Taxus baccata - common yew, English yew

The yew is the longest-lived of all European conifers. It can achieve heights of 15-20m and the oldest individuals are estimated to be 1200-1500 years old. Yew trees have been highly respected and valued from pre-historic times, and the species is also regarded as a symbol of death, and of immortality. The wood itself, tough and durable, has been used in making lutes, and especially in the manufacture of longbows and crossbows. The war-filled history of Europe, with its demand for these weapons, lead to the almost total destruction of yew stands.

Taxus cuspidata - Japanese yew

The yew genus (Taxus) includes 8 species which are very similar in habit and in characteristics. They are all poisonous, slow-growing evergreen shrubs or trees which live long. They are all dioecious, i.e. the male plants produce pollen, while the separate female plants develop red berry-like cones in autumn, which are in fact naked seeds almost totally enclosed in a fleshy red aril.