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The Holocene history of Taxus baccata (yew) in Belgium and neighbouring regions

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The current natural distribution of Taxus baccata L. in Belgium is limited to a few localities in the southern part of the country. In these localities, Taxus is predominantly growing on steep, calcareous slopes, which is believed to be its natural habitat in this part of the world. In Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, Taxus is considered not to be native and Taxus stands are interpreted there as being planted by humans or as garden escapes. The Holocene pollen and macrofossil data for Taxus, however, show a very different picture regarding abundance and geographical distribution, as well as habitat. It appears that during the Sub-boreal, Taxus grew in the coastal plain and the lower Scheldt valley, where it was part of the carr vegetation on peat. Before the end of the Sub-boreal, Taxus seems to have disappeared from this region, most probably because of the transition from the carr vegetation to (raised) bogs. Belgium is not the only case where such observations have been made. In other areas of northwestern Europe, Taxus also seems to have had a completely different distribution and ecology in the past, especially during the Sub-boreal.

An overview of the palaeobotanical finds of Taxus baccata from Belgium is here given, supplemented with finds from neighbouring regions. The Holocene distribution and palaeoecology of Taxus baccata are discussed in a broader northwest European context.


Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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  • The Belgian Journal of Botany (now known as Plant Ecology and Evolution) is an international journal open to all fields of plant sciences. Please note, however, that papers restricted to purely nomenclatural matters or to floristical data of only local interest will not be accepted. The Journal appears in one volume of two issues per year. It publishes reviews, original research papers, short notes, letters to the editor, and book reviews. Click here for current issues of this journal
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