Taxus baccata

1 Feb

Taxus baccata (30/01/2011, Chrystal Palace, London)

Taxus baccata (30/01/2011, Chrystal Palace, London)

Position: Full shade to full sun.

Soil: Moist but well drained

Flowering period: Late winter to mid spring.

Eventual Height: 20m

Eventual Spread: 10m

Hardiness: 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a

Family: Taxaceae

Taxus baccata berries (17/09/2011, London)

Taxus baccata berries (17/09/2011, London)

Taxus baccata is an evergreen tree with a conical habit, which develops into a dome shape as it matures. It has slender needle like leaves that leach alkaloids into the soil, clearing the ground around the tree of competition. The trunk is variable in shape. Insignificant cones will disperse billowing clouds of pollen from the male tree. The female trees will then fruit in late summer by cones, highly modified round globular red arils, which are quite sweet and are very popular with wildlife being the only part of the plant that is not highly poisonous (including the seed within, which can be digested in the human stomach causing serious harm)

Taxus baccata Leaf (08/11/2015, Kew Gardens, London)

Taxus baccata Leaf (08/11/2015, Kew Gardens, London)

Taxus baccata, commonly known as Yew or English Yew, is native to west, central and south Europe (including the UK), north west Africa and southwest Asia. This native tree is the longest living tree in Britain with specimens having recorded lifespans of over two thousand years. Taxus baccata has a strong association with religion and is traditionally found in churchyards. Taxus baccata was the favored source of wood for longbows and churches were a last refuge because of their sturdy construction and usually central location. All parts of this plant are highly poisonous except the fleshy surrounding of the seed. However we are not sure of the toxicity of the pollen of the male trees and we would welcome any reader feedback on this issue.

Taxus baccata Bark (08/11/2015, Kew Gardens, London)

Taxus baccata Bark (08/11/2015, Kew Gardens, London)

The etymological root of the binomial name Taxus is from the Latin for Yew tree which is itself may be derived from the Greek taxon meaning bow. Baccata is derived from the Latin baca ‘berried’.

Taxus baccata is useful to the landscape architect as an evergreen tree for shady locations. It also forms an effective evergreen hedge. Care must be taken when preparing landscape designs with this plant  due to its highly poisonous nature, it should not be located close to playgrounds or schools. Once established this tree is drought tolerant.

Taxus baccata hedge (18/01/2012, Kings Cross, London)

Taxus baccata hedge (18/01/2012, Kings Cross, London)

Ecologically, Taxus baccata will attract thrushes in late summer as they cannot digest its seeds and thus on eating the “berries” will disperse them. It is also attracts bees and butterflies.

The Royal Horticultural Society have given Taxus baccata their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Taxus baccata  prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil. It will not tolerate water logging.

Taxus baccata requires little maintenance. If maintaining as a hedge or topiary, prune twice a year, usually late spring and late summer. It will tolerate severe rejuvenating pruning, pruning back if necessary. When establishing a Yew hedge it should not be topped out until it reaches ten centimeters above the required height as its vigorous vertical growth will slow drastically once the growing tip is removed.

Davis Landscape Architecture


One Response to “Taxus baccata”


  1. Thames Barrier Park, London | landscape architecture Blog - 01/01/2014

    […] and are automatically irrigated. The planting to base of the dry dock is linear in nature with Taxus baccata undulating block of planting providing all year round sculptural […]

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