The English Yew.—Its Foreign Origin.— Its Famed Longevity.— Its Symbolic Uses.—The Immensity of its Foliage.—Properties and Uses of its Wood.—Its Latitude of Thrift.—American Yew, or Ground Hemlock.—Its Stunted Growth, and Semi-evergreen Properties.—Effect of Cultivation on its Growth.—Its Artistic Advantages.
This tree does not properly belong to this country, as it is a native of England, Europe, and Asia. It is famous on account of its length of life, there being many of the yews that are over a thousand years of age. From time immemorial it has been planted as a symbol of grief, in churchyards, most probably on account of its dark, beautiful foliage ; some of these trees reach an immense size, not so much in girth, but in the spread of their branches and the thickness of the foliage. The wood is very strong, fine grained, elastic, and unexcelled for durability. The yew succeeds much farther north in Europe than it does in this country; its cultivation being very unsatisfactory in this country as far north as Philadelphia. It should be planted in a shaded situation and carefully tended, and then perhaps it may amount to something, but even this is doubtful.
This variety always grows in evergreen woods, and is always a straggling, prostrate shrub. Bryant says: " I have seen it in the cold, dark, evergreen forests of New England, the prostrate stem extending ten or fifteen feet, buried or rooted in the leaves and mould, and throwing up, at intervals of one and two feet, branches from two to four, and even five feet in height. In such situations it retains the dark green of its foliage unchanged through the winter. It bears cultivation well, and is much improved by it, as it grows to a much larger size. "When it is thickly shaded the foliage becomes rusty during the winter, but ordinarily it is of a beautiful dark green, and may be trained by pruning into any desired shape.