TREE of the day: YEW TREE


What is the oldest tree in the world.  Perhaps it is the yew tree. The word yew was used to describe the color brown. 

The Yew tree is coniferous.  It is found throughout the world but most especially in western, central and southern Europe. and also, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia.

But the most famous type of Yew tree is the English yew or the European yew tree. Originally known as Taxus baccata, the English yew tree is found in many churchyards.   Taxus is the same root as toxic and indeed the Yew tree is toxic to horses. 

Perhaps 600 or 800 years ago, the Yew tree was planted in churchyards and the legend goes that horses were kept away because the trees were poisonous.  Horses died when they ate the leaves from the Yew tree.

The following lines may have been inspired by the yew tree in the church’s garden…..

            ELEGY                        (written in a Country Churchyard)

            ….”Full many a gem of purest ray serene;

                The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

                Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

                And waste its fragrance on the desert air.


                 A poem written by Thomas Gray, 1716 – 1771



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