Berries of the common yew tree

Common yew

Common yews have poisonous leaves, bark and seeds and a reputation for killing livestock. Their bright red berries (actually seed caps) are not poisonous however, and are eagerly eaten by birds, helping the yew to disperse its seeds. Yews are found across Europe, North Africa and parts of the Middle East. Their wood was used to make the English longbows for warfare in the medieval period, and thousands of trees were felled in the process. The trees that survived - including many churchyard specimens - may live for a thousand years, as yews are very long-lived.

Scientific name: Taxus baccata

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • English yew,
  • European yew

Watch video clips from past programmes (4 clips)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.


The Common yew can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Asia, China, Europe, Himalayas, Mediterranean, United Kingdom, Wales. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the Common yew distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web


  1. Life
  2. Plants
  3. Conifers
  4. Pinopsida
  5. Modern conifers
  6. Taxaceae
  7. Taxus
  8. Common yew

BBC News about Common yew

Video collections

Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.

  • Timelapse photography: speeding up life Timelapse photography: speeding up life

    Some of the most memorable sequences in natural history result from timelapse photography, an astonishing filming technique that opens our eyes to a whole new world.