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Yew (Taxus baccata)

Diputación de Málaga

Yew (Taxus baccata)

IDENTIFICATION

It is an evergreen bush (up to 20 m high) which usually does not exceed a small tree or bush bearing. Its canopy is pyramidal, very bushy and dark. The trunk, thick and short, is of an orange or pink colour. The leaves are elongated, narrow and short, uniform, ended in a tip, dark green on the beam and yellowish-green on the underside. They are set on a single plan, shaped like a double comb, on the branches and facing each other. There are male specimens forming male cones that produce pollen. Female trees produce a fake fleshy fruit which is actually a seed partially wrapped in a red cover. This wrap is called an aril.

WHERE DOES IT LIVE?

This species is indifferent to the kind of substrate (developing both in acid and calcareous soils), although it seems to prefer calcareous substrates. It grows in ravines, slopes or mixed forest crags, always in North-oriented slopes, between 1000 and 2000 meters above sea level, always coinciding with cool, humid and shady areas. It can bear cold easily, but not late frosts.

HOW DOES IT LIVE?

It is a dioecious species with unisexual flowers (male and female flowers on different trees). The flowers are small, greenish and solitary. Male flowers appear forming cones on the leaves armpits, on the lower face of the branches, they are solitary and rounded. Female flowers are very rudimentary. It flowers from March to April and fruits from August to October. Pollination is crossed, that means that a male tree fertilizes another different female one and makes it thanks to insects (entomophil). The natural germination period can last up to 18 months as the embryos have inhibitor agents.

WHERE CAN WE SEE IT IN THE MALAGA PROVINCE?

In the Málaga province, there are only a few loss specimens remaining or small isolated stands in the most protected and inaccessible areas of some mountain ranges. It is present in the Sierra de las Nieves and in Sierra Tejeda. In the Great Path (Gran Senda), it can be observed in high mountain areas near stage 7.

CURIOUS FACTS

The yew is a very long-lived tree with a great potential to be used for reforestation and landscape restoring. It is a very toxic plant. Only the seeds' arils can be ingested, which helps their dispersion by birds. The seeds, the wood, the leaves and the bark have a very toxic composite, precursor of the Taxol: a current powerful anticancer very used in chemotherapy.  The Iberian warriors who failed in the fight used the yew trees to commit suicide and ovoid being cough by the enemy.

SIMILAR SPECIES

It is an unmistakable species.

Routes where it can be observed

Plant Life > Trees, Bushes and Herbaceous Plants
Medios
Land
Flowering
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Flowers Fruits