World's Tallest Yew Hedge - Atlas Obscura

World's Tallest Yew Hedge

Cirencester Park
Cirencester, England

Trimmings from the record-setting tree line that surrounds Cirencester Park have been used to manufacture chemotherapy drugs. 


Beautiful Cirencester boasts the tallest yew hedge in the world. The hedge forms part of Cirencester Park and the Bathurst estate but can be seen by passers-by. The semi-circular hedge is over 300 years old, planted in 1720 by the first Earl of Bathurst.

The Guinness Book of Records measured the hedge at 14 meters in height, 130 meters in length, and seven meters wide. It is trimmed every August, with gardeners using cherry pickers to reach the tallest points of the impressive growth. Even with multiple gardeners from the park forestry team working on the trim, the process takes around two weeks to complete.

Trimming the hedge results in a pile of clippings weighing nearly one ton. In the past, some of the hedge clippings have been sold to pharmaceutical firms—yew can be used in the manufacture of chemotherapy drugs. According to St. Johns College at Cambridge, which has also helped turn hedge trimmings into cancer drugs, English yew (Taxus baccata) contains alkaloids capable of preventing cell division. While these can be deadly, research has shown that a specific compound (10-Deacetylbaccatin III) found in yew needles can help prevent leukemia cells and cancerous tumors from growing and dividing.

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