Taxus baccata: pruning, planting, varieties, pests, origin, …

Taxus baccata yew or
Yew is a slow growing tree or shrub, which is 15 meters high. With its dark green, soft needles make it a gloomy impression. In autumn the bright red berries appear like a jewel between the dark needles. They are surrounded by a cup-shaped, fleshy sheath (arillus) that much vitamin C and is not toxic, unlike other parts of the tree.

Previously, large parts of Germany covered with yew forests. Caesar began cutting down the forests, because he needed wood for making bows.

Yew up to 2000 years old. The wood is strong and elastic. I read somewhere that if you are on a hot summer day under a yew sit in another state of consciousness (from world) is avoided. That may well be true because it has been discovered that the vine on hot days gaseous releases toxins that can cause hallucinations in humans.

Yew grows wild only in few places and is therefore protected. Only in Paterzell in Oberbayern is still a full taxusbos.

In the Netherlands we have some forest trees in Limburg, but usually in gardens, parks, farms and cemeteries. The estate at Great Engelenburg Brummen are some ancient yew trees of a size of more than 5 m.

Yew is often planted as a hedge, because it is easy to prune.


Yew is native to Europe, the Atlas Mountains (North Africa), Asia Minor, Iran, North America, the Celebes Islands and Indonesia. European yew (baccata) was resistant and the only shade tree that can grow under beech trees in both acidic and alkaline soil. It can be very old. There are yew trees, which they estimated that they are 1000 years old. It is never just say, because old ones are usually hollow inside so that a reliable count of the rings is impossible. The Scottish Fortingall yew which is a 2000 old.

In no other region of Europe are so large numbers as yews found in the provinces of Normandy Orne, Calvados and Eure. Many of them are ancient and have hollow stems. It is estimated that some of age from 1500 to 2000 have reached.


The word is derived from the Greek yew taxon which means bow, because of yew bows and shields were made. Taxus is the word of toxic derivative. It refers to the poisonous parts of the tree. Others say that yew is from the Latin texo what weaving means. Yew bark was once used for weaving fact and wickerwork. Baccata indicates the apparent red berries.

Other names for the Dutch language in yew wood bow, iemenbos, and wijpalm Iepe. The Achterhoek speak also of snotterbezieboom and in North Limburg tree of death.

Plant Characteristics

The beauty of the yew is most to his right as he is solitary and not cutting.

Its needles are soft, shiny and dark green are gathered into a rosette. They can last seven years remain on the tree. Along with juniper, fir and pine, he hears the three native conifer species.

Yew and juniper cones are not. Their seeds have a shell that looks a berry. We talk about so-called false currant seed in this case because it is hidden.

The yew is dioecious, ie male to female flowers on separate trees develop. The male (scaled) are on the underside of the branches in large quantities, while the women come from small, egg-shaped knobs on the tops of the shorter branches. They give off a sticky droplet that absorbs airborne pollen.

The sweet, red berries are eaten primarily by birds.

The toxic ebb is not digested, but defecated. If it is in good ground, germinates a new yew tree. The bright red colored husk (the berry) is also the only part of the tree that is not toxic.

Young trees are conical. With age they get a rounded crown shape. Yew trees are often Multi-trunk. The tribe has a reddish brown color and peeling bark.

Plant Advice

If you want to plant a taxusheg, you should keep in mind that apart from the shell of the red berries, all parts of the tree are poisonous, so dangerous to children and animals sometimes on leaves and berries could nibble.


The Christian culture is the symbol of death and mourning yew. One finds him so often in cemeteries. He is also – because of its evergreen needles – symbol of immortality and eternity. The Celts were the yew symbol of the Winter Solstice (December 21).


The yew was used frequently in Europe. In the wild, he is now almost gone because people are tough, elastic wood used for making bows, shields, spears, furniture, use – and art. Characteristic is the complete absence of resin. The taxusbos on the Scottish island Inchlonaig dates from the 14th century and was planted for the eventual disposal of wood arches.

Yew wood is resistant to rot.

Maybe you could call Yew Tree of Life. In bark and needles is because the alkaloid taxine, from which a drug (taxol) against cancer development. Meanwhile taxol can also be synthetically produced, save for the last yews.


In Celtic tradition the yew tree, the oldest and most revered in the world. The magic wheel of the Druid Mag Square consisted of yew.

The English shaman Dusty Miller manufactures walking sticks, amulets and other objects of yew. Before he cut a branch from a tree, he asks for permission first and then his life not from this branch to withdraw. That’s why he calls his objects Living Wood. Wood-living objects would protect against evil influences.

According to the Germanic Edda (epic) is the market town of gods, Asgard, planted with yew trees. They are dedicated to the thunder god Thor / Donar.

For the ancient Greeks heard the yew in the underworld by his dark voorkomen.Taxustakken were worn at funerals and wreath. The Furies (goddesses of vengeance) torches of yew.

Legends and folk beliefs

Robin Hood and his gang would have to boast of their power derived from yew wood. Robin was buried near a yew.

A Christian legend speaks of a yew involved in the death of Christ was dark with pain and the vow to be lethal to humans and animals.

Witches used yew branches – picked during a lunar eclipse – witch ointment to make of it. It rubbed they could fly.

When a sprig of yew on the body bears chased the evil.

Calves hit it with a name for the taxustwijg magic to ward off evil.


There are many cultivars.

With upright branches: baccata’Fastigiata Taxus, Taxus baccata ‘Rocket’.

With spreading branches: Taxus baccata ‘Dovastonii’, ‘Summer Gold.

With short needles: Taxus baccata ‘Adpressa.

With colored needles: Taxus baccata ‘Semper Aurea’.

Suitable for the garden are the Japanese Taxus cuspidata,, Taxus media ‘Hicksii.


A yew hedge is usually only once in the summer pruned into shape. In gardens can also block or round shapes made. Yew does not like dogs and cats urinating on him. Shoots and their leaves are yellow and may die.

Yew should not be used as a fence of a meadow where horses or cattle run, because the foliage is poisonous.


Taxus has ever suffered from mites (rondkopziekte), which deformed shoots and buds do not leak.

Vine weevil (lapsnuittor) eats away at the needles and buttons, white lap up the roots. This allows yew die. Spraying with a biodegradable agent can limit the damage.

Taxus baccata (botanisch.)

European or English yew (Engels.)

If, taxis (French)

Eibe, Taxbaum (German)

Taxaceae – Yew family

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