Question for those across the pond

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Question for those across the pond

Post  Michael T on Sun Oct 04, 2009 10:46 pm

Does taxus only grow wild in Europe? Is it a nursery shrub like it is in the States?

I've always wondered what the attraction was to taxus in Europe, but my impression is its a sought after tree in Europe.

Here, it seems like they are in everyone's front yard.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  JimLewis on Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:30 am

Taxus canadensis is the so-called American yew. It grows from Newfoundland to West Virginia and Iowa.

There also is Taxus floridana which grows along the Apalachicola River in Liberty County, Florida and nowhere else in the world. It is one of the rarest trees in the world. I know where a small grove survives, but I won't tell. clown

I'm petty sure that T. floridana has never been made into a bonsai. Dunno about the American yew.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  wabashene on Mon Oct 05, 2009 12:07 pm

Taxus Baccata (English Yew) is a very common hedge plant in the UK for sure and available in every garden store. Also popular for topiary and mazes with Hampton Court Palace Maze (HenryVIII) being the most famous.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxus_baccata

The hedge stock is invariably straight, uniform and boring hence the desire to collect wild specimens.

You look into an old English forest in mid winter and the blobs of blackish/green you can see in the distance are almost always yew or holly.

Traditionally used to make longbows and large specimens are often found in old churchyards (Salisbury Catherdral near me for one).

It seems that the churches were maybe built around the yews and not the other way around.

Cue Treebeard Chris

Very Happy

TimR

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Treebeard on Mon Oct 05, 2009 1:00 pm

Thank you Tim Smile

The well-known Ankerwycke yew, said to be several thousand years old. In the grounds of the ruined Ankerwycke Priory in Surrey, England.


A pair of yews flanking the door of St Edward's church in Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire, England.


A couple at Chesters Roman fort in Northumberland, England.


And this one is in the grounds of St John's church in Keswick, Cumbria, England.


As Tim says, very commonly found in association wqith religious sites, Christian and pre-christian.

Chris.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Kev Bailey on Mon Oct 05, 2009 1:10 pm

Great Yew photo's Chris. Just to add a bit. The majority of large surviving Yews are in enclosures to prevent livestock poisoning from the leaves and seeds. Despite their poisonous nature the trees remained in cultivation in the UK for the quality of their timber, as TimR mentioned, for longbow production.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Norma on Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:43 pm

Como Zoo in St. Paul Minnesota which shares a beautiful park with our conservatory has planted both English and Japanese yew in it's gardens. In July 2000 two orangutans died from eating clippings from a yew that had been trimmed near their enclosure.

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-63100636.html

Are all yews this toxic ?

Norma

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  wabashene on Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:03 pm

Hi Norma,

Taxus Baccata (English Yew) certainly is.

See the Wiki article linked above fwiw.

The poison element Taxane yields a cancer fighting chemo drug it seems as well.

Ironic or what!

TimR

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Yew too

Post  gman on Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:27 pm

We have the western yew (Taxus brevifolia) and its poisonous. I haven't seen any used in Bonsai but I've been keeping my eye out for one.
G

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Michael T on Mon Oct 05, 2009 6:45 pm

Any reason why the American Yew (Taxus Candensis) wouldn't be suitable for bonsai purposes. I would assume the leaf characteristics would be much the same among varieties.

Surely, Taxus Baccata isn't only variety done as bonsai?

I suppose I need to post pics of the one I am working with as well.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  JimLewis on Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:21 pm

I don't know as I've ever seen a Canadian yew. Here's what Dr. Dirr says about them :

Leaves: Densely set in 2 ranks, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, 1/16 to 1/12 inch wide.

Size: 3 to 6 feet to 8 feet broad, often twice as wide as high at maturity.

Habit: Often prostrate, loose, straggling; leaders prostrate and rooting in the ground; very straggly shrub compared to other yew types.

Maybe not scintillating bonsai material.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Treebeard on Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:48 pm

Some more yew trivia...

The leaves contain a Toxic alkaloid, which affects horses and cattle but not goats, sheep or deer.

The seeds inside the red fruit are poisonous, but the red flesh of the fruit is not.

Most of the yew longbows that served England so well in Medieval times actually came from Southern European countries, Italy & Spain. British yew was not generally reckoned to be of good enough quality.

And to answer the original question, yes it grows wild in Europe, and yes you can buy it as a nursery shrub Smile

Chris.


Last edited by Treebeard on Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:58 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Harleyrider on Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:51 pm

I was under the impression that the reason Yews are found in so many old graveyards was because in the middle ages a law was passed that every parish had to provide X number of archers to the king in case of war. They also had to provide their own weapons, and the only place which was regularly fenced off in those days was the church grounds, thus providing the only place where Yew could be grown unhindered.
I suppose the truth could lie somewhere between that and the poisoning the livestock theory?

On a side-note, there is still an ancient law on the British statute books that says every man of fighting age (ie: 12 and above) has to spend at least three hours each week practicing longbow on the village green.

Just thought I'd slip that one in.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Kev Bailey on Mon Oct 05, 2009 8:57 pm

Dang, I snapped my longbow when I strung it. Does that mean I've been breaking the law for 15 years?

Another snippet. The longbow was developed by the Welsh for use against the English!

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Harleyrider on Mon Oct 05, 2009 9:17 pm

And we all know where the 'V' sign came from, don't we?

Another useless piece of completely unrelated information (I'm full of 'em). Did you know that a Hackney carriage driver (London black cab, for non-brits), is obliged to carry a bale of hay in his boot to feed his horses? It's never enforced these days, obviously, but the law is still on the books.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Kev Bailey on Mon Oct 05, 2009 9:31 pm

I've got both fingers too Steve. Razz

How the heck are we going to get this back to bonsai with you bringing taxis and horses into the mix?

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Treebeard on Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:13 pm

Harleyrider wrote:I suppose the truth could lie somewhere between that and the poisoning the livestock theory?
Opinion is divided... there is another theory, that yews were planted deliberately in church grounds to make sure farmers kept their livestock off.

I don't keep yew bonsai, so I wonder if they fruit in a pot... does anyone know?

Chris.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Guest on Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:25 pm

I think the Welsh bow was a very rough bow and mainly made from Elm. As far as the English flicking v's at the French at Agincourt, this is an urban myth as it was never mentioned in any writings of the time. The longbow being a long range weapon, needed great strength to draw and usually involved three fingers.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  JimLewis on Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:50 pm

We need a penjing with a mudman Robin Hood aiming a drawn longbow at a Hackney cab parked under a spreading yew (while the horse eats the hay).

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Kev Bailey on Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:50 pm

Yes they do fruit in a pot. I've got a few red berries on my T cuspidata.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Tony on Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:52 pm

Treebeard wrote:Opinion is divided... there is another theory,
I don't keep yew bonsai, so I wonder if they fruit in a pot... does anyone know?
Chris.
Hi Chris, I have collected over a dozen books specifically about the Yew... and interestingly Your comments match exactly the same as what I have concluded...we must be reading the same books.

For sure 'English' yew was not of sufficient quality for Bows... Spanish yew was used as the grain is closer together and produced stronger and more flexible bows... and discovered on the 'Mary Rose'

Two fingers... modern Myth

Churchyard yews... often the trees were there before the churches.. Pagan in origin... Christan's adopting the same sites... nothing to do with livestock

Lots more Yew lore if you take the time to read it

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  JLudlam on Tue Oct 06, 2009 5:47 am

[quote="JimLewis"] There also is Taxus floridana which grows along the Apalachicola River in Liberty County, Florida and nowhere else in the world. It is one of the rarest trees in the world. I know where a small grove survives, but I won't tell. clown quote]

Well it looks like I am gonna have a "fishing trip" to do here in a couple of days to see if I may can figure out where that is, need to get out and run the old boat anyways. Maybe I might just find one that I can keep my eyes on and slowly work while its still in the woods. Afterall its only about an hour away and being on the injured list with my current crushed hand (tragically right hand dominat, no pointer finger now which tends to makes pinching a tough job, but hey I can do fractions on my hand now) anyways I havent got much else to do so why not explore.

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  JimLewis on Tue Oct 06, 2009 3:16 pm

Happy searching, but remember the tree is on the Federal and State Endangered species list. Biologists estimate there may be less than 200 trees left in the wild. Period.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  Tony on Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:00 pm

JimLewis wrote:Happy searching, but remember the tree is on the Federal and State Endangered species list. Biologists estimate there may be less than 200 trees left in the wild. Period.
I am on the endangered species list... but every once in a while someone has a dig at me Rolling Eyes

Tony

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Re: Question for those across the pond

Post  JLudlam on Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:30 pm

JimLewis wrote:Happy searching, but remember the tree is on the Federal and State Endangered species list. Biologists estimate there may be less than 200 trees left in the wild. Period.


Yeah some of them are on Toreya State park, honestly though I really wouldnt touch them, I believe that some things should remain in nature for the next generation to see. Why risk the chance of loosing. Well Unless I know that I am headed up your way, then I may just have to drop one on your doorstep, just a little gift to get your hands dirty lol!

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Question from Across the Pond

Post  bonsaisr on Tue Oct 06, 2009 5:10 pm

I have seen American yew in the woods. Yes, it is straggly & unprepossessing. More important, I have read that it can't tolerate sun, which would let it out for both landscaping and bonsai. Most of the garden yews that you see in the Northeast are Taxus xmedia, a cross between cuspidata & baccata. People occasionally use them for bonsai.
Iris

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Re: Question for those across the pond

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