The origin of the Florence Court yew is well documented. According to the Irish tree specialist (and Fermanagh man) Dr. Charles Nelson, two young yew seedlings were found on a Fermanagh hillside around 1740-60.
The two seedlings were separated, one going to the finder’s own garden, and the other to his landlord the Earl of Enniskillen at Florence Court. This yew prospered and as it grew it became clear that the upright growth which had first led to its adoption and transplanting was not just a juvenile form – it lasted.
Easily propagated from cuttings, the Florence Court yew became popular with Victorian plantsmen and nurserymen throughout Britain. It has been planted in gardens, at memorials and in churchyards ever since.
An Irish yew at the entrance to Aldergrove airport celebrates the millionth tree planted in the Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland Million Tree Campaign. The Forest of Belfast initiative is planting over 1,000 yews for the Millennium in graveyards of all denominations throughout greater Belfast.
The original yew is still at Florence Court, lurking modestly in Forest Service land beside the house which is now National Trust property. It looks as if it has had a hard life. Maybe the endless propagation has sapped its strength, maybe it just feels like a many times over great grand-mother whose offspring have emigrated and helped to populate the world with Irish trees. Past its prime it may be, but the Florence Court yew is still a potent symbol.