The yew tree – taxis baccata – is native to Britain. The yew is the most long-lived of all European trees and many are more than 1000 years old. Its evergreen leaves and seeds are highly poisonous- although not the red flesh surrounding the seed. The latter is popular with birds and squirrels. Its longevity and toxicity have made it symbolic of both immortality and doom. Its strong wood has favoured its use for making long bows. More recently yew leaves have been found to contain compounds that can be used to treat cancers.
“The yew tree is the most important of all healing trees, it said. It lives for thousands of years. Its berries, its bark, its leaves, its sap, its pulp, its wood, they all thrum and burn and twist with life. It can cure almost any ailment man suffers from, mixed and treated by the right apothecary.” Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls
My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. Psalm 73:26