The yew tree, Taxus baccatta, is one of only three conifers native to the UK. They are either male or female trees (dioecious), this one is male. The little flowers, looking like tiny cauliflowers, open up and release their pollen.
Yews are very slow growing and can reach several hundred years of age. They were often planted in churchyards, or near the entrances of old houses, to ward off evil spirits or witches. All parts of the tree are poisonous, except to some caterpillars and the berries on the female trees are edible to birds. The leaves are used to make Taxol, an anti-cancer drug. The hard wood was traditionally used to make spears up to 50,000 years ago and long bows at least 10,000 years ago. Britain’s oldest yew is thought to be up to 5,000 years old and although male, parts of it have recently started producing female berries.