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Wakehurst yew hedges are used as an ingredient in chemotherapy drugs

A well-established hedge of Yew surrounding part of the Wakehurst estate has provided much needed cuttings for a pharmaceutical firm.
Chinese plum yew

The sides of the Pleasaunce hedges at Wakehurst, Kew’s country garden in Ardingly, have proved invaluable to Limehurst who have been collecting yew hedge clippings around the UK since 1992. The firm, based at Hambrook near Chichester, extract taxol from the clippings - a constituent of a chemotherapy drug given to treat ovarian and breast cancers.

Yew harvesting takes place annually between June and September.

Yew is from the Taxaceae family and its botanical name is Taxus baccata. It is a very old tree name, derived from the Celtic ‘iw’. Yew was the preferred wood for making medieval longbows because of its flexibility, and was one of the seven sacred trees in Celtic tradition and was used by the Druids for prophecy. It is widely believed that early Christians adopted ancient sacred sites for their churches, hence the proliferation or Yew trees in churchyards.

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