Grave guardians

The yew is the elder statesman of British flora. It is a dark, compelling tree with wood that is said to outlive iron. The foliage is poisonous and the scarlet berries conceal toxic seeds. With its sombre foliage, twisted bark, and wooden heart that has often fallen away, an ancient yew has a brooding aura. But the strong association with churchyards is a mystery. Was the yew's role to protect the dead, or was it a symbol of immortality? In fact, many are older than the churches in whose yards they stand.

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