19th November 2014

As the autumn leaves drop rapidly, autumn fruits become a source of colour. None is more luminous, nor dangerous (and, perversely, valuable to us medically), than the Yew. Not a berry, this strange modification of a cone, called an ‘aril’ is valued by the Thrush family, especially Blackbirds. They can enjoy the non-toxic flesh and quickly eject the highly poisonous seed before it causes them any damage. Small mammals such as Dormice, and larger ones like the Badger can also eat the arils and the caterpillar of the

Yew ruits.

Yew ruits.

The Yew 'arils' showing the fleshy red shell holding the dark, highly poisonous seed.

The Yew ‘arils’ showing the fleshy red shell holding the dark, highly poisonous seed.

With the light through them, they are a beautiful colour colour.

With the light through them, they are a beautiful  colour.

‘Silk Beauty Moth’ can eat the leaves. However, just a few leaves or seeds of the Yew can kill humans, horses and cows, It is the outer casing of the seed which is so deadly, but Greenfinches can somehow strip that off, without harming themselves, and digest the inner kernel! Modern medicine has harnessed chemicals in the yew species ‘Taxus Bachata’ to create treatments for cancer.  I think the fruits are really beautiful. More about the Yew Tree itself tomorrow. Conditions: A still, cloudy day with occasional glimpses of blue sky. Temperature: Max 10- Min 7C.

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