A handsome but unassuming yew tree (Taxus baccata) near the mansion at Wakehurst Place, the Kew Botanical Garden’s country estate in West Sussex, turns out to be 620 years old. Twenty feet in diameter, it’s not the largest yew, never mind the largest tree, nor the most impressive (there are 100-year-old yews at Wakehurst that have grown up naturally on stones which are far splashier and more often painted/pictured/talked about than our medieval tree friend). Nobody at Wakehurst had any idea that particular yew was so ancient.
The tree was examined by a dendrochronologist as part of research for a long-term conservation management plan for the Wakehurst gardens. He took a core sample from the tree — you don’t need to cut the whole thing down to count its rings anymore — and found that the yew was planted in 1391, ten years after the Peasants’ Revolt and eight years before King Richard II was deposed.