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common yew

((all three are lumber trade names), an ornamental evergreen tree or shrub of the yew family (Taxaceae), widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia as far east as the Himalayas. Some botanists consider the Himalayan form to be a separate species, called Himalayan yew. Rising to a height of 10 to 30 metres (about 35 to 100 feet), the tree has spreading branches and slightly drooping branchlets. The bark is reddish brown and flaky, sometimes deeply fissured in very old trees. Yews are among the few conifers that produce new growth easily from behind the ends of cut branches; thus, English yew is one of the only conifers regularly trimmed into hedges. All parts of an English yew, except the fleshy aril surrounding the seed, contain alkaloids poisonous to humans and animals. Many horticultural varieties have been developed, some of which are small shrubs. One of the most popular is the Irish yew. It has a compact, columnar form and is used in formal plantings. Several hybrids have been obtained by crossing the English yew with the Japanese yew; the most common, Taxus media, has several varieties

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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