Yew, English yew, European yew (Eng), tejo (Spa), teix (Cat), hagina (Baq), teixo (Glg), teixo (Por).
Rows of very ancient yew trees cut into strange designs girded it round. […] I have said that a decoration of yew trees circled the garden.”
‘The Valley of Fear. The Tragedy of Birlstone’, Arthur Conan Doyle
This evergreen tree can be up to 20 m tall, but normally it is no bigger than a very branching small tree or shrub. It has a very dense and dark, pyramidal crown, and casts very deep shade under its canopy. The trunk tends to be thick, short and orangey or pinkish in colour. The leaves are linear, uniform, and pointed at the tip. They are 10-30 mm long, 1.5-3 mm wide, dark green on the upper side and yellowish-green on the underside. They are arranged in a flat row on the twigs, in the form of a double comb, facing each other two by two. The male specimens bear pollen-producing cones. The female trees produce the fleshy fruits (false fruits), but which actually consist of a seed partially enveloped by a red covering (aril).
The yew is indifferent to substrate and grows in ravines, on slopes or in rocky areas of mixed forests, at altitudes of up to 2000 m. Many place names throughout the Iberian Peninsula provide evidence of the former distribution and relative abundance of this species. Today its range is significantly reduced and there are just individual specimens or small isolated stands remaining in the most protected and inaccessible mountain areas, as in these places you can find areas of high environmental quality, reason enough for these enclaves to be protected.
This tree lives in Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. In the Iberian Peninsula this species is widely scattered and very scarce, although there are still some relict yew forests in certain places in the north of the peninsula where it is more abundant. This species is becoming rarer and towards the south it finds refuge in cool mountainous areas.