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Monday, January 20, 2014

Taxus baccata 'Fastigata' - Irish Yew

The classic yew of Filoli Gardens and of the formal landscape gardens. Extremely formal, growing slowly to 30-50' by 10-15' wide. Discovered long ago in Ireland, it became known as the Irish Yew. These are pruned yearly as you might expect, while the ones in the next picture are at an arboretum and show the more natural habit. 

Leaves are evergreen, linear to narrowly lanceolate, 1" long, 1/8" wide, dark green with a distinct midrib and a pointed tip, generally arched and not flat like many other yews. Lower surface is lighter green with 2 bands of stomates. Most of the foliage is spreading around the stem and the stems are upright. On stems that may be less upright the leaves may be 2 ranked.

Of course the foliage and almost all parts of yew are toxic. Interestingly, the cancer drug Taxol is produced from yew trees, originally the wester yew bark, but research found that the hybrids produced higher concentration in the foliage.

Stems are ridged, bright green. You can see the 2 bands of stomates on the lower surface.

The "fruit" is a succulent cone … the red part is called an aril, and is the only edible part of a yew. The naked seed (its a gymnosperm) is located inside the aril. Aril is about 1/2" long. 

Here is the aril squished showing the seed. The aril is sticky but edible and reported to be sweet tasting, but I have no first hand experience. 

This is a picture of the trunk and roots of a very old T. baccata in England. I think it was at Painshill Park on the Sublime walk.

Hick's yew is a cultivar of the hybrid species T. x media (T. baccata X T. cuspidata) and has characteristics of both parents, not that telling the species apart is easy. The best way to tell them apart is hope that the specimens are mature, as the Hicks yew is narrower, though there are several "clones" of the Irish yew floating around so stick with the width but could be wrong. There is at least one gold cultivar as well.

525 Baltusrol Dr.
762 Rio Del Mar Blvd.

Santa Cruz
848 Walnut Ave - really nice ones

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