Common Name – Yew

Irish Nameiúr

Latin NameTaxus Baccatta


Time spent amongst trees is never time wasted

The Yew is from the Taxaceae family, an evergreen tree as its leaves are present all year round. Mature yew trees can grow up to twenty meters. The bark is reddish-brown with purple tones and it has needle-like leaves which grow in two rows along a twig. Most parts of the yew are poisonous to humans. This tree is one of the longest-lived native species in Europe. The yew’s long life is due to the unique way in which it grows, its branches grow down into the ground to form new stems, which then rise up around the old growth. Hence, the yew has been a symbol of death and rebirth, the new that springs out of the old.

In Irish mythology, the yew is one of the five sacred trees. It was said to be the ‘offspring of the tree in Paradise’, and it brought lasting plenty to Ireland. In the Brehon Laws, there were heavy penalties for felling a yew. The first king would be he who kindled a fire beneath the yew.