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Featured Plant

 

Taxus

 

Taxus or yew is a genus of small coniferous trees or shrubs in the Taxaceae family that have been used by humans for many millennia. Yew wood is very springy and strong. The oldest discovered wooden implement is a spear made of yew, about 50,000 years old. Excavations have also found many yew bows and knives from 10,000 years ago. Historically, yew bows (for shooting arrows) were the weapon of choice for hunting and warfare in Europe until the invention of firearms. Robin Hood, a figure of 14th century English legend, used a "bow of yew," as did the English longbow archers in their defeat of the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 under Henry V. To keep archers supplied with bows, English parishes in medieval times were required to grow yews and, because of the trees' toxic properties, they were grown in the enclosed church graveyards and are still commonly found there.

 

Yews have reddish bark, evergreen, lanceolate, flat, dark-green leaves .5 to 1.5 inches long and up to 1/8 inch wide, in two flat rows on either side of the stem. Yew plants are mostly dioecious (either male or female). Their seed cone contains a single seed about ¼ inch long partly surrounded by a modified scale, which develops into a soft, bright red, berry-like structure called an aril. The arils are about ½ inch long and wide and open at the end, and are eaten by birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings. The male cones are globose and shed their pollen in early spring

 

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