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Distributed for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Immortal Yew

As some of the oldest living organisms to be found in Europe, yew trees have become inextricably bound up in some of the oldest enduring institutions of European culture. In The Immortal Yew, Tony Hall explores the biological, cultural, and mythic significance of these imposing evergreens. Supporting a range of animals and plants, yew trees foster new life by contributing to biodiversity in their surroundings. But their common occurrence in churchyards and their evergreen leaves have given them a separate folk status as symbols of life—in the British isles, they have come to represent the resurrection and eternal life central to the Christian faith. Their enduring significance to British culture extends beyond the church, however—even the founding political document of British government, the Magna Carta, is believed to have been sealed beneath a yew tree.

Despite the enduring presence and significance of the yew tree across a millennium of British history, this seemingly immortal stalwart faces new threats in the twenty-first century as elderly trees near the end of their lives and global climate change threatens the next generation. Perhaps by spending time in the generous shade of one of the yew trees Hall documents in this beautifully illustrated book, a new generation might begin to learn the importance of protecting its legacy and invest in its future.

224 pages | 100 color plates | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 | © 2018

Biological Sciences: Botany

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"Tony Hall, author of the Immortal Yew, is arboretum and gardens manager at Kew, and writes with such lucidity and authority that I believe anything he writes. A yew can be disciplined, but leave it untended for a few centuries and it develops a weird habit of growth, the vast girth of the hollow trunk encircled by arcades and pillars formed by thickened and gnarled roots. Hall illustrates his book with his own colour photographs of ancient British specimens, all of them outstanding, and—more or less—upstanding. . . . This is a handsome book."

Victoria Glendinning | Literary Review

“This gorgeous volume catalogs 76 remarkable yew trees scattered throughout Great Britain. In its function as a catalog alone it is a worthy read, but it offers much more. The Immortal Yew is a love letter to the oldest living thing in the United Kingdom; some yews live several thousand years! . . . This book would make a wonderful gift to an amateur botanist or a useful addition to a university classroom.”


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