Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive

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This is one of a series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens compiled by the Friends group. The tree tag number relates to the BCC black tree maintenance tags, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.
Family: Taxaceae
Taxus baccata L.
Yew tree, English yew (also Irish yew and golden yew)

Black tag 21
54o 34.992N
5o 56.124W

The yew tree is one of the three conifers native to Ireland (the others are Scot's pine and juniper). Three forms of yew are represented in the Belfast Botanic Gardens: the wild form, the 'Irish' form, and a golden form. The wild form has a spreading shape and is usually a much lobed stem. Today, yews are seldom seen more than 7-8m high, but the species is capable of forming a substantial forest tree. Fossil remains of large yews are found in the bogs of central Ireland dating from a time 6000 to 8000 years ago, when yew formed a significant component of the native forests. Wild yews are hard to find in the north of Ireland now, but take the scenic road to the Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh and you will pass some close to the road. It was in this limestone area that two unusual yews with an upright or fastigiate shape were found in 1780. They were transplanted to the Florencecourt estate a few miles away where one survived and was named the Irish Yew. The original tree still grows there and the Irish yews cultivated all over the world have originated from this plant. Several golden forms have arisen in cultivation.

There are a number of native yews in the Botanic Gardens, for example, on the main path from the Stranmillis Road gate. The Golden yews and the best examples of the Irish Yews are on the grass in front of the Palm House.

Taxus baccata in Belfast Botanic gardens ovules of Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata in Belfast Botanic Gardens

Young ovule (to right of picture) and 1-year ovule

male cones on golden form of English yew

Golden form Taxus baccata in Belfast Botanic Gardens

Male cones on golden form of English yew

Golden yew in Belfast Botanic Gardens

Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata' in Belfast Botanic Gardens

Irish yew Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata'

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2009. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.

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