The yew is one of the most fascinating and versatile life forms on Earth, botanically rich and intriguing and culturally almost without comparison. In history, mythology, religion, folklore, medicine and in warfare, the yew bears timeless witness to a deep relationship with mankind. It is the tree that Darwin often rested beneath and under which he wanted to be buried until public opinion decreed a higher status internment in Westminster Abbey. It was under the great Ankerwyke yew at Runnymede in Buckinghamshire that Magna Carta is believed to have been sworn by the barons in 1215.
In 1803 Wordsworth celebrated the great yew in Lorton Vale, 'single, in the midst of its own darkness', a tree under which both the great Quaker George Fox and John Wesley preached. In many cultures it is the Tree of Life, and its association with churchyards in Britain and Europe has given it a particular claim on the popular imagination as a living link between our landscapes and those of the distant past. Fred Hageneder's fascinating book is the first to cover all aspects of the botany as well as the cultural history and remarkable mythology of the genus Taxus.
FRED HAGENEDER is Chairman of Friends of the Trees and founder of the Ancient Yew Tree group (http://www.ancient-yew.org/) , aimed to protect and promote yew trees throughout Europe. He has devoted 20 years to collecting wide-ranging material on trees. His website is www.spirit-of-trees.de