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This is just a short piece I recently did for the British Conifer Society Journal, it’s not really a gardening subject as such, so I hope you all don’t mind me putting it out as a blog.

The majority of the world’s ancient yews are to be found in the British Isles, of which more than 80% are in churchyards. This particular yew is situated in the grounds of St. Mary’s, the parish church of Lytchett Matravers, a village just north of Poole in Dorset.
It is impossible to accurately date ancient yews due to their ability to constantly regenerate themselves. With great age new shoots can grow from the base of the main trunk, as these develop they merge and fuse with the trunk to form buttress-like structures which sometimes become thick enough to support the tree. The original heartwood and trunk decays and this secondary growth forms the new tree.
The tree at St. Mary’s contains six separate sections, most of which come together at a height of about 2 meters, fusing both inner and outer growth. The girth of the trunk is approximately seven meters if measured at its widest point at about one meter from the ground. The age of the tree has been estimated at 1600 years and pre-dates the church by some 800 years, giving rise to the possibility that the site may have been a place of previous pagan worship.

With acknowledgements to the Ancient Yew Group –

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Fantastic. i love trees, the older the better, this one is a real beauty.

6 Nov, 2008


This is Great Bluespruce :) I also love Trees i think The Oak is My Fav ? But this Yew is Stunning :O Thanx 4 sharing the Story&Pics :)x

6 Nov, 2008


What a wonderful ancient tree! What history it's seen. amazing to see those statistics. I learn something every day!

P.S. There's a Yew in my garden... I don't think its as old as that, though! LOL.

6 Nov, 2008


I love to see old churchyards with ancient yews. This was very interesting.
Near here some years ago they started to chop down an old yew tree to make room for a quarry but protesters won I'm glad to say. Not much of the yew survived but it's growing back.

7 Nov, 2008


There is something about the Yew which draws me to it, I can quite understand why an air of mystery has developed about it.
Not long after I moved in the fence bordering on the public footpath was blown down. I couldn't understand why a fence had been erected there, a hedge seemed more logical. Although yews are supposed to take a while to develop into a hedge I decided to fill the gap with a Yew hedge. I bought a dozen on Ebay and was delighted with the quality of the plants that arrived. I prepared the ground and planted them. Some of the neighbours weren't happy to wait for them to develop and asked to erect wooden panels. I agreed, thinking they would protect the yew as the hedge developed. I was none to pleased to come back one weekend to find the panels up and three quarters of my yews missing!
Paul had a similar experience when his neighbour sold the bottom of his garden for development and replaced the dividing hedge and Paul's 20+ year old Yew tree with wooden panels.
I can understand people disliking Leylandii, I do myself, but what do they have against the Yew? It is just as useful, far more beautiful and even has attractive berries for part of the year.

9 Nov, 2008


Amazing! Imagine, a tree you can really hide in!

20 Dec, 2008


I've just found this blog, what an amazing tree. I didn't know the details of how they regenerate, I suppose this is why they're used in religious settings as symbolising rebirth or everlasting life, fascinating. The yew trees in our old local churchyard have these base produced shoots which have merged with the main trunk. I wondered why the trunk was shaped the way it was and you have solved the mystery. I did upload a photo of one of the yews if you are interested. Thanks for the blog, much enjoyed:-)

20 Nov, 2009


Fascinating. I love yew trees. They were used as survey markers at one time to denote property boundaries, as they lived so long. There's some interesting stuff about pagan and Christian legends about yews and why they are so often found in churchyards here:
The wood was also used for longbows as it has a definite 'spring' to it; i.e., it can be bent and will not split easily, and then returns to its original straight state. Great blog, bluespruce.

10 Dec, 2009


Thank you Elke

10 Dec, 2009


Thanks for the info too Elke, I'm going to look now:-)

12 Dec, 2009


Thanks, Bluespruce, for this interesting blog. You've told us things about the Yew tree that most of us didn't know! I've always found them fascinating trees.

19 Dec, 2009

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