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Llanerfyl Yew

St. Erfyl's Church and Llanerfyl Yew
St. Erfyl’s Church and Llanerfyl Yew. / Dave Croker, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

Today Llanerfyl Yew is a group of four separate tree trunks in a circle, with a total circumference of 10.67 m. But, according to legends, this is not just a tree – this is Cyrwen – a legendary peacemaking staff left by St. Padern in the late 6th or early 7th century.

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GPS coordinates
52.6769 N 3.43 W
Location, address
Europe, United Kingdom, Wales, Powys, the center of Llanerfyl, south of St Erfyl’s church
Trees, Sites of legends
European Yew (Taxus baccata L.)
10.67 m (around all four trunks, August 1998)

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

St Erfyl's Church with the war memorial in the forefront. Branches of Llanerfyl Yew are seen in the right side.
St Erfyl’s Church with the war memorial in the forefront. Branches of Llanerfyl Yew are seen on the right side. / John Firth, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

For some time there was a discussion about whether this ancient tree is a group of several trees or a single tree that divided into several trunks after the central part of the old trunk died away. DNA analysis (3.) though shows that these trunks belong to a single organism.

Today Llanerfyl Yew is a group of four closely located, large trunks, three trunks are female, and one – male. In the amazing world of yews, this is possible: the tree could be in the process of changing its sex. In 1872 the tree had three trunks and they formed something more like a single trunk than today. Nowadays (1998) the circumference of all these trunks is 10.67 m.

St Erfyl’s church

The St Erfyl’s church is an early medieval church that was rebuilt in 1870 and includes some parts of a 15th-century church. Nevertheless, in this site a church existed before this: the first one could have been built in the late 6th or early 7th century AD. Under the yew tree was an even earlier gravestone from the 5th – 6th century with an inscription that testifies that there was buried a 13 years old girl, daughter of Padern. In 1915 the stone was brought inside the church and can be seen there now.

Legend about the yew

This gravestone is not just another old stone: it is an existing link to a local legend!

One of the founders of Celtic Christianity in the 6th century was Saint Padarn who went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There he received valuable gifts (including the ability to convey speeches so that these were understood in every other language) as well as Cyrwen – a peacemaking staff.

According to this legend, Saint Padarn planted Cyrwen at the grave of his beloved daughter. And… the gravestone really has a Latin inscription that can be translated as “In the grave here lies *Rhostege daughter of Padarn, 13 years, in peace.”

Thus, legend meets reality! Also, Llanerfyl Yew is not just a large, beautiful tree, it is a living part of early medieval history and… a kind of miraculous artifact.

It is highly likely that the age of Llanerfyl Yew corresponds to the legend and it was really planted some 1400 years ago.

  1. Yew/Yews at Llanerfyl, Ancient Yew Group. Accessed on May 7, 2023.
  2. The Extraordinary Legend of the Yew, Ecohustler. Accessed on May 7, 2023.
  3. A. Meredith, J. Fry. Ageing the Yew, Quarterly Forestry Journal, October 2016, Vol 110, No. 4. Accessed on May 8, 2023.
Llanerfyl Yew is included in the following article:

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WorldYellow Recommended books

The God Tree

The God Tree is a great read and will make people think again and again about Yews’ – David Bellamy, the Naturalist. This is the first book to take up the quest for the Golden Bough since JG Frazer’s classic study in 1915 with the discovery of the bough growing once more, as the rare adornment of a small number of ancient Yews.

The Ancient Yew: A History of Taxus baccata

The gnarled, immutable yew tree is one of the most evocative sights in the British and Irish language, an evergreen impression of immortality, the tree that provides a living botanical link between our own landscapes and those of the distant past. This book tells the extraordinary story of the yew’s role in the landscape through the millennia, and makes a convincing case for the origins of many of the oldest trees, as markers of the holy places founded by Celtic saints in the early medieval ‘Dark Ages’.

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