cryptocline coelomycetous anamorph of Cryptocline taxicola parasitises live Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
sporodochium of Cryptocoryneum dematiaceous anamorph of Cryptocoryneum condensatum is saprobic on dead bark of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent stroma of Cytospora coelomycetous anamorph of Cytospora taxi is saprobic on dead twig of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 11-3

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Dacrymyces estonicus is saprobic on decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Dacrymyces punctiformis is saprobic on decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Dacryobolus karstenii is saprobic on fallen, decayed, decorticate trunk (large) of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
bracket of Daedaleopsis confragosa is saprobic on dead wood of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Plant / epiphyte
fruitbody of Dendrothele amygdalispora grows on live bark of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent pycnidium of Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Diaporthe eres is saprobic on dead twig of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
amphigenous pycnidium of Diplodia coelomycetous anamorph of Diplodia taxi is saprobic on dead leaf of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 9-3

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed stroma of Dothiora taxicola is saprobic on dead leaf of Taxus baccata

Fungus / saprobe
colony of Endophragmiella dematiaceous anamorph of Endophragmiella eboracensis is saprobic on dead wood of Taxus baccata

Fungus / saprobe
effuse colony of Endophragmiella dematiaceous anamorph of Endophragmiella taxi is saprobic on dead leaf of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 4-5

Foodplant / saprobe
hysterothecium of Farlowiella carmichaeliana is saprobic on dead bark of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 2-4

Foodplant / parasite
fruitbody of Ganoderma carnosum parasitises live trunk of Taxus baccata
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Ganoderma lucidum is saprobic on dead stump of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Geastrum campestre is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Geastrum fimbriatum is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Geastrum fornicatum is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Geastrum pectinatum is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Geastrum quadrifidum is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Geastrum striatum is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
apothecium of Geopora sumneriana is associated with Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: Spring

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Gloeophyllum trabeum is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / endomycorrhiza
sporocarp of Glomus fuegianum is endomycorrhizal with live root of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
amphigenous, sometimes in lines, splitting epidermis pycnidium of Phyllosticta coelomycetous anamorph of Guignardia philoprina is saprobic on dead leaf of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Gymnopilus bellulus is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Gymnopilus junonius is saprobic on decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Hemimycena tortuosa is saprobic on decayed stick of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / ectomycorrhiza
fruitbody of Hygrophorus penarius is ectomycorrhizal with live root of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
epigeous or hypogeous fruitbody of Hymenogaster luteus is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
hypogeous fruitbody of Hymenogaster vulgaris is associated with Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Hyphoderma definitum is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Hyphodontia arguta is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Hyphodontia pallidula is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Hyphodontia rimosissima is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Hypochniciellum subillaqueatum is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / ectomycorrhiza
fruitbody of Inocybe obscurobadia is ectomycorrhizal with live root of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / saprobe
superficial stroma of Kretzschmaria deusta is saprobic on dead stump of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / ectomycorrhiza
fruitbody of Lactarius salmonicolor is ectomycorrhizal with live root of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Laetiporus sulphureus is saprobic on trunk of old tree of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Lepiota castanea is saprobic on soil of tree of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Lepiota ochraceofulva is saprobic on soil of tree of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Lepiota perplexa is saprobic on soil of tree of Taxus baccata
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Leucoagaricus badhamii is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed litter of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Leucoagaricus croceovelutinus is saprobic on dead, decayed leaf of litter of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Leucoagaricus marriagei is saprobic on dead, decayed leaf of litter of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Leucoagaricus pilatianus is saprobic on dead, decayed leaf of litter of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Leucocoprinus brebissonii is saprobic on dead, decayed leaf of litter of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Leucogyrophana mollusca is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Leucogyrophana sororia is saprobic on dead, very decayed, brown rotted bark of Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Limacella delicata var. delicata is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Lyophyllum favrei is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Lyophyllum konradianum is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Macrolepiota procera var. pseudo-olivascens is associated with Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
epiphyllous, gregarious or in rows, covered pycnidium of Macrophoma coelomycetous anamorph of Macrophoma taxi is saprobic on dead leaf of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Marasmius androsaceus is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed needle of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
colony of Chloridium dematiaceous anamorph of Melanopsammella preussii is saprobic on fallen, dead branch of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 11-5

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Micromphale foetidum is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed stick of Taxus baccata
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent stroma of Nectria coccinea is saprobic on dead branch of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 9-5

Foodplant / saprobe
stromatic perithecium of Nectria pallidula is saprobic on dead twig of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 8-1

Foodplant / saprobe
Myrothecium dematiaceous anamorph of Nectria ralfsii is saprobic on dead, cut or fallen branch of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 9-1

Foodplant / parasite
fruitbody of Neolentinus lepideus parasitises live Taxus baccata
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / feeds on
adult of Otiorhynchus singularis feeds on live Taxus baccata

Foodplant / sap sucker
Parthenolecanium pomeranicum sucks sap of live foliage of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Paullicorticium delicatissimum is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Peniophora nuda is saprobic on dead, attached branch of Taxus baccata
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / pathogen
fruitbody of Phaeolus schweinitzii infects and damages live root of mature tree of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / parasite
fruitbody of Phellinus ferreus parasitises living trunk of Taxus baccata
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / parasite
fruitbody of Phlebiella albida parasitises live twig of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Phlebiella pseudotsugae is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Phlebiella sulphurea is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Phlebiopsis gigantea is saprobic on dead, decayed trunk (cut end) of Taxus baccata
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed, mostly hypophyllous pycnidium of Phoma coelomycetous anamorph of Phoma allostoma is saprobic on dead, attached twig of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 11-3

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Phragmocephala dematiaceous anamorph of Phragmocephala stemphylioides is saprobic on rotten wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / pathogen
mycelium of Phytophthora ramorum infects and damages Taxus baccata
Remarks: captive: in captivity, culture, or experimentally induced

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Polyporus leptocephalus is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Remarks: Other: uncertain
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Postia balsamea is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Postia floriformis is saprobic on dead wood of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Postia sericeomollis is saprobic on dead, decayed log (large) of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
Ptychogaster anamorph of Postia sp. ined. (near P. ptychogaster) is saprobic on dead, fallen trunk of Taxus baccata
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Postia stiptica is saprobic on dead, decayed log (large) cut end of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Postia tephroleuca is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed trunk (large) of Taxus baccata
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Postia wakefieldiae is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed trunk (large) of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Pseudobaeospora laguncularis is saprobic on litter of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / sap sucker
hypophyllous Pulvinaria floccifera sucks sap of live leaf of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Radulomyces rickii is saprobic on dead bark of Taxus baccata
Other: unusual host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Ramaria decurrens is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Ramaria subbotrytis is associated with Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Ramariopsis crocea is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed needle of debris of Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Ramariopsis kunzei is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Ramariopsis pulchella is associated with Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Ramariopsis tenuiramosa is associated with Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Scytinostroma ochroleucum is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Sistotremella perpusilla is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Sporidesmiella dematiaceous anamorph of Sporidesmiella claviformis is saprobic on dead stem of Taxus baccata

Fungus / saprobe
effuse colony of Sporidesmiella dematiaceous anamorph of Sporidesmiella coronata is saprobic on dead leaf of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 9

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Sporidesmiella dematiaceous anamorph of Sporidesmiella longissima is saprobic on decaying, dead leaf of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 5

Fungus / saprobe
effuse colony of Sporidesmium dematiaceous anamorph of Sporidesmium larvatum is saprobic on decorticate wood of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 1

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Sporidesmium dematiaceous anamorph of Sporidesmium pedunculatum is saprobic on rotting wood of Taxus baccata

Plant / associate
epigeous fruitbody of Stephanospora caroticolor is associated with Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Sterigmabotrys dematiaceous anamorph of Sterigmatobotrys macrocarpa is saprobic on dead wood of Taxus baccata
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Stypella vermiformis is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / ectomycorrhiza
fruitbody of Suillus tridentinus is ectomycorrhizal with live root of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / gall
larva (2nd year) of Taxomyia taxi causes gall of bud of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Thysanophora dematiaceous anamorph of Thysanophora taxi is saprobic on dead, fallen leaf of Taxus baccata
Remarks: season: 9

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Trechispora praefocata is saprobic on dead, decayed litter of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
Tubulicrinis accedens is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / feeds on
adult of Turdus viscivorus feeds on berry of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Vesiculomyces citrinus is saprobic on dead, decayed bark of Taxus baccata

Foodplant / saprobe
larva of Xylota xanthocnema is saprobic on rot hole of Taxus baccata

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Taxus baccata

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Taxus baccata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 30
Specimens with Barcodes: 35
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Taxus baccata L.

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Farjon, A.

Reviewer/s
Thomas, P.

Contributor/s

Justification

The Common Yew (Taxus baccata) has a very extensive range throughout Europe and beyond. Exploitation and attempts at eradication are no longer current. Cultivated rather than wild populations are exploited for chemical compounds to produce Taxol® unlike the situation with other yew species. Expansion is observed in many woodlands in recent decades.

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Population

Population
The global population is increasing due to changed woodland management, which has become less intensified in many parts of Europe. In Scandinavia, it may be expected to expand inland from coastal areas if the warming climate trend continues.

Population Trend
Increasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Although in past centuries Yew has been 'persecuted' in much of Europe and it had become rare in many areas, with the changes in woodland management and use since the nineteenth century the species has made a remarkable come-back and is not in danger of extinction in the wild.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Common Yew is present in numerous protected areas throughout its range. In Europe, several yew dominated communities are covered under the EU Habitats Directive. Additionally there are many societies in various countries devoted to yew conservation, especially older trees.
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Wikipedia

Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia.[1] It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may now be known as English yew, or European yew.

Taxonomy and naming[edit]

The word yew is from Proto-Germanic *īwa-, possibly originally a loanword from Gaulish *ivos, compare Irish ēo, Welsh ywen, French if (see Eihwaz for a discussion). Baccata is Latin for bearing red berries. The word yew as it was originally used seems to refer to the color brown.[2] The yew (μίλος) was known to Theophrastus, who noted its preference for mountain coolness and shade, its evergreen character and its slow growth.[3]

Most romance languages kept a version of the Latin word taxus (Italian tasso, Corsican tassu, Occitan teis, Catalan teix, Gasconic tech, Spanish tejo, Portuguese teixo, Galician teixo and Romanian tisă) from the same root as toxic. In Slavic languages, the same root is preserved: Russian tiss (тис), Slovenian tisa, Serbian tisa (тиса). In Albanian it is named tis.

The common yew was one of the many species first described by Linnaeus. Along with around 30 other species, it is classified in the family Taxaceae, which is now firmly classified as a conifer in the order Pinales.

Description[edit]

It is a small- to medium-sized evergreen tree, growing 10–20 metres (33–66 ft) (exceptionally up to 28 metres (92 ft)) tall, with a trunk up to 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) (exceptionally 4 metres (13 ft)) diameter. The bark is thin, scaly brown, coming off in small flakes aligned with the stem. The leaves are flat, dark green, 1–4 centimetres (0.39–1.57 in) long and 2–3 millimetres (0.079–0.118 in) broad, arranged spirally on the stem, but with the leaf bases twisted to align the leaves in two flat rows either side of the stem, except on erect leading shoots where the spiral arrangement is more obvious. The leaves are highly poisonous.[1][4]

Seeds of Taxus baccata

The seed cones are highly modified, each cone containing a single seed 4–7 millimetres (0.16–0.28 in) long partly surrounded by a modified scale which develops into a soft, bright red berry-like structure called an aril, 8–15 millimetres (0.31–0.59 in) long and wide and open at the end. The arils mature 6 to 9 months after pollination, and with the seed contained are eaten by thrushes, waxwings and other birds, which disperse the hard seeds undamaged in their droppings; maturation of the arils is spread over 2 to 3 months, increasing the chances of successful seed dispersal. The seeds themselves are extremely poisonous and bitter, but are opened and eaten by some bird species including Hawfinches[5] Greenfinches and Great Tits.[6] The aril is not poisonous, and is gelatinous and very sweet tasting. The male cones are globose, 3–6 millimetres (0.12–0.24 in) diameter, and shed their pollen in early spring. It is mostly dioecious, but occasional individuals can be variably monoecious, or change sex with time.[1][4][7]

Longevity[edit]

Taxus baccata can reach 400 to 600 years of age. Some specimens live longer but the age of yews is often overestimated.[8] Ten yews in Britain are believed to predate the 10th century.[9] The potential age of yews is impossible to determine accurately and is subject to much dispute. There is rarely any wood as old as the entire tree, while the boughs themselves often become hollow with age, making ring counts impossible. There are claims as high as 5,000–9,500 years,[10] but other evidence based on growth rates and archaeological work of surrounding structures suggests the oldest trees (such as the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland) are more likely to be in the range of 2,000 years.[11][12] Even with this lower estimate, Taxus baccata is one of the longest-living plants in Europe. One characteristic contributing to its longevity is that it is able to split under the weight of advanced growth without succumbing to disease in the fracture, as do most other trees. Another is its ability to give rise to new epicormic and basal shoots from cut surfaces and low on its trunk, even at an old age.

Significant trees[edit]

The Llangernyw Yew

The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland, has the largest recorded trunk girth in Britain and experts estimate it to be 2,000 to 3,000 years old, although it may be a remnant of a post-Roman Christian site and around 1,500 years old.[13] The Llangernyw Yew in Clwyd, Wales, can be found at an early saint site and is about 1,500 years old.[14] Other well known yews include the Ankerwycke Yew, the Balderschwang Yew, the Caesarsboom, the Florencecourt Yew, and the Borrowdale Fraternal Four, of which poet William Wordsworth wrote. The Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve in West Sussex has one of Europe's largest yew woodlands.

Estry Yew, Normandy, around 1,600 years old

The oldest specimen in Spain is located in Bermiego, Asturias. It is known as Teixu l'Iglesia in 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 Natural Monument on April 27, 1995 by the Asturian Government and is protected by the Plan of Natural Resources.[15]

A unique forest formed by Taxus baccata and European Box (Buxus sempervirens) lies within the city of Sochi, in the Western Caucasus.

Toxicity[edit]

Most parts of the tree are toxic, except the bright red aril surrounding the seed. The foliage remains toxic even when wilted, and toxicity increases in potency when dried.[16] Ingestion and subsequent excretion by birds whose beaks and digestive systems do not break down the seed's coating are the primary means of yew dispersal.[17] The major toxin within the yew is the alkaloid taxine.[18] Horses have a relatively low tolerance to taxine, with a lethal dose of 200–400 mg/kg body weight; cattle, pigs, and other livestock are only slightly less vulnerable.[19] Several studies[20] have found taxine LD50 values under 20 mg/kg in mice and rats.

Symptoms of yew poisoning include an accelerated heart rate, muscle tremors, convulsions, collapse, difficulty breathing, circulation impairment and eventually heart failure. However, there may be no symptoms, and if poisoning remains undetected death may occur within hours.[21] Fatal poisoning in humans is very rare, usually occurring after consuming yew foliage. The leaves are more toxic than the seed.[18]

Uses and traditions[edit]

Foliage of Irish yew, Taxus baccata fastigiata; note the leaves spreading all round the erect shoots

One of the world's oldest surviving wooden artifacts is a Clactonian yew[citation needed] spear head, found in 1911 at Clacton-on-Sea, in Essex, UK. It is estimated to be about 450,000 years old.[22]

In the ancient Celtic world, the yew tree (*eburos) had extraordinary importance; a passage by Caesar narrates that Catuvolcus, chief of the Eburones poisoned himself with yew rather than submit to Rome (Gallic Wars 6: 31). Similarly, Florus notes that when the Cantabrians were under siege by the legate Gaius Furnius in 22 BC, most of them took their lives either by the sword, by fire, or by a poison extracted ex arboribus taxeis, that is, from the yew tree (2: 33, 50–51). In a similar way, Orosius notes that when the Astures were besieged at Mons Medullius, they preferred to die by their own swords or by the yew tree poison rather than surrender (6, 21, 1).

Religion[edit]

The yew is often found in churchyards in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and northern areas of Spain. In France, the oldest yew trees are almost all located in church yards of Normandy and a chapel was very often laid out in the hollow trunk. Some examples can be found in La Haye-de-Routot or La Lande-Patry. It is said that up to 40 people could stand inside one of the La-Haye-de-Routot yew trees and the Le Ménil-Ciboult yew is probably the largest one (13 m diameter[23]). Indeed some of these trees are exceptionally large (over 5 m diameter) and may be over 2,000 years old. Sometimes monks planted yews in the middle of their cloister, as at Muckross Abbey (Ireland) or abbaye de Jumièges (France). Some ancient yew trees are located at St Mary the Virgin Church, Overton-on-Dee in Wales.

In Asturian tradition and culture the yew tree has had a real link with the land, the people, the ancestors and the ancient religion. It was tradition on All Saints Day to bring a branch of a yew tree to the tombs of those who had died recently so they will find the guide in their return to the Land of Shadows.The yew tree can be found near chapels, churches and cemeteries since ancient times[citation needed] as a symbol of the transcendence of death, and is usually found in the main squares of the villages where people celebrated the open councils that served as a way of general assembly to rule the village affairs.

Door of the Chapel in a Norman yew

It has been suggested that the Sacred Tree at the Temple at Uppsala was an ancient yew tree.[24][25] The Christian church commonly found it expedient to take over existing pre-Christian sacred sites for churches. It has also been suggested that yews were planted at religious sites as their long life was suggestive of eternity, or because being toxic they were seen as trees of death.[26] Another suggested explanation is that yews were planted to discourage farmers and drovers from letting animals wander onto the burial grounds, the poisonous foliage being the disincentive. A further possible reason is that fronds and branches of yew were often used as a substitute for palms on Palm Sunday.[26][27][28]

In traditional Germanic religion was Yggdrasill often seen as a giant ash tree. Many scholars are now agree that in the past an error has been made in the interpretation of the ancient writings, and that the tree is most likely a European yew (Taxus baccata). This mistake would find its origin in an alternative word for the yew tree in the Old Norse, namely Needle Ash (barraskr). In addition, ancient sources, including the Eddas, speak about a vetgrønster vida which means "evergreen tree". An ash sheds its leaves in the winter, while yew trees retain their needles.

Conifers were in the past often seen as sacred, because they never lose their green. In addition, the tree of life was not only an object from the stories, but also believers often gathered around an existing tree. The yew releases gaseous toxins (taxine) on hot days. Taxine is in some instances capable of causing hallucinations. This has some similarities with the story that Odin had an revelation (the wisdom of the runes) after having been hanging from the tree for nine days.[citation needed]

Medicines[edit]

In 1021, Avicenna introduced the medicinal use of T. baccata for phytotherapy in The Canon of Medicine. He named this herbal drug "Zarnab" and used it as a cardiac remedy. This was the first known use of a calcium channel blocker drug, which were not in wide use in the Western world until the 1960s.[29]

Certain compounds found in the bark of yew trees were discovered by Wall and Wani in 1967 to have efficacy as anti-cancer agents. The precursors of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (taxol) can be synthesized easily from the extracts of the leaves of European yew,[30] which is a more renewable source than the bark of the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia). This ended a point of conflict in the early 1990s; many environmentalists, including Al Gore, had opposed the harvesting of yew for paclitaxel cancer treatments. Docetaxel can then be obtained by semi-synthetic conversion from the precursors.

In the Central Himalayas, the plant is used as a treatment for breast and ovarian cancer.[31]

Woodworking and longbows[edit]

Bole of an ancient yew in Pont-de-Buis-lès-Quimerch, Brittany

Wood from the yew is classified as a closed-pore softwood, similar to cedar and pine. Easy to work, yew is among the hardest of the softwoods; yet it possesses a remarkable elasticity, making it ideal for products that require springiness, such as bows.[32]

Yew is also associated with Wales and England because of the longbow, an early weapon of war developed in northern Europe, and as the English longbow the basis for a medieval tactical system. The oldest surviving yew longbow was found at Rotten Bottom in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. It has been given a calibrated radiocarbon date of 4040 BC to 3640 BC and is on display in the National Museum of Scotland. Yew is the wood of choice for longbow making; the bows are constructed so that the heartwood of yew is on the inside of the bow while the sapwood is on the outside. This takes advantage of the natural properties of yew wood since the heartwood resists compression while the sapwood resists stretching. This increases the strength and efficiency of the bow. Much yew is knotty and twisted, and therefore unsuitable for bowmaking; most trunks do not give good staves and even in a good trunk much wood has to be discarded.

The trade of yew wood to England for longbows was so robust that it depleted the stocks of good-quality, mature yew over a vast area. The first documented import of yew bowstaves to England was in 1294. In 1350 there was a serious shortage, and Henry IV of England ordered his royal bowyer to enter private land and cut yew and other woods. In 1470 compulsory archery practice was renewed, and hazel, ash, and laburnum were specifically allowed for practice bows. Supplies still proved insufficient, until by the Statute of Westminster in 1472, every ship coming to an English port had to bring four bowstaves for every tun.[33] Richard III of England increased this to ten for every tun. This stimulated a vast network of extraction and supply, which formed part of royal monopolies in southern Germany and Austria. In 1483, the price of bowstaves rose from two to eight pounds per hundred, and in 1510 the Venetians would only sell a hundred for sixteen pounds. In 1507 the Holy Roman Emperor asked the Duke of Bavaria to stop cutting yew, but the trade was profitable, and in 1532 the royal monopoly was granted for the usual quantity "if there are that many." In 1562, the Bavarian government sent a long plea to the Holy Roman Emperor asking him to stop the cutting of yew, and outlining the damage done to the forests by its selective extraction, which broke the canopy and allowed wind to destroy neighbouring trees. In 1568, despite a request from Saxony, no royal monopoly was granted because there was no yew to cut, and the next year Bavaria and Austria similarly failed to produce enough yew to justify a royal monopoly. Forestry records in this area in the 17th century do not mention yew, and it seems that no mature trees were to be had. The English tried to obtain supplies from the Baltic, but at this period bows were being replaced by guns in any case.[34]

Horticulture[edit]

An Irish yew (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata') planted at Kenilworth Castle

Today European yew is widely used in landscaping and ornamental horticulture. Due to its dense, dark green, mature foliage, and its tolerance of even very severe pruning, it is used especially for formal hedges and topiary. Its relatively slow growth rate means that in such situations it needs to be clipped only once per year (in late summer).

Well over 200 cultivars of T. baccata have been named. The most popular of these are the Irish yew (T. baccata 'Fastigiata'), a fastigiate cultivar of the European yew selected from two trees found growing in Ireland, and the several cultivars with yellow leaves, collectively known as "golden yew".[4][7] In some locations, e.g. when hemmed in by buildings or other trees, an Irish yew can reach 20 feet in height without exceeding 2 feet in diameter at its thickest point, although with age many Irish yews assume a fat cigar shape rather than being truly columnar.

The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-

European yew will tolerate growing in a wide range of soils and situations, including shallow chalk soils and shade,[42] although in deep shade its foliage may be less dense. However it cannot tolerate waterlogging, and in poorly-draining situations is liable to succumb to the root-rotting pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.

In Europe, Taxus baccata grows naturally north to Molde in southern Norway, but it is used in gardens further north. It is also popular as a bonsai in many parts of Europe and makes a handsome small to large sized bonsai.[43]

Musical instruments[edit]

The late Robert Lundberg, a noted luthier who performed extensive research on historical lute-making methodology, states in his 2002 book Historical Lute Construction that yew was historically a prized wood for lute construction. European legislation establishing use limits and requirements for yew limited supplies available to luthiers, but it was apparently as prized among medieval, renaissance, and baroque lute builders as Brazilian Rosewood is among contemporary guitar-makers for its quality of sound and beauty.

Conservation[edit]

Clippings from ancient specimens in the UK, including the Fortingall Yew, were taken to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh to form a mile-long hedge. The purpose of this "Yew Conservation Hedge Project" is to maintain the DNA of Taxus baccata. The species is threatened by felling, partly due to rising demand from pharmaceutical companies, and disease.[44]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  2. ^ Douglas Simms. "A Celto-Germanic Etymology for Flora and Fauna which will Boar Yew". Retrieved 10 July 2008. 
  3. ^ Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, iii.10.2; iv.1.3, etc.
  4. ^ a b c Mitchell, A. F. (1972). Conifers in the British Isles. Forestry Commission Booklet 33.
  5. ^ "The Hawfinch". Wbrc.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  6. ^ Snow, David; Snow, Barbara (2010). Birds and Berries. London: A & C Black. pp. 29–30. ISBN 9781408138229. 
  7. ^ a b Dallimore, W., & Jackson, A. B. (1966). A Handbook of Coniferae and Ginkgoaceae 4th ed. Arnold.
  8. ^ Mayer, Hannes (1992). Waldbau auf soziologisch-ökologischer Grundlage [Silviculture on socio-ecological basis] (in German) (4th ed.). Fischer. p. 97. ISBN 3-437-30684-7. 
  9. ^ Bevan-Jones, Robert (2004). The ancient yew: a history of Taxus baccata. Bollington: Windgather Press. p. 28. ISBN 0-9545575-3-0. 
  10. ^ Lewington, A., & Parker, E. (1999). Ancient Trees: Trees that Live for a Thousand Years. London: Collins & Brown Ltd. ISBN 1-85585-704-9
  11. ^ Harte, J. (1996). How old is that old yew? At the Edge 4: 1–9. Available online.
  12. ^ Kinmonth, F. (2006). Ageing the yew – no core, no curve? International Dendrology Society Yearbook 2005: 41–46.
  13. ^ Bevan-Jones, Robert (2004). The ancient yew: a history of Taxus baccata. Bollington: Windgather Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-9545575-3-0. 
  14. ^ Bevan-Jones, Robert (2004). The ancient yew: a history of Taxus baccata. Bollington: Windgather Press. p. 49. ISBN 0-9545575-3-0. 
  15. ^ "Monumentos Naturales" (in Spanish). Gobierno del Principado de Asturias. Retrieved 14 March 2013.  Contains Word document "Monumento Natural Teixu de Bermiego".
  16. ^ "Yew". Provet. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  17. ^ Thomas, Peter A.; Packham, John R. (2007). Ecology of Woodlands and Forests: Description, Dynamics and Diversity. Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 226–227. ISBN 0521542316. 
  18. ^ a b "How poisonous is the yew?". Ancient-yew.org. Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  19. ^ Tiwary, A. K.; Puschner, B.; Kinde, H.; Tor, E. R. (2005). "Diagnosis of Taxus (Yew) poisoning in a horse" (pdf). Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 17 (3): 252–255. doi:10.1177/104063870501700307. PMID 15945382. 
  20. ^ http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+3541 http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+3541 TAXINE - National Library of Medicine HSDB Database, section "Animal Toxicity Studies"
  21. ^ "Taxus baccata, yew - THE POISON GARDEN website". Thepoisongarden.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  22. ^ White, T.S.; Boreham, S.; Bridgland, D. R.; Gdaniec, K.; White, M. J. (2008). "The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic of Cambridgeshire". English Heritage Project. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  23. ^ List of world largest trees
  24. ^ Ohlmarks, Å. (1994). Fornnordiskt lexikon. p 372.
  25. ^ Hellquist, O. (1922). Svensk etymologisk ordbok. p 266
  26. ^ a b Andrews, W.(ed.)(1897)Antiquities and Curiosities of the Church, William Andrews & Co., London 1897; pp. 256-278: 'Amongst the ancients the yew, like the cypress, was regarded as the emblem of death... As, to the early Christian, death was the harbinger of life; he could not agree with his classic forefathers in employing 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 show his belief in the life beyond the grave, that led to his cultivation of the yew in all the burying grounds of those who died in the new faith, and this must be regarded as the primary idea of its presence there... Evelyn’s opinion is more decisive: —"that we find it so universally planted in our churchyards, was doubtless, from its being thought a symbol of immortality, the tree being so lasting and always green."'
  27. ^ "Palm Sunday: All About Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion". Churchyear.net. Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  28. ^ Dún Laoghaire Parks Some yew trees were actually there before the church was built...King Edward 1st ordered yew trees to be planted in churchyards to offer some protection to the buildings... Yews are poisonous so by planting them in the churchyards cattle that were not allowed to graze on hallowed ground were safe from eating yew. Yew was the traditional wood used for making long bows – planting in churchyards ensured availability in times of need. Yew branches on touching the ground take root and sprout again – this became the symbol of death, rebirth and therefore immortality.
  29. ^ Tekol, Y. (2007). "The medieval physician Avicenna used an herbal calcium channel blocker, Taxus baccata L.". Phytotherapy Research 21 (7): 701–702. doi:10.1002/ptr.2173. PMID 17533639. 
  30. ^ National Non-Food Crops Centre, "Yew". Retrieved on 2009-04-23.
  31. ^ Asia Medicinal Plants Database
  32. ^ http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/softwoods/european-yew/ The Wood Database: European Yew
  33. ^ "...because that our sovereign lord the King, by a petition delivered to him in the said parliament, by the commons of the same, hath perceived That the great scarcity of bowstaves is now in this realm, and the bowstaves that be in this realm be sold as an excessive price...", Statutes at Large
  34. ^ Yew: A History. Hageneder F. Sutton Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7509-4597-4.
  35. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Taxus baccata". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  36. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata'". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  37. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata Aureomarginata'". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  38. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Taxus baccata 'Repandens'". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  39. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Taxus baccata 'Repens Aurea'". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  40. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Taxus baccata 'Semperaurea'". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  41. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Taxus baccata 'Standishii'". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  42. ^ Hillier Nurseries, "The Hillier Manual Of Trees And Shrubs", David & Charles, 1998, p863
  43. ^ D'Cruz, Mark. "Ma-Ke Bonsai Care Guide for Taxus baccata". Ma-Ke Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  44. ^ "Ancient yew DNA preserved in hedge project". United Press International. 7 November 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 

References[edit]

  • Chetan, A. and Brueton, D. (1994) The Sacred Yew, London: Arkana, ISBN 0-14-019476-2
  • Conifer Specialist Group (1998) Taxus baccata, In: IUCN 2006/UCN Red List of Threatened Species, WWW page (Accessed 3 February 2007)
  • Hartzell, H. (1991) The yew tree: a thousand whispers: biography of a species, Eugene: Hulogosi, ISBN 0-938493-14-0
  • Simón, F. M. (2005) Religion and Religious Practices of the Ancient Celts of the Iberian Peninsula, e-Keltoi, v. 6, p. 287-345, ISSN 1540-4889 online
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