Clipping conifers to combat cancer

Formal gardening meets pharmaceuticals as the hedge trimming season comes to a close

Filling the bag with clippingsAt Rosemoor, we use the English yew (Taxus baccata) to create formal hedges as boundaries to the formal gardens. These are clipped each year to maintain their shape and crisp outline.

This year, we have collected the clippings to be used in the production of Paclitaxel, also known by its original brand name of Taxol, which is a chemotherapy drug treatment used for some forms of cancer - including breast and ovarian. The drug works by stopping cancer cells separating into two new cells, so it blocks the growth of the cancer.

Nearly there!Our clippings were collected by Friendship Estates who have been involved since 1992 in buying and collecting clippings from houses and gardens across the country. The useful compounds are found at the highest levels in the fresh growth of plants clipped each year and Friendship Estates collect from July to the first week in October.

Attaching the crane to weigh the bagThis year we have collected 794kg (1750lb) of clippings for which we will be paid 35p/kg (16p/lb).

It takes a bit of time to coordinate the collection of the clippings, so we have a large batch ready to collect at the end of a week - but it is well worth the effort to help the production of a lifesaving drug.

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