The story begins in 1767, when a local farmer called George Willis retrieved a pair of yew saplings from the slopes of the mountains near Florence Court. The young plants had an unusual vertical shape, compared to the typical common yew of mainland Britain and the rest of Europe.
George kept one sapling and planted it in his own garden, where it survived until 1865. He gave the other to his landlord William Cole (who was later 1st Earl of Enniskillen), who had it planted on his estate where it still grows today.
A marvellous tree
The yew planted at Florence Court flourished, and attracted much attention from visitors and the horticultural community. Cuttings were often taken from the tree for reproduction throughout the country. It became so popular that in 1820, the tree was commercially reproduced.
The tree is female and can only be propagated from cuttings, but so many cuttings have been taken from the mother tree over the years that it has lost much of its upright shape. Despite this, we know that the tree’s modern appearance is still similar to visitors’ accounts of over 100 years ago, and it can still be visited and enjoyed today. Many young descendants of the mother tree also grow in the Pleasure Grounds at Florence Court.
The special yew at Florence Court has travelled many thousands of miles, as it is believed that almost all the Irish Yew specimens common in churchyards throughout the world come from this one tree.
See the tree in action
Watch the video below to see ancient tree advisor, Brian Muelaner chatting to Head Ranger Alan Houston about the importance of the tree and a detailed look into its physiology.