Skip to content

Yews on Mounds

Fragmented Yew in Churchyards The Process of Fragmentation Fragmentation Creating 2 Trees
Interpretation of Irregular Fragments Yews on Mounds Conclusion

Yews on mounds

A number of yews appear as a trio or more of stems emerging from a mound of soil. Two examples are shown below.

Yew at Llandinam, Powys © Tim Hills
Yew at Llandinam, Powys © Tim Hills
The Llandre Yew, Ceredigion © Tim Hills
The Llandre Yew, Ceredigion © Tim Hills

At Mynyddislwyn in Monmouthshire the build up of soil around the trunks is now contained within a wall. A total of 5 ancient yews grow in this remarkable circular site 1000’ above sea level, with a Tumulus known as Twyn Tudur (Tudor’s Mound) adjoining the churchyard.

Yew at Mynyddislwyn © Tim Hills
Yew at Mynyddislwyn © Tim Hills

It is not always clear that these fragments developed at the edge of a decaying yew. Disturbing the soil in the search for the common origin of the tree fragments is not an option, though a simple genetic test might be able to provide conclusive evidence. 

One yew or more?

The fragmented yews at Llanerfyl and Payhembury present a conundrum. The Llanerfyl Yew in Powys, known as the Patriarch Tree, is in four fragments, 3 female and the 4th male. It arouses much discussion, but appears to me that the 3 female parts once formed a single tree that long ago split and fell and that the male is a second tree.
Others disagree, arguing that since it is occasionally possible to find both male and female parts on the same tree before fragmentation, so it should also be possible to find both sexes on a tree that has fragmented. Another argument put forward is that of a lightning strike affecting the genetic make up of a tree.

The Patriarch Yew, Llanerfyl © Tim Hills
The Patriarch Yew, Llanerfyl © Tim Hills

The Payhembury Yew in Devon is recorded as having been struck by lightning. The following is taken from "Travels in Victorian Devon, Illustrated Journals and Sketchbooks 1846 - 1870", compiled by Jeremy Butler from Peter Orlando Hutchinson's notebooks.
"We...examined Payhembury Church.....In the churchyard at the north-east part there is a remarkable yew tree of great size. I thought it was four yew trees growing close together with just space enough to walk between the trunks, but the sexton's wife who accompanied us said that it was one tree which many years ago had been struck by lightning and split into four portions down to the ground." (Wednesday August 24, 1859)
In 2006 I observed these four fragments, which appeared to be of similar age, radiating from the centre where the original tree once stood. Yet two are male, a third is female and the fourth was unverifiable. Girth of these fragments has been quoted in the past as up to a massive 46ft. but at its narrowest I recorded closer to 35ft.

Fragmented Yew in Churchyards The Process of Fragmentation Fragmentation Creating 2 Trees
Interpretation of Irregular Fragments Yews on Mounds Conclusion