Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’
When you take the grotto entrance to the Heather Garden, you get to see the spreading yew (Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’) in every direction. Look up, and it’s over you. It’s beside you too - so close that you can touch it. It is even spilling over the moss-covered rocks before you enter. On a hot day, the spreading yew shades the grotto. If you put your hand on the dark volcanic rock, you’ll be surprised how cool and soft it feels.
Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’ is a low-growing evergreen spreading shrub. Its dark green leaves are slender, needle-like, and flat in cross section. These leach alkaloids into the soil, clearing the ground around the shrub from competition. Yews are dioecious (separate male and female plants). And thanks to this variety being female, we get to see its red fruit in autumn. Female plants produce berry-like cones made up of a single seed surrounded by a red, fleshy structure called an aril.
Taxus baccata is native to much of Europe including the UK. The genus name Taxus is an old Latin name for 'yew'. This probably came from the Greek word ‘taxon’ meaning ‘bow’. Yew wood is regarded as nature’s most perfect bow material having both strength and natural elasticity.
The pictures were taken in the grotto in winter.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones, except for photo of arils from Lyn Anderson who notes that the date of 2019 on the label reflects the date the plant was entered into the Plant Collection Record (many years after it was planted).