The European yew is also called the common yew or the English yew. It is an evergreen tree with reddish brown flaky bark that contains poisonous alkaloids throughout most of its anatomy, with the exception of the aril around its seeds. There is some debate among botanists about whether examples found in the Himalayas are a separate species or not.
Yew trees can live for a very long time, with some estimated having existed for thousands of years. For example, a tree in Scotland has been estimated to have lived for more than 2000 years.
There are yew species found across the entire northern hemisphere, with eight officially recognized species populating many different regions. These species are all in the Taxus genus of the family Taxaceae. There is one species, the Pacific yew, that contains an alkaloid that is used in the treatment of some forms of cancer.
Yew trees are dangerous to keep around livestock due to their foliage containing alkaloids, which is fatal in some cases. These poisonous chemicals also affects humans and other species susceptible to alkaloid poisoning.
Yew wood is hard and heavy. It is used in some kinds of furniture as well as archery bows.