A Brief History of Yew-Trees
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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. Yew is the wood of choice for longbow making; the heartwood is always on the inside of the bow with the sapwood on the outside.
This makes most efficient use of their properties as heartwood is best in compression whilst sapwood is superior in tension. However, 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. There was a tradition of planting yew trees in churchyards throughout Britain and Ireland, among other reasons, as a resource for bows.
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 In 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 the Polish king commanded protection of yews in order to cut exports, facing nearly complete destruction of local yew stock.
Supplies still proved insufficient, until by the Statute of Westminster in , every ship coming to an English port had to bring four bowstaves for every tun. This stimulated a vast network of extraction and supply, which formed part of royal monopolies in southern Germany and Austria.
In , the price of bowstaves rose from two to eight pounds per hundred, and in the Venetians would only sell a hundred for sixteen pounds. In the Holy Roman Emperor asked the Duke of Bavaria to stop cutting yew, but the trade was profitable, and in the royal monopoly was granted for the usual quantity "if there are that many. In , 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. 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 cultivars of T. The most popular of these are the Irish yew T.
European yew will tolerate growing in a wide range of soils and situations, including shallow chalk soils and shade,  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.
In England, yew has historically been sometimes associated with privies outside toilets , possibly because the smell of the plant keeps insects away. The late Robert Lundberg, a noted luthier who performed extensive research on historical lute -making methodology, states in his 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.
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 species is threatened by felling, partly due to rising demand from pharmaceutical companies, and disease. Another conservation programme was run in Catalonia in the early s, by the Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia CTFC , in order to protect genetically endemic yew populations, and preserve them from overgrazing and forest fires.
There has also been a conservation programme in northern Portugal and Northern Spain Cantabrian Range . From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Taxus baccata Taxus baccata European yew shoot with mature and immature cones Conservation status. Retrieved 14 December Taxus baccata in Europe: distribution, habitat, usage and threats.
Tree Lore: Yew | Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids
In: San-Miguel-Ayanz, J. EU, Luxembourg, pp. Trees of Britain and Europe.
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Retrieved 5 June Retrieved 8 December Retrieved 10 July Conifers in the British Isles. Forestry Commission Booklet Retrieved Birds and Berries. A Handbook of Coniferae and Ginkgoaceae 4th ed. The ancient yew: a history of Taxus baccata. Bollington: Windgather Press. How old is that old yew?
At the Edge 4: 1—9. Ageing the yew — no core, no curve? International Dendrology Society Yearbook 41— Gobierno del Principado de Asturias. Retrieved 14 March National Trust. The Allergy-Fighting Garden. US National Library of Medicine. Life Sciences. Retrieved 23 March Cambridge [u. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation. Svensk ortnamnslexikon PDF in Swedish. Retrieved April 30, Philip Carr-Gomm.
Solčava Yew tree
Retrieved 22 May Libros del Jata, First Edition, Fornnordiskt lexikon. Svensk etymologisk ordbok.
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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. 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. Retrieved on English Heritage Project. The Origins of Britain. Book Club Associates. Page Hageneder F. After seven years, poets cut down the yew and made writing tablets out of it. Another use of yew-wood by poets is recounted in a tale of Conn of the Hundred Battles, who with his druids and poets, lost his way in a mist and came to a supernatural world where a druid was recording names of every prince from Conn's time onwards on staves of yew.
In the Bardic schools, poets used staves of yew to help them memorize long incantations. We hear tell how the poet Cesarn cut the words in Ogam into 4 rods of yew. Each was 24' long and had 8 sides. Staves of yew were also used for carving Ogam letters for magical use, according to the evidence of early literature.
In The Wooing of Etaine, the beautiful heroine was abducted from her husband, Eochaid, who searched for her for a year and a day to no avail. Finally, he sought the help of his druid, Dallahd who made four rods of yew and inscribed them with Ogam. Through this means he discovered that Etaine was in the sihd of Bri Leith, with the faery king, Midir.