Thursday, 4 October 2012

Bittersweet Yew.

The yew is a remarkable enigma- the foliage is poisonous, the bright red berries are temptingly sweet and the tree is an enduring symbol of religion. The bright red berries (arils) contain a single seed that is as poisonous as the foliage. One of my dogs used to love nothing more than laying on her stomach in the woods and munching on fallen yew berries. She would gorge on the arils but spit out the deadly seeds. Who taught her this? How did she know not to bite into the seed- I mean, Labradors eat everything! The yew is traditionally planted in churchyards and many are reputed to be more than 1,000 years old and I know of one (in Surrey) which is still standing and which was mentioned in the Domesday Book.

We live in a remarkable country where there is ancient and hidden mythology and folklore that is part of our history. Do explore our green and pleasant land.

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