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Florence Court Yew

Florence Court Yew
Florence Court Yew. / © 2010 Andrew W.A. Ferguson, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

WorldBlue  In short

One of the world’s most popular garden conifers is Irish Yew – Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’. And there is one “father” to all of them: Florence Court Yew. All Irish yews around the world originate from the saplings of this tree.

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GPS coordinates
51.9397 N 3.5648 W
Location, address
Europe, United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, County Fermanagh, Lismoonly, Florence Court Park
Species
Cultivar of European Yew (Taxus baccata L.) – Irish yew (‘Fastigiata’)
Height
Around 7.5 m
Age
more than 240 years (planted around 1760-1780)

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WorldYellow In detail

The trunk of Florence Court Yew
The trunk of Florence Court Yew. / © 2010 Andrew W.A. Ferguson, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Around 1740-1760 local farmer George Willis found an unusual, columnar yew tree on the slopes of Cuilcagh mountain some 7-8 km from Florence Court. He got two seedlings of this tree: one in his garden and another to the local landlord William Cole.

Diverse sources mention diverse dates of the planting of the tree: some mention 1760, some: 1767 and some: 1780.

Yew trees, in general, have a wide crown and, often, grow as low bushes with widespread branches close to the ground. The clone that was discovered by Willis, had a different habit: this yew looked like a column.

It is characteristic that the plants from the seeds of such clones do not keep the unique traits of the clone. But the saplings from the plant do the trick and look the same as their parents. In such a way numerous decorative varieties of trees and bushes are propagated from saplings and sold around the world.

The natural clone on the slopes of Cuilcagh, most likely is long dead and, if it has any “children”, they look like usual yews. Search for similar trees in this area has not been successful.

The sapling in the garden of George Willis survived for decades and died in 1865.

Irish yew in the National Botanic Garden, Dublin
Another Irish Yew in the National Botanic Garden, Dublin. / Wendy Cutler, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The yew tree in the old garden of Florence Court though lives up to this day. It grew successfully and after some decades, its beauty attracted the attention of other park aficionados in the United Kingdom.

This was the time when beautiful parks around the thousands of British country houses were set and many landlords were looking for anything new and unusual. A columnar, eternally green tree? Wonderful, let’s have it! Even more popular this tree was in church gardens and cemeteries. Thus started the fame of the so-called “Irish Yew” and this fame continues up to this day.

The “father” of all Irish Yews was heavily used for saplings. In 1820 the commercial sales of the Irish yew started. Also in the Florence Court park can be seen other Irish Yews.

Due to the many cuts the original Florence Court Yew does not have a columnar form. It is a female tree, some 7.5 m tall, and has little changed over the last century.

References

  1. The original Irish Yew Tree at Florence Court, National Trust. Accessed on June 26, 2022

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