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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


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Tree Project.

Yew or Taxus Baccata.

Yew Trees can grow into very large trees reaching some 20 metres with a large canopy, but they are also very slow growing and can live for many centuries. Indeed there are thought to be about 10 trees in the UK that are over 1,000 years old.
Being one of the longest lived native trees in the UK it has long been associated with morbid beliefs around death and immortality. Yew Trees, or Taxus Baccata, have been cultivated since Roman Times when they were believed to grow in Hell. Indeed there are said to be over 500 Churchyards in England with Yew Trees that are older than the Churches within them. It is thought that they believed that the yew Trees would purify the Plague victims buried in the Church Yards and prevent the disease from spreading. The trees may also have been planted to stop people from grazing their cattle on the religious sites as yew Trees are very poisonous to cattle. Trees may also have been planted to give a ready supply of branches because for centuries they were carried at Funerals and used in Palm Sunday Ceremony’s.

Although, the foliage is extremely poisonous containing the Taxane Alkaloids, the trees themselves are very good for wildlife. Their dense foliage provides excellent protection for nesting birds and their fruit is also a good source of food for birds and many other animals. The Seeds borne on Yew Trees after pollination, only appear on Female Trees as there are separate Male and Female trees with yew trees being dioecious. Most Conifers produce their seeds in a Cone, but Yew Trees produce what looks like an open ended, red fleshed Berry, called an Aril.

Yew Trees will grow in almost any soil type and anywhere, whether it is in full sun, or shade. However, they do not like to have their roots in wet, or boggy ground as they are susceptible to rotting. It is this toughness and their dense growth that has made them a firm favourite for Topiary Work in gardens throughout the Centuries. In particular they have long been used to make formal hedges of almost any height from a few feet to the towering hedges seen in some stately homes. Because Yew are also very slow growing they lend themselves to being grown in Containers on Yards where they can add shape and structure amongst other planted containers. The Irish Yew (Taxus Baccata Fastigiata) in particular is very ornamental with its columnar growth style and coming in a golden leaved variety it makes quite a feature plant in any garden.

Although Yew Trees are quite poisonous they do have many uses after being felled. However, these days many of our older trees are protected with preservation orders on them and special permission has to be granted to harvest them for their medicinal uses. Modern Anti Cancer medicines are made using their foliage nowadays and in years gone by, their Timber was widely used for many purposes. It is very strong and durable so was used to Long Bows and Tool Handles as well as being used to make the Staves in Wine Barrels.



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