Forum home Plants

Help needed with yew tree selection

Hi there. Just wondered if anyone can help me with a project.

My father is currently planting up 10 acre's of deciduous woodland in Norfolk, so I asked if I could pay for, say, 10 - 20 yew trees to be scattered among the other trees (predominantly oak).

I'm currently 49 years old, and have undertaken to look after them for the remainder of my lifetime, on the understanding that my grandson will be able to cut them down for the purpose of making english longbows (so long as he plants a new one in its place for his grandson).

So, I need a species of yew which is

* fast-growing (relatively speaking),

* tall, straight, free from lower branches / limbs,

* suited to woodland loam soil on heavy Norfolk clay

Any help appreciated.


  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,354

    Taxus baccata is the yew that bows are made from. There aren't many taxus species but if you're creating woodland in England T baccata has to be the one. 

    Don't confuse 'species'  with 'variety' or 'cultivar'. With the exception of Taxus cuspidata, (?spelling), aka japanese yew, everything you see in the GC is a variation of T. baccata. All those upright, yellow edged, spreading ones, they're all T. baccata.

    A straight trunk free of lower branches can be created by cutting the bottom ones off. It's not how a yew grows naturally. It's not that slow growing but don't be impatient, there's no shortcut to plant growth.

    Not sure about heavy clay, I haven't tried yew in that

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353

    Isn't Yew baccata in Star Wars? ....image

    Sorry Andrew - I couldn't resist... image image

    As you can see - nutcutlet has all the proper answers - as she always does!  

    Good luck with your project - it's a lovely idea. It's what the big landscape designers did in the past - planting woodland and other trees which would outlast them. Aren't we lucky that they did  image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,354

    image Fairy

    Stick with native species Andrew, they look right and do well.image


    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • I agree with Nutcutlet - the native species is what you need.

    I'm in Norfolk - I shall keep my eyes open for 10 acres of newly planted woodland and enjoy watching its progress - great project image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,354

    Love the Christmas avatar Dove

    Happy Christmasimage

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • And a Very Happy Christmas to you two too image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Thanks everyone for the replies, especially nutcutlet.

    However I'm not sure that I entirely agree with the analysis (yet). My understanding is that T. baccata has been hybridized with japanese yew to create thousands of varieties, many of which are specifically designed to be faster growing.

    Of course I realise that the choice of yew available now is a far cry from the choices available to our ancestors in the middle ages, but then they were deliberately importing yew staves from all over the known world. I understand the best stuff actually came from France, Spain and Germany, and was obtained by levying taxes against exported goods. I'm not trying to recreate a nostalgic practice which never really existed, I'm trying to create a resource which will give my family the fasted possible return on my investment.

    In that sense my motivation isn't entirely altruistic. A yew stave has to be roughly 6 inches diameter before it can be harvested for bow-making, and for all I know it might be possible to get there in 10-20 years, depending on the variety, so it's possible I could see a return in my lifetime.

    By posting on this forum I was hoping to reach out to international expertise, especially from Canada / the Pacific Rim. No problem with planting Japanese Yew if it produces good bows in a shorter period of time.

  • ps, merry christmas everyone

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,354

    Probably get some disposable bows quite quickly with faster growing wood. It would be appropriate for today's thinking.

    Use it once, chuck it outimage



    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • As Nut's post explains - the faster growing the wood, the less strength it will have.  That's why oak is stronger than willow or pine.

    It's not the variety of wood per se, that gives it the strength - it's the characteristics of it's growth.

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

Sign In or Register to comment.