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Yew
Genus: Taxus
While many coniferous tree species, mostly falling into the genus Taxus, are called yews, the original yew is the English, or European, yew. This medium-sized evergreen produces sweet red berries, one of the few non-toxic parts of the tree. Its seeds and leaves contain a toxin, especially fatal to horses and other livestock, which causes muscle convulsions, difficulty breathing, and, ultimately, death. While impossible to accurately determine the ages of individual specimens, scientists estimate the oldest yews to be around 2,000 years old. In addition to their impressive longevity, yews were upheld as sacred in many cultures and are still often found in churchyards in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and France. The Celts, in particular, brought yew branches to the tombs of their recent dead to help guide the deceased back through the Land of Shadows. The yew relationship with mankind extends back so far, in fact, that the world’s oldest wooden artifact is a 424,000 to 374,000 year old yew spear head, and yew longbows from circa 4000 BCE have been unearthed in Scotland.
Fun fact:  The leaves of the European Yew are used to extract precursors from which drugs used in chemotherapy can, then, be synthetically derived.

 



Mozart Management Office 
515 South Aiken Avenue Suite 100 • Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Phone: 1.412.682.7000 • Fax: 1.855.751.5504
E-mail: info@mozartrents.com