English Yew ( Taxus baccata ) Tree Seeds


Important Note: The seeds on this page will benefit greatly from using the CAPE Smoke Seed Germination Primer that we use in our own greenhouses. We find we receive significantly better germination results when we use this primer on these types of seeds.


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IM079 English Yew ( Taxus baccata )
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia.
A very useful tree for hedging and topiary. Can be closely trimmed. Must have well drained soil. If let go without trimming, can become a very large bush. One of the few plants which will flourish under Beech and is remarkably tolerant of shade. Yew is poisonous to stock including man but deer have been known to eat it without ill effect. Average annual growth of 20 cm. Zone 6-9.
It is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree, growing 10-20 m tall, exceptionally up to 28 m. It is relatively slow growing, but can be very long-lived, with the maximum recorded trunk diameter of 4 m probably only being reached in around 2,000-4,000 years. Taxus baccata is the oldest plant in Europe.
It has thin scaly brown bark. The leaves are lanceolate, flat, dark green, 1-4 cm long and 2-3 mm 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 seed cones are highly modified, each cone containing a single seed 4-7 mm long partly surrounded by a modified scale which develops into a soft, bright red berry-like structure called an aril, 8-15 mm long and wide and open at the end. The arils are mature 6-9 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 2-3 months, increasing the chances of successful seed dispersal. The male cones are globose, 3-6 mm diameter, and shed their pollen in early spring. It is mostly dioecious, but occasional individuals can be variably monoecious, or change sex with time.
All parts of the tree are highly toxic, except the bright red aril surrounding the seed, enabling ingestion and dispersal by birds.
In the ancient Celtic world, the yew tree (*eburos) had extraordinary importance; a passage by Caesar narrates that Catuvolcus, chief of the Eburones, virtually "sons of the yew", 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 or 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 prefered to die by their own swords or by the yew tree poison rather than surrender (6, 21, 1.). In Hispania, Prudentius (Contra Simacum 2: 1005-1011) and Martin of Braga in Visigothic times (De correctione rusticorum 8) denounced the fact that the Hispanic country folk still worshipped trees and sacred stones (Simón 2005).
Yew is also associated with Wales because of the longbow, an early weapon of war, developed in Wales. Yew is the wood of choice for longbow making and 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 is able to withstand compression while the sapwood is elastic and allows the bow to stretch. Both tend to return to their original straightness when the arrow is released.
The chemotherapy drug docetaxel is derived from Taxus baccata.
  10 seeds $2.50

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