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Yew

Yews are a family (Taxaceae) of evergreen coniferous trees and shrubs often used in landscaping and ornamental horticulture. Yews are extremely slow growing. The yew has flat, dark-green needles, reddish bark, and bears seeds with red arils[?] which, in Canada are eaten by cedar waxwings and other birds. Because the yew is a conifer it technically does not yield berries.

In England yews often occur in churchyards, as a symbol of long life, and some are known to be 2000 years old. An aternative explanation is that the poisonous berries discourage farmers and drovers from letting their animals wander into the burial grounds.

Symbolically, yews are considered the trees of death.

Yew wood is white, flexible, and tough, and was traditionally used to make bows, especially the English longbow.

A species of yew native to the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Yew, Taxus pacificus, in the United States is the source of taxol, a drug with apparent anti-cancer activity.

All species of yew contain the alkaloid taxine[?], which comes in several varieties indicated by letters. All parts of the tree except the arils contain dangerously toxic amounts of the alkaloid. When injested, the toxins work so quickly that the victim simply gasps and then drops dead from heart failure. Children sometimes eat the arils, but they are fortunately the least toxic part. Grazing animals are sometimes found dead near yew trees.



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