Yew Tree

Partner organisations: The Ancient Yew Group and the Conservation Foundation









 Llanerfyl Yew 1 sml

Photo by Ferol Richards

Yew tree wow factor - English or Common yew are the oldest living things in Britain. 

Ancient yews are special. 

The most significant collection of old trees in Europe is to be found in the churchyards of England and Wales, where approximately 800yews with an age above 500 years have been recorded.

They are distinctive features of our landscape.

 Why have yew trees become threatened?

  • In Europe yews were felled on a huge scale for English long bows from the 13thto the late 16th century (when Henry IV ordered his royal bowyer ‘to cut down yew or any other wood for the public service’ he explicitly exempted the estates of the religious orders. So yews in churchyards were saved from the longbow mania).
  • In Medieval times yews were removed because of their toxic effect on animals.
  • In more modern times the majority of yew trees in North America and Asia have been destroyed for the anti cancer compounds which are found in the bark.

Over all these years the churchyard has acted as a sanctuary for the yew and today ¾ of British ancient yews are found in churchyards

Look up your local yew tree at which has a fantastic gazetteer of ancient, veteran & significant yews


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