22 January 2012

Botanics In The Churchyard

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK


 'I Spy' in a village churchyard:
A valuable ecosystem



It is common to find old yew trees in old churchyards
in central and southeast England, the Lake District, and Wales
due to well-draining chalk and limestone soils

Slow growing and long lived,
yews have been found to be older than the churches they protect
possibly because they were planted on old religious sites where churches were erected later

The majority of the world's ancient yews is found in Britain,
some still growing after 1000 years

These evergreens were
sacred to the Druids and Celtics,
a common source of myths and legends,
used for making longbows during the Middle Ages,
and always a good food source for birds




One of the curious things about yews is they have an unusually small cone
surrounded by what looks like a red berry (an 'aril' to be exact)
which is the only part of the tree that is not poisonous

Another 'I Spy' is lichens on gravestones




Lichens take water and nourishment not from soil, but from air

As many gravestones are made of limestone,
they create an ideal habitat for these little cutie-pie plants 
as limestone neutralizes acidic pollution

Because headstones are rarely cleaned and graves are rarely disturbed, 
churchyards inadvertently protect some endangered lichens

 So much life in a village churchyard :)

- all photos by me -

Sources: AncientYew.orgWikipedia, Country Living Magazine Dec 2011, The Country Life Book of the Natural History of the British Isles pub 1980

***

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January 31st



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Hope to see you there :)

43 comments:

Jenny Woolf said...

I adore village churchyards and always appreciate them when out on cycling trips as they are good resting places to have a picnic lunch or shelter from the rain. More than this I love to look inside the churches which sometimes hold so many clues to centuries past. I really value the churches which stay unlocked - i understand why some of them do lock up but always leave a donation in an unlocked one to encouraage them! Most villages seem to work hard to keep their church in good nick even if they are not particularly devout.

Pondside said...

I'm attracted to cemeteries all over - especially pioneer cemeteries in Canada. One learns so much from an hour of reading headstones. British churchyards are particularly lovely - you photos show that beautifully.

Teacher online said...

Thanks 4 sharing your wonderful pics!
Greetings from Italy!
http://teacherfromapulia.blogspot.com/

TexWisGirl said...

beautiful shots! loved learning about the yew!

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

Life in a cemetery! Never thought of it that way. I adore the lichens on the gravestones. :)

Pom Pom said...

Hi Laura!
So much life in a church yard. LOVE that!

Belinda @ Wild Acre said...

Whether you believe in God or not, these ancient churches and their cemeteries are so beautiful and important in so many ways, let's hope they are always protected.

elaine rickett said...

A good post - it does pay to have a nosey around churchyards and find things that you wouldn't have otherwise noticed. I believe another reason that you always find yews in churchyards is that they were presumed to be poisonous to grazing animals and churchyards are usually enclosed. When you think about it you rarely see yews anywhere else.

Iota said...

What a really imaginative post! Yes, don't forget that yew is poisonous. I think they use it in some cancer chemotherapy treatments (but don't quote me on that).

HolleyGarden said...

Oh, how I wish yews would grow here - it's too hot for them. I fried my latest try in my garden last year. Very interesting info. 1000 years sounds very impressive. Love seeing lichen on headstones.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Cycling and churches - such a wonderful combination. I, too, love the history the churches hold. You remind me that one time my son put his hand inside the collection offering, thinking they were giving candy away!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

A pioneer cemetery sounds interesting - I've never seen one.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you for stopping by :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I like the color of them on the headstones - very striking

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thanks, Pom Pom ;)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Absolutely

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I believe they didn't use the church yews for longbows, so they were left alone during the Middle Ages. It is amazing how big some of them are now.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Ah yes, I did mention this :) Everything but the 'berries' is poisonous. Interesting about cancer treatment - I haven't heard that before, but why not?

Happy Homemaker UK said...

They didn't grow well where I came from in the US either. I must say they are quite impressive, like California's redwoods. I will work on getting some good photos of one to share.

Ola said...

this place looks so quite, like time would simply stop there...

lizzybradbury said...

Also, the fluffier the lichen the less polluted that area is because lichen thrives in clean air - I always finding myself breathing deeper when I see lichen ;-)

Lizzy x

Happy Homemaker UK said...

oh it is. It is in such a picturesque village :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I didn't know that! I'll have to notice the fluff factor :)

flowers on my table said...

Hi Laura, how very interesting! I love Yew trees, and also furniture made from Yew.Have a lovely week, love Linda x

Ross said...

Hi Laura,

Ross from Painfully Optomistic here. I just sent you an email in regards to the upcoming changes to GFC. I wanted to give you a heads up on the fact that because I'm hosted by Wordpress I'll no longer be able to use GFC. If your hosted by blogger then you will still get my updates. Although I'm hearing Googles going to get rid of it all together. So I just wanted to tell you to follow me via another avenue. If you go to my site you'll see the options. I'll talk to you soon.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Ross, off to stop by your blog now :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you :) And I love the majestic yews too :)

Pat said...

As a tree lover from the Midwest that thinks of the woods of Northern Wisconsin as home, I found this story of the yew fascinating.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you :) I've never been to Wisconsin, but from what I hear, it is beautiful.

Sarah @ Modern Country Style said...

Hi lovely,

You're sop right. Church yards can have a lovely peace about them.

oh, but you didn't mention another life form sometimes to be found in deserted churchyards...snogging teenagers!!

Sarahx

PS Missing you today. x

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Missing you too! Really? How creepy - I would think they'd prefer a cinema...

Robynne's Nest said...

Endangered lichen...now I've heard everything! I was discussing Yew trees with a villager, and I think he said that our Yews are heritage listed because they are so old....and that once upon a time, churches legally had to plant Yew trees....I'll have to check with Wiki! Robx

Erin S. said...

These photos were lovely, Laura. I love church yards and old cemetaries. When my husband and I were dating, we were surprised to learn that both of us love old cemetaries--although I don't recall ever snogging in one ;). Thanks for the post!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I feel I should have a clever comment with cemeteries and snogging, but its just not there :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Interesting that they HAD to plant them. I think the yews currently are not legally protected, but groups are working on it, according to Ancient Yew (not 'ancient you' - haha) XOL

Heather said...

Hi! Please email me, I have a question for you! :)

HeatherVonsj (at) gmail (dot) com

Zosia said...

Thank you. I had a photo of the red berry plant on my blog http://polonicahomeagain.blogspot.com/2011/12/saturday-postcard-from-poland-sobotnia_17.html?showComment=1327649656291#c2199202444811934319 and didn't know what it was. Now I know :-). Have a great weekend.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Popping over to your sight now :) Have a great weekend too, Zosia!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Will do :)

barefoot mama said...

When will you post your super fun post-of-the-month linky?

julie said...

Look at that church! It's amazing.
I don't think I have ever seen a yew tree.
Thanks for the info.

EnglandTripTips said...

That looks like a new adventure! All the best to you, may you find a great place to stay.