1. YEW TREE


1-YEW

 

TAXUS BACCATA 'FASTIGIATA' - KNOWN AS IRISH YEW

TAXUS BACCATA ‘FASTIGIATA’ – KNOWN AS IRISH YEW

 

The narrow columnar growth of Irish yew, Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’, a cultivated variety of the species, is more commonly planted. Its upright growth habit makes a poignant statement in gardens. It makes an ideal focal point, the dark slender sombre leaves are packed tightly, the tree, stately and reserved. The fleshy covered seeds are a welcome decoration in winter, borne on all yew trees that are female. The juicy red berry captures winter light and glows rather than just reflecting it like many other berries.

All T. baccata ‘Fastigiata’ plants are female, the original was found growing in the hills near Enniskillen in County Fermanagh. Wherever an Irish yew grows, it is a clone of the plant which still grows in Florence Court, over 250 years since it was discovered. The mother of all Irish yews has long since lost her slender figure, instead she has spread with age as horticulturists and gardeners in the past repeatedly removed shoots for cuttings.

THE ORIGINAL IRISH YEW GROWING AT FLORENCE COURT, NEAR ENNISKILLEN, CO. FERMANAGH

THE ORIGINAL IRISH YEW GROWING AT FLORENCE COURT, NEAR ENNISKILLEN, CO. FERMANAGH

Fruits are not a common association with conifers, although strictly speaking they are not real fruits. Real fruits by definition totally enclose the seed while with yews the seed is exposed by a gaping hole. The common red Yew berry is beautiful, but for those seeking something different look out for another Irish oddity, T. baccata ‘Lutea’ with its golden fleshy cups around the seeds. This unusual characteristic first occurred on a tree growing in a garden on the banks of the Tolka River in Dublin in 1810. The original tree died, but the occurrence was repeated in a garden in Clontarf some 20 years later. A tree grown from cuttings still grows in the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, across the river from the site of the first!

TAXUS BACCATA WITH YELLOW "FRUITS'

TAXUS BACCATA WITH YELLOW “FRUITS’

A common association of yews as graveyard trees has its roots deeper in time than Christianity; churches and graveyards evolved from sacred sites of Celts. Rather than reminding us of the end the yew should represent longevity and eternity.