Yews are slow-growing and can ultimately reach heights up to
130 feet, with trunk diameters up to 12 feet. Unlike most other coniferous
plants, yews can produce new shoots from bare wood. They can be very long-lived,
with several living specimens in Europe estimated to be about 3,000 years old.
Despite their potential longevity, they require well-drained soil, and will die
prematurely if the soil around their roots remains saturated.
All yews contain highly poisonous alkaloids in all parts
except the arils, which are edible and sweet. Birds can eat the arils with the
seed intact because their digestive systems cannot break down the seed coat to
release the poisons. However, humans and most domesticated animals like cattle
and horses can die from eating yew seeds or foliage. Deer are able to break down
the poisons and will eat yew foliage freely.