Yew Tree - The Stuff of Legends

There are not many things that can claim association with Harry Potter, the Druids and Shakespeare, yet the yew tree can claim all of this and more.


The yew is a truly fascinating tree with a long history in Ireland, said to date back to the last major ice age. It has long been considered a sacred tree by both druids and Christians in Ireland and its association with death and rebirth has given it a special place in Irish culture and history. The feast of Samhain or Halloween as it is more commonly known today, represents the end of Summer and the start of Winter and the Yew tree for ancient cultures symbolised this idea of death and rebirth.


This symbolism is in part due to the yew tree's longevity. It is one of the oldest trees in Europe and specimens found are estimated to be 5,000 years old. It also has an ability to regenerate itself leading to its reverence as a sacred tree in ancient times. It is, however, slow growing and while once prolific in Ireland, is now scarce.


The Irish yew is a particular species of yew that grows upright, and it is thought that all Irish yews can be traced back to a pair of trees still standing in Florencecourt in Co. Fermanagh. You can see the significance of the Yew tree across the country in many of our placenames. Mayo "Maigh Eo" in Ireland translates as the Plain of yew trees and was home to the largest yew tree forest in the known world. Youghal in Co. Cork translates as "Eo Choill", the yew wood. Today in Ireland, Reenadina wood on the Muckross Peninsula, Co. Ke