Ancient and deadly

DAY 134 (17 AUGUST) – Yew (Taxus baccata) (Farnham)

I learnt a new word today: aril. I would have called these berries but they aren’t. Though we are firmly in berry (or berry-look-a-like) season now. All parts of the yew tree are poisonous except the arils (the red fleshy parts) that surround the very toxic seeds. But birds cleverly feed on the arils and pass the seeds out again in their droppings.

Apart from their toxicity, yews are well known in other ways. They live a very long time: the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is thought to be 2000-3000 years old. They are often planted in churchyards (this one is close by but not in) and the wood was used to make longbows and lutes.

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