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Introducing..The Fastigate (or Irish) Yew.

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

As it is near to St Patrick's Day, let's take a look at this rather intriguing tree.

Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata' (Irish Yew). This fine tree is in the Churchyard of All Saints, Rothbury. It was planted some time after 1900.

Look how it holds it branches upright, with clustered branches, narrowing at the top (fastigate). These trees are nearly all female and produce beautiful red berries. Growing at a rate of about 6-12 inches each year, this attractive evergreen tree can grow to 30 ft tall, and 8 ft wide. This species can only be grown from cuttings, because if they grow from the seed, they revert to common yew trees.

Poisonous! It is well known that the needles and seeds of yew trees are toxic to livestock, other animals, and humans. If humans ingest the needles, seeds or bark, this can be fatal. The pretty berry of the Irish Yew contains only one seed. These berries are eaten by birds, and safely passed through.

The remains of some berries can be seen here, on the All Saints Irish Yew. Photo taken in March, 2023.

Where was the FIRST Fastigate Yew found?

The very first Fastigate Yew was found in the mountains of Fermanagh (on the slopes of Cuilcagh) in 1767. A farmer, George Willis, found two unusual little seedlings, and he took one home, which he planted in his own garden. It lived until 1865. He gave the other one to the first Earl of Enniskillen, who was his landlord. The Earl, Lord Mount Florence, had the seedling planted on his estate, Florencecourt, County Fermanagh. It is still there now.

By the 1820s the Irish, or Fastigate, Yew tree was being reproduced commercially. All Irish Yews throughout the world are believed to have come from the one at Florence Court.

This beauty was planted in about 1920 in a garden in Rothbury.

These three Fastigate Yews were not present in 1930 (when it was the Station Hotel). So they are not really very old!

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about the unusual, iconic, Fastigate Yew.


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