yew

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yew,

name for evergreen trees or shrubs of the genus Taxus, somewhat similar to hemlock but bearing red berrylike fruits instead of true cones. Of somber appearance, with dark green leaves, the yew since antiquity has been associated with death and funeral rites. The English yew (T. baccata) was used for the longbows of English archers. The wood of several yews is still employed in making bows and for cabinetwork. In North America the most common species is a low, spreading shrub (T. canadensis), called also ground hemlock, which is native to Canada and to the NW United States. The most commonly cultivated yews in the E United States are varieties of the Japanese yew, T. cuspidata. Yews are often trimmed into hedges. Several related evergreen species are also cultivated for ornament, e.g., the plum-yews, of the Asian genus Cephalotaxus. Most parts of the yew plant are poisonous. There is little or no record of medicinal use by Native Americans. However, an important anticancer drug, taxol (effective against ovarian and possibly other cancers), occurs in the Pacific yew (T. brevifolia), the English yew, and others. Taxol prevents breakdown of cell microtubules, consequently preventing cell division. Yew is classified in the division PinophytaPinophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called gymnosperms. The gymnosperms, a group that includes the pine, have stems, roots and leaves, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Pinopsida, order Coniferales, family Taxaceae.
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yew

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(botany)
A genus of evergreen trees and shrubs, Taxus, with the fruit, an aril, containing a single seed surrounded by a scarlet, fleshy, cuplike envelope; the leaves are flat and acicular.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

yew

traditionally planted in churchyards; symbol of deathlessness. [Br. Legend: Brewer Dictionary, 1171]

yew

tree symbolizes grief. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 178]

yew

symbol of immortality; hence, planted in churchyards and near Druid temples. [Br. Legend: Brewer Dictionary, 967]
See: Trees
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

yew

1. any coniferous tree of the genus Taxus, of the Old World and North America, esp T. baccata, having flattened needle-like leaves, fine-grained elastic wood, and solitary seeds with a red waxy aril resembling berries: family Taxaceae
2. the wood of any of these trees, used to make bows for archery
3. Archery a bow made of yew
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
So please take a minute to sign the petition to gain proper protection for our ancient yews. We are close to reaching the target but need your help.
The variety Fastigiata (pictured top left), also known as Irish yew, has an upright columnar habit, measuring up to 1.8m x 60cm.
The ancient yew - reckoned to be some 500 years old - may first have been planted around the time Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.
In this paper we evaluate the evolution of yew (Taxus baccata) in the Basque Mountains (Northern Iberian Peninsula) during the Holocene.
The yews have grown from saplings into mature trees creating solid walls twisting and turning into the centre along 1,200 metres of grass pathways.
TRIMMINGS from yew hedges around Chirk Castle are being collected as they contain a vital ingredient found in a lifesaving anti-cancer drug.
Northern Ontario has been chosen as the prime location for the exploration and potential cultivation of the Canada yew, a plant that has important medicinal properties and is found across the country.
Yew trees in a historic Midland garden have been put at the forefront of today's battle against cancer.
According to the NEA press statement, YEWS is designed as a "secure, proprietary, Internet-based communications system that will allow for rapid transmission of information on the status of nuclear facility operations, local grid stability and telecommunications during the Y2K transition period".
In her book, "Wood," Jane Struthers writes that opinion is divided on just why yews are associated with churchyards.