Yew (genus Taxus) is a genus of small coniferous trees or shrubs in the yew family Taxaceae. They are relatively slow-growing and can be very long-lived, and reach heights of 1-40 m, with trunk diameters of up to 4 m. All parts of the tree are poisonous, and the wood is highly prized historically for the making of longbows.[1]

A yew tree stood in the Little Hangleton graveyard[2], where Lord Voldemort was resurrected. Yew trees were also known to grow in The Forbidden Forrest, where Harry is first formally introduced to Thestrals he sees "between two gnarled yew trees" during one of Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures lessons[3].


Yew wands are among the rarer kinds, and their ideal matches are likewise unusual, and occasionally notorious. The wand of yew is reputed to endow its possessor with the power of life and death, which might, of course, be said of all wands; and yet yew retains a particularly dark and fearsome reputation in the spheres of duelling and all curses.[4]

However, it is untrue to say (as those unlearned in wandlore often do) that those who use yew wands are more likely to be attracted to the Dark Arts than another. The witch or wizard best suited to a yew wand might equally prove a fierce protector of others.[4]

Wands hewn from these most long-lived trees have been found in the possession of heroes quite as often as of villains. Where wizards have been buried with wands of yew, the wand generally sprouts into a tree guarding the dead owner’s grave. What is certain is that the yew wand never chooses either a mediocre or a timid owner.[4]

Yew wand owners

Behind the scenes

  • J.K. Rowling also discussed this wand wood on her original website, commenting that "Yew, which can achieve astonishing longevity (there are British yew trees over two thousand years old), can symbolise both death and resurrection; the sap is also poisonous."
  • The term "Yew" originally refers to a tree species found throughout Britain and Europe, and certain regions of Africa and Asia, that was subsequently reclassified as Taxus baccata (also known as English Yew or European Yew), as other Yew species were discovered in the New World (Canada and the Americas) and other parts of Asia and Africa.
  • Interestingly, yew shares many characteristics with holly, the tree which supplied the wood for Harry Potter's wand, which became the "twin" of Tom Riddle's wand.
    • Holly is also toxic (albeit not to the same degree as yew);
    • Both trees occupy the understorey of the forest canopy;
    • Both trees have spiritual significance in several cultures, from Europe to Asia, signifying longevity and rebirth.
  • Both Harry's mortal enemy and his wife were chosen by yew wands, illustrating how the yew wand is not necessarily attracted to darker wizards or witches, but rather simply powerful and fierce ones.


Notes and references

  1. Taxus at Wikipedia
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)
  3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 21 (The Eye of the Snake)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Pottermore
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