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The Tuesday tree: yew

December 7, 2010
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We have a number of yew trees here, some of which are thought to be older than the castle. Ancient and mysterious, they are amongst my favourite ‘presences’ here. They are suffering at the moment, like many of the trees, under the unaccustomed weight of heavy snow. For one, which was already leaning at a vulnerable angle thanks to being undermined by a rabbit warren, the snow was the last straw. Last week it split at the base. I hate losing a tree, especially one so charismatic.

Fortunately, the rest of them do not look to be in any danger. They are thick with berries and provide a feast for the birds, who can be heard squabbling and fluttering amongst the branches. Our boys have been taught to avoid the beautiful, waxy and poisonous berries, but we enjoy the bright spots of colour that they bring to the snowy tree-scape.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2010 5:09 pm

    Oh I always find Yew trees so mysterious too, with such a brooding presence. Beautiful, but not to be messed with on account of the poisonous berries. Think that might have something to do with an Agatha Christie I once read when the red berries were the murder weapon of choice!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 7, 2010 6:16 pm

      And talking of icicles, I’ve always thought that an icicle would be the perfect (untraceable) murder weapon. What a deadly landscape we have!

  2. December 7, 2010 5:22 pm

    We had a 300 year old Yew tree in the back garden that had to come down a few years ago as it was split down the centre and threatened to fall on the house in a storm. When the tree surgeon got down to the trunk, he almost blunted one chain saw on something inside – pulled it out and found a very old key – which had probably been placed there in a hidey-hole – and then lost for a very long time!
    There is another yew still in the neighbours garden – both of them lined up with the old privvy, and were both probably part of a hedge at one time. The third yew is at the front of the house…but none of them seem to have berries – so all male trees?
    I want red berries like you now – beautiful!
    p.s. Kept many of the yew logs – large and small – now I’m looking for someone to turn them into bowls – 15 year old yew should be nice to work with, do you think? or too hard?

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 7, 2010 6:17 pm

      What a fascinating story about the key. I wonder how old it was. You should certainly be able to turn the logs into bowls: I believe that yew is quite a nice wood to work with, and it has a beautiful, satiny, reddish finish.

  3. December 7, 2010 7:46 pm

    I love the bright red of yew berries. I find them mysterious to0 as I think there are pre-Christian connections – though I can’t remember what any of them are! I hope your trees don’t suffer too much snow damage.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 7, 2010 10:50 pm

      Erm, yes, I ought to know…must go and look it up.

  4. December 7, 2010 8:24 pm

    I do like to see the bright red berries on trees and bushes. I think of them as winter flowers.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 7, 2010 10:51 pm

      They are lovely, aren’t they, especially in the snow. Like Snow White.

  5. December 7, 2010 8:32 pm

    Have you been to see the Fortingall yew? It is the oldest living thing in Europe and aged somewhere between 3,000 & 5,000 years old. According to local tradition Pontius Pilate is said to have played under it as a child when his father was stationed there as a Roman soldier! Imagine how many people have trodden the path past it? How special to have lovely old yews in the grounds and it is sad you have lost one.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 7, 2010 10:53 pm

      I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t gone to see it! Still, if it’s lasted 5000 years, I’m sure it’ll wait for me a little longer. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see history through its ‘eyes’.

  6. Deb permalink
    December 7, 2010 9:58 pm

    I know how you feel, we just had a 70-ft. pine tree cut down because it was leaning and threatening to go over. But now we will look forward to planting something new in the spring. I agree on the beauty of yews, our house is surrounded by them, all with berries. Ours are not old though, probably about 70 years only.

  7. jane permalink
    December 11, 2010 11:01 am

    Incredible to think that rabbits and snowflakes can topple such a mighty tree…

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      December 11, 2010 12:21 pm

      now there’s a thought!


  1. The Tuesday tree: jobs to do in February « Dancing Beastie
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