Today I found some beautiful and extraordinary fruit, belonging to a female Yew shrub (Taxus baccata). I never fail to be fascinated by these poisonous wonders. The glutinous (and delicious) fruit flesh is wrapped around a deadly exposed seed. Quite amazing to see!
Yew trees are either male or female. Both are full of deadly toxins – throughout all parts of the tree. Yew has been revered by the British for millennia. Druids apparently built their temples next to them, Christians built churches next to them. It’s very unusual to enter a traditional British church yard and not walk beside an ancient (or young) Yew. I like that.
I was taught the secret of how tasty the flesh of the fruit is, some years ago by a friend who worked with trees. Since then I try to enjoy one or two of those sweet, fragrant, glutinous morsels each year. But it’s not a practice to undertake lightly or ever in the presence of children! The seed must not be broken or swallowed, it is highly poisonous!
In recent decades Taxus baccata has yielded Taxol, a cancer fighting drug, often used to treat some ovarian cancers. Here’s a link that may be interesting about the Yew tree and conservation efforts, in light of this modern use.