Our next few posts all look at the role the hedge can play in helping and encouraging wildlife in the garden, starting here with the hedge plant par excellence – the Yew.
Yew berries and seeds are eaten by a wide range of birds, mammals and insects including:
Birds: Blackcap, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Fieldfare, Greenfinch, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Nuthatch, Redwing, Robin, Song Thrush, Waxwing;
In addition, insects sheltering in an established Yew’s peeling bark may attract the Treecreeper
Mammals: Dormouse, Squirrel
Insects: The caterpillar of the Satin Beauty Moth eats Yew leaves.
Because the Yew is so dense, it is a popular nesting site for many birds including Blackbird and Wrens while our two smallest birds – the goldcrest and firecrest – both nest in broadleaf woodland above a yew understorey
That Yew is poisonous is well known but the highly dangerous taxane alkaloids hold a benign secret – they are the active ingredient in a highly effective anti-cancer drug. Many people whose gardens contain significant Yew hedging sell their clippings to the pharmaceutical industry and there are collection schemes for those who grow Yew but on a more modest scale.
NB: The Yew is dioecious, meaning its male and female flowers are borne on separate plants and while the female plant is readily fertilised by any nearby male Yew, both do need to be present if a crop of berries is to be produced!