The yew, a thousand-year-old tree

A guardian of time: the texu

The yew, a thousand-year-old tree

A guardian of time: the texu

One expects a 600 yew to measure at least 100 meters, but the appearance of the Taxus baccata (as it is universally known) does not work that much. The texu (It is called that in Asturias) reaches, at most, the 20 meters in height, although it is just the right height to be able to scan a little further in time.

The yew trees or texos are powerful and long-lived trees, they can live a millennium. Although scarce and protected, some of them occupy the throne of Asturian nature from an almost infinite experience. Without going any further, individual copies of the council of Allande, in the villages of Santa Coloma and Lake, boast of having seen the time pass before the discovery of America.

As an English saying goes: "the life of a yew, the length of an era".

As he lives so much, around him hundreds of symbolisms and even mythologies have been brewing. A totem that well is associated with life or death (possibly at two and eternity). Some argue that the sap of the yew tree was used by the Astures to inspire their ritual dances. Since those times the custom of plant the yew next to the house, the church or the hermitage. Even today this tradition is still alive. The Asturians remain faithful to a tree that once organized part of their beliefs and values, culture and territory, and that sheltered in their shadow assemblies and parties. On this side we have the tree of life. That of death comes from its semantics and the poison of its plants. In all European countries they were manufactured the best arcs with the yew wood. The Romans learned it from the Greeks, and the modern states of the Roman empire. This warlike function enhanced the deadly nuance of the tree. Furthermore, the Latin name for yew, taxus, is likely to be related to toxon, the Greek name for the bow, and to toxicon, the Greek name for the poison with which the arrows were anointed.

How are the yews?

A long-lived, evergreen and slow-growing tree. It gives you time to witness several wars and peace treaties, thousands of storms and calm in a single life. Imagine, reaching 15 meters high means more than 500 years of contradictory experiences and tons of rainwater. In his growth he seems to be assimilating everything slowly, slowly, without being afraid of anything: very slowly. Hence the expression "pa shadow pa when it is vieyu", which usually cites the one who decides to plant one.

Its double connotation, death-life, its religious past, is still evident today in two of its most common enclaves: the cemetery and the church (sites where more than 200 are cited throughout the region). While it is true that this location hides a practical function in the background: with its dense and perennial foliage protects the roofs of the building from the wind, provides shade and a health microclimate.

The yew in Asturias seldom occurs wild creating forests, except in localized areas of the Sierra del Sueve, Muniellos or the Aramo. Generally we speak of "tejedas" or "tejedales" to refer to the extensions in which the yew trees are especially abundant. These, however, tend to be scarce and coincide with demanding habitats demanded by the tree: medium altitude, calcareous soils and high rainfall. It is more common to get lost in other types of forest; and even more to live as an isolated individual. He likes to grow in solitude, surrounded by cliffs and soaked with water. In society he also lives alone, accompanied by some historical but silent property. Frequent private farms and shade rural homes.

Yews: sacred trees

Its wood is very appreciated in cabinetmaking, especially for its hardness and elasticity, but it can not be touched: the yew is protected species. Logging or uprooting requires administrative authorization. Conservation measures are severe and some specimens have already been declared natural monuments. From being a halo of protection, guardian of time and of the roofs of civilizations, he has become protected from enemies he never knew before. It is true that it continues to be planted with respect, but you no longer know how to take care of it as before. The reconstruction of the nearby buildings, the asphalt at your feet, the electrical cables, the signs, thumbtacks, staples ... contribute to your premature aging. For their part, wild yews have their own enemies of other trees: non-rational forest exploitations.

The title of Natural Monument contributes to protect the more Anacians so that they have a dignified old age. In the Principality there are several of these titles for the aforementioned yew trees of Santa Coloma and Lago (Allande), of Salas (in the vicinity of the capital of Salas), Bermiego (Quirós) or Santibáñez de la Fuente (Aller) The latter, like the first two, has already exceeded half a millennium of existence, measures 12 meters in height and 15 meters in diameter.

The trunk of the yew does not tell us its age. It is striated, thick, with pardo-gray bark and produces a large number of branches that are extended and hanging at its termination. Its foliage suffers some sorrow, but it also blooms, it does so in late winter and early spring, maturing the seeds in autumn. Today, in the region, the cultivation of indigenous yews is promoted, coming from cataloged genetics and Asturian nurseries that keep these seeds safe.

Plant a yew

A good way to fulfill the saying, almost the obligation, to plant a tree at least in the life of each man, would be to plant a yew. In this case, good ecological action also becomes an exercise in faith in the God of Time. We planted a tree that can see generations and generations go by, even witness a change of era. Of course, we can't think of a better way to perpetuate our memory and guard nature for such a long period of time.. Even the universe, because an American legend tells how the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper and all the animals in the sky rose from the earth on the back of an arrow shot with a yew bow.


In the following link you will find detailed, step by step, how to touch immortality with a seed in your hand.

Trashumando tells us how to plant a yew

Text: © Ramón Molleda for

coordinates Latitude: 43.1232109 Length: -5.5599332
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  • by Angela
    Published 11/01/2013 19:27 0Likes

    The town of Lebeña, belongs to Cantabria, next to its jewel church of the X century, there was a yew and an olive tree, the yew succumbed to the rigors of the climatology, we have the olive tree.

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