Taxus baccata (European Yew Tree)
Here is some research of European Yew tree and about its product, Yew longbow.

Figure 1. Taxus baccata (blogspot, 2010)

The Plant

About the Plant

Scientific name of European yew tree is Taxus baccata. Taxus baccata is a conifer, which means it is a cone-bearing seed plant. It originated from North Africa, South-west Asia and Europe (pfaf, n.d.). The tree belongs to the family of Taxaceae.

Appearance of Plant

Taxus baccata is a long-lived tree with an average height of 15 meters. The leaves are dark green with a needle-like shape while the bark is reddish-brown. This tree contains red berry-like fruits (called aril) that contain poisonous seeds inside it. The aril is the only non-poisonous part in the entire tree. see Figure 2 for the appearance.
Figure 2. Yew Tree Appearance (meemelink, 2010)

Environment Conditions

Yew trees are slow growing and live for a very long time. They can adapt to most of the environments, however a well-drained, moist soil is more preferable. It can survive in partial or full exposure to the sun. The best altitude for Taxus baccata range from 100m to 4400m while the average temperature can be anywhere from 8˚C to 21˚C. (worldagroforestry, n.d.)

Location of Plant

The European yew tree is mostly found in Europe because of its popularity for longbows. Other places that this tree can be found in include Britain, North Africa, the Caucasus, Iran and Himalayas (pfaf, n.d.). Refer to Figure 3 for other locations around the world.

Figure 3. World Map Taxus baccata (Discoverlife, 2010)

The Product

About the Product

One product that is made from Taxus baccata is Yew Longbow. A yew longbow is a weapon that shoots arrows from long ranges. It was a new invention in medieval times as it brought more success to warriors. Yew longbows are made from the wood of the tree. The wood is very toxic, therefore it is essential to be careful with it.You can get this product either by buying it from the store or by making one yourself. See Figure 5 for the appearance of Yew longbow.

Making the Product

Making the product requires 5 steps as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Process of making a yew longbow

Beneficial/Harmful Impacts

Beneficial impacts

In the old times, hunters and fighters mainly used the longbows for hunting and warfare. Whenever there was a war, economy got better as more warriors bought more longbows. Societies were protected by the use of archery because there were fewer invasions by other territories. It also became easier for people to hunt for animals from long ranges. Nowadays, longbows are used for archery in sports and Olympics and this helps the economy as the sales for longbows remain stable. Wood can be recycled, therefore, longbows are good for environment.
Figure 5. Bow and Arrow (uiowa, 2010)

Production of other Products

European yew trees are widely used in landscaping. It is a great tree for decoration in gardens. The tree is also used for medicinal purposes especially for chest complaints. It is believed to treat rheumatism, fever, and some other sickness.

Harmful impacts

One harmful impact of the production of longbows is loss of trees. More trees are being cut which harms the environment because it causes carbon dioxide to be released into the air. Moreover, transportation of wood around the world causes pollution; this affects the health of many living things. Societies are also affected by global warming because more diseases are easily spread. Furthermore, economy can also be affected from the production of longbows. For example, a factory produces many longbows for a war and only some of it is used up, but the rest is wasted.

Alternative Products

A composite bow is an alternative product proposed to replace a longbow. A composite bow is usually made from more than one material and the best thing about composite bow is that it is available in relatively small sizes.


European yew tree (Taxus baccata) is a cone-bearing seed plant that has an average height of 15 meters. They grow slowly but live for very long. They are usually found in many places such as North Africa and Himalayas. Many products are made from European yew trees such as yew longbows and medicines. There are also many beneficial and harmful impacts from the production of longbows. Many of these beneficial impacts include humans hunting animals easily and society being secure. Many harmful impacts include carbon dioxide being released in the air and habitat of animals being destroyed.

Interesting Facts
Figure 6. Aril (flickr, 2007)

- Most parts of the tree are toxic, except the bright red aril surrounding the seed, as shown in Figure 6.
- Its an evergreen tree that stays green all year round.
- Yew is called "tree of death" because its mostly poisonous.
- Many yew trees found are usually very old, more than 400 000 years old.


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