Yew

The English or European yew (also known as Taxus baccata) is widespread through the Blessed Isles. The plants can be male, female or (occasionally) both and are highly toxic but they have a remarkable ability to survive serious damage, being able to regrow from a stump or from a single branch touching the ground (although not instantly, as told in folk tales). They can be difficult to date due to the way the older wood in their hearts hollows out. They do, of course, provide excellent wood for bows and their presence has thus been tolerated. As a result, yew trees are a common feature in churchyards and graveyards but tend to be removed if seen elsewhere. Since the romantic movement of the eighteenth century gave it some popularity among the wealthy (see the Preservation Plantations entry), it has been cultivated for use in large landscaped gardens as hedges and topiary. However, yews remain viewed with some suspicion by the general public due to their regular connection with the Otherworld.

Academia used to ridicule the idea of fairy women planting yew seeds in churchyards at night and villagers finding full grown trees in the morning but a century of observations has shown that this may not be too far from the truth. There are records that show no plans for planting yews in certain new and recently designated churchyards, graveyards and memorial gardens. However, seedlings have been spotted and, where allowed, have grown. Local Parish Wardens have confirmed that these plants are waypoints and short-range reconnaissance and training exercises have confirmed that the Otherworld version of the yew plant continues to thrive in the other reality regardless of whether the plant is removed as a seedling, sapling or adult. It is believed that an adult yew in our reality can spread seeds fertilised by Otherworld pollen.

Folklore insists that entering an old, hollow yew is a way into the Otherworld, yet strong connections with churchyards show that in the early days of Christianity this was not considered a bad thing. This has not been confirmed in action but both Warden and Ranger findings have suggested that this is possible. Curiously, the association with churches is also seen in France and Spain, along with parts of the Nordic countries, and modern scholars interpret the Norse world tree, Yggdrasil, that ties the realities together, as a yew tree.

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