Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Yucca, the Yew Tree and the Yarrow

ABC Wednesday
July 3rd, 2013

The Yucca, the Yew Tree and the Yarrow - this sounds as if the story should continue 'went into a bar one day' - but no, it is not that kind of a tale!

The Yucca, the Yew Tree and the Yarrow do have much in common, but they also have very distinct differences in that the Yucca and the Yarrow are much more benign than the Yew Tree. 
They have many medicinal qualities that have contributed to numerous cultures. 

The Yucca is native to hot, dry parts of North America, South America, Central  America and the Caribbean, but it is found in many parts of the world in deserts, prairies, grasslands, mountainous regions and even in subtropical and semi-temperate regions.

It is pollinated by the Yucca moth, who in turn lays an egg in the flower and the developing moth larva feeds on some of the Yucca seeds, an example of the scratch-my-back theory in nature.

Many species of the Yucca bear edible parts, and the roots of the Soaptree Yucca is high in sapoins and used as a shampoo in native rituals.  The dried Yucca leaves and fibers have a low ignition temperature, making the plant of use in starting fires - and also I might say contributing dangerously to wildfires.  The tough spikes of the plant make baskets and sandals, and the roots are a source of vitamins and widely used by Native Americans. 

The Yarrow
found in my garden, in roadside ditches, in meadows and fields, and wherever you might want to look, - perhaps not in swamps!
It has an ancient reputation as an herb used by Achilles to stanch the bleeding of his soldier's wounds, and it's names of Soldier's WoundWort and Knight's Milfoil attest to its styptic qualities. 
It is also used as snuff, and called Old Man's Pepper, and tea made from Yarrow is good for colds, kidney disorders, and baldness, if you care to wash your shiny pate with it.
Yarrow has been used to ease toothache, and in the manufacture of beer in Scandinavian countries.
However, is also had a reputation as an herb dedicated to the Evil One and was used in the
 devination of spells,  which makes it a distant cousin to The Yew Tree.
The Yew Tree
That most ancient and venerable tree that has survived since before the Ice Age.
Because of its longevity and its unique way of growing new trunks
from within the original root bole,
 it has now been estimated that some English Yews are as much as 4,000 years old.
"It is no wonder that the tree is associated with immortality, renewal, regeneration, everlasting life, rebirth, transformation and access to the Otherworld and our ancestors" Glennie Kindred.
Throughout the centuries the slow growing Yew with its tight-grained , tough, resilient wood has been used for spears, spikes, staves and eventually the famous longbows of the Middle Ages, whose arrows were tipped with poison made from the Yew.
The entire tree is poisonous and one must be aware of the dangerous aspects of the Yew when handling it, or working with the wood. It has been known in ages past as The Death Tree.
Many of the ancient Yew trees are protected by the churchyard, and reports of the great girths and ages are documented through historical texts.   Their size, longevity and dark branches would  make them stand out in a landscape, and so they were used as landmarks.
Yew groves planted by the Druids were common by ancient ways and on sacred sites, hilltops and burial grounds. 
There are more interesting variations of the letter Y to be found here, at ABC Wednesday,
with many thanks to the perpetrators and the maintainers of this great meme.


Leslie: said...

Wonderful post, as usual. Great info here.

abcw team

Luna Miranda said...

quite an interesting post! the Yew tree provides a lovely shade and a great landmark. love your Y post!

ABC Wednesday

Reader Wil said...

It is always interesting to read your posts, Hildred. We had some yucca plants in our garden. It flowered every second year. And here where I live are several gardens with yuccas. I like those flowers. I didn't know that parts of this plant could be eaten. We have no yewtrees in my country however. I don't know the yarrow plants, but I shall google it!
Have a great week, Hildred!
Wil,ABCW Team

Joy said...

I'm always amazed that the Yucca flowers here in the UK it always seems such an exotic plant. Fascinating info on all the three Ys. I like to see a Yew in a churchyard (points to its age), and remember reading somewhere they are planted because their roots go straight down although the other reasons you mention are more evocative.

Roger Owen Green said...

Very informative, with a few yucks (laughter) to boot!
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Carver said...

Great post and you came up with a good variety of Y plants.


Wonderful to look at and also such a fascinating history behind each one - love the lessons for your Y!

Lea said...

Very interesting information!
Have a wonderful Wednesday!
Lea's Menagerie

Indrani said...

I didn't know much about this tree. Great info.

uberrhund said...

You are right about Yucca burning quickly is a brushfire! We have them scattered all over the Southwest as native plants. They do add beauty to the dry desert scenery .
Have a wonderful week ahead!

The Weaver of Grass said...

What an interesting and fascinating post Hildred. We have all three of these plants here although the yucca is never quite as magnificent as the one in your photograph.

ChrisJ said...

I would never have thought of grouping these three for a Y post. I'm quite familiar with all of them but they are all so different. Such a creative mind you have!

Nana Jo said...

Such an interesting and informative post. It's always so interesting to learn of the medicinal qualities of plants and trees. Yew outdid yourself, Hildred!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

You teach me so much with your every post -- in such an entertaining way. I knew a little about the yucca which we've seen in the desert garden places that we've visited, but all the other information is new to me.