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Yews (Taxus)


  • Needles are dark green above and lighter green below (never white); distincly pointed but never sharp to the touch.
  • Fruit is a single seed surrounded by a soft, fleshy, bright red pulp; not a cone, although this is still commonly called a conifer. Seeds are highly poisonous!!
  • Trees grow very slowly and are very long lived--even a small tree may be several hundred years old (or more).
  • Bark is thin, purple, and scaly.





Yew is a small genus of about eight species scattered across North America, Europe, and Asia. Although it's grouped with the conifers because it has needle-like foliage, its fruit is not a cone. Instead, it's an aril--a large, single seed surrounded by a soft, fleshy, bright red pulp. Although they look inviting, DON'T TASTE THEM, for the seeds within the pulp are highly poisonous. All yews contain a natural chemical called taxol, which is very promising in the treatment of certain types of cancer. Only one yew, Pacific yew, is native to the Pacific Northwest. However, English and Irish yews are commonly planted in lawns and gardens for ornamental purposes.

species pageFor more information on the yew native to the Pacific Northwest, go to the species page or see "Trees to Know in Oregon".

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