We have an elderly Yew tree in our garden and it's the preferred tree for birds visiting our feeding stations.
They are one of the longest lived trees in the UK and are frequently found in church yards. The oldest one sits in Fortingall churchyard in Perthdhire (2000-3000 years old). I intend to visit it one day.
It was thought that Yew trees had the power to ward off evil spirits. They were also the preferred wood for the manufacture of Bows (archery) leading to, I believe, the term yeomen of England.
The notable victory at the Battle of Crecy by the English over the french was thought to be the start of the 2 fingered salute. A taunt by the bowmen who used those fingers to draw the bow. I am given to understand that if a bowman was captured by the French, they cut off those fingers. This made it very difficult for the bowmen to sign on the dole. (That last bit is a joke!)
The berries are poisonous to people but not apparently to birds. Around 30 berries is a lethal dose, yet despite this the yew is the source (or was) for the ingredient in the anti cancer drug tamoxifen.
I can help you there Sandra. In far off times, livestock used to stray and make nuisance of themselves.
The church planted Yew trees because they are poisonous, forcing people to make sure their animals kept out of churchyards.
It's a bit like folk in the past planting Rowan trees in their smallholdings, becsuse everyone knew that they warded off evil spirits. In fact, if you come across a Rowan tree, look around, because it's probably the site of a croft.
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