The Irish Yew Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ is a variety of the Common Yew, Taxus
baccata. It has a distinctive upright habit, forming a dense, compact, broad column,
whereas the Common Yew is more rounded and often has several trunks.
Yews are a familiar sight in English churchyards. Popular belief suggests they were
planted to keep cattle out as Yews are poisonous, but in the case of very old trees, it
may be they were already growing on the site of an ancient place of worship before
the church was built.
The Irish Yews each side of the central north-south path are instantly recognisable.
They were probably part of William Mudd’s 1860s’ planting scheme (MRCCP). It
looks as though Mudd intended to plant them in pairs on either side of the path.
Today there are gaps, probably due to natural causes.
There are several Common Yews in the Cemetery and in Area D one example of the
variety Taxus baccata ‘Dovastoniana’ has long, very distinctive branchlets which hang
down vertically from the main branches. Darwin knew this tree from his childhood
home, ‘The Mount’, in Shrewsbury. It was named after John Dovaston, a local
nurseryman, who discovered and propagated it. He supplied Darwin’s father,
Robert, with a young tree. There is one growing in the Cambridge University Botanic
Garden near the west end of the glasshouses.

Tree Trail Stop 6: Irish Yew