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Taxus baccata

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA PINOPSIDA PINALES TAXACEAE

Scientific Name: Taxus baccata
Species Authority: L.
Common Name(s):
English Common Yew, European Yew
French If

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2010-08-10
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P.
Justification:

The Common Yew (Taxus baccata) has a very extensive range throughout Europe and beyond. Exploitation and attempts at eradication are no longer current. Cultivated rather than wild populations are exploited for chemical compounds to produce Taxol® unlike the situation with other yew species. Expansion is observed in many woodlands in recent decades.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Taxus baccata occurs in all European countries as well as those in the Caucasus, and from Turkey eastwards to northern Iran. In North Africa it occurs in Morocco and Algeria. Consequently its extent of occurrence is well in excess of the Red List thresholds for any threatened category.
Countries:
Native:
Albania; Algeria; Andorra; Armenia (Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh); Austria; Azerbaijan (Nakhichevan); Belgium; Bulgaria; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France (Corsica); Georgia (Abkhaziya, Adzhariya); Germany; Gibraltar; Greece (Kriti); Guernsey; Hungary; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Ireland; Isle of Man; Italy (Sardegna, Sicilia); Jersey; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Malta; Moldova; Monaco; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal (Azores); Romania; Russian Federation (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetiya, Kabardino-Balkariya, Kaliningrad, Karachaevo-Cherkessiya, Krasnodar, Severo-Osetiya, Stavropol); Serbia (Serbia); Spain (Baleares); Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey (Turkey-in-Europe); Ukraine (Krym); United Kingdom
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The global population is increasing due to changed woodland management, which has become less intensified in many parts of Europe. In Scandinavia, it may be expected to expand inland from coastal areas if the warming climate trend continues.
Population Trend: Increasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Taxus baccata is capable of growing under (not entirely closed) canopy of beech (Fagus spp.) as well as other deciduous broad-leaved trees, but it will only develop to large trees in more open situations. In Switzerland, the richest area of Central Europe for yew, it forms a yew-beech wood on cool, steep marl slopes in the Jura and the foothills of the Alps up to 1,400 m a.s.l. (Ellenberg 1988). Under the evergreen Common Yew, nothing else will grow. In England, T. baccata is best developed on chalk downs - again on steep slopes - and can form extensive stands outside the beech woods invading down grassland. In much of Europe where the climate is less oceanic it survives better in mixed forests, coniferous as well as mixed broad-leaved-conifer forests, again mostly on limestone substrates, and often occupying rocky cliffs and slopes. On acid soils yews perform less well under canopy and usually do not develop beyond a sapling stage in woods. Its northern limits in Scandinavia are determined by its sensitivity to severe frost. Its toxicity (all parts except the red arils around the seeds) prevent browsing by cattle and sheep, but not by rabbits and deer, as these animals have developed a level of immunity to the dangerous alkaloids. Apart from seed germination (dispersed by birds), T. baccata readily regenerates from stumps and roots (suckers); ancient hollow trees may rejuvenate constantly in this way. When planted, e.g. in church yards and cemeteries, soil pH seems unimportant; some of the largest and presumably oldest specimen trees in NW Europe, in particular Brittany (France) and the British Isles, are known from such locations and were planted probably since Celtic times
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the Middle Ages the wood of Common Yew was very much in demand for long-bows and cross-bows and was exported from Switzerland to England. Yews were also planted near sacred wells, early Christian churches, monasteries, and castles for symbolic/religious reasons as well as practical (military) ones. It still is one of the obligatory cemetery trees in NW and Central Europe. The hard, slow growing wood is used for gates, furniture, parquet floors, panelling, and is excellent for carving and wood turning as its contorted growth and 'burls' form intricate, vari-coloured patterns. For the same reasons yew does not provide timber suitable for construction. The toxicity to cattle and horses has led to extermination of Taxus baccata from many woodlands in past centuries, when almost all woodland served for grazing animals. Although of lower concentration than in some other species, its alkaloid taxanes, contained mostly in the leaves, yield a semi-synthesized anti-cancer drug similar to Taxol® and yew hedge clippings can still be sold to pharmaceutical companies. As an ornamental shrub or tree it reappeared in the formal gardens of the Baroque period, as it lends itself to clipped hedges and topiary of all shapes. This horticultural interest has in turn led to the development of numerous cultivars, some of which have bright yellow arils around the seeds.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although in past centuries Yew has been 'persecuted' in much of Europe and it had become rare in many areas, with the changes in woodland management and use since the nineteenth century the species has made a remarkable come-back and is not in danger of extinction in the wild.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Common Yew is present in numerous protected areas throughout its range. In Europe, several yew dominated communities are covered under the EU Habitats Directive. Additionally there are many societies in various countries devoted to yew conservation, especially older trees.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2013. Taxus baccata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 24 July 2014.
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