Western yew

Silhouette - western yew
  • Latin name: Taxus brevifolia Nutt.
  • French name: If de l'Ouest
  • Synonym(s): Yew , Pacific yew
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 194884
Description

Leaves

  • Leafy shoot - western yew
  • Detail of leafy shoot - western yew

Form

  • Needle-like, evergreen
  • Remaining on tree for about 8 years
  • Flattened, somewhat curved
  • Midvein prominent
  • Edges rolled under
  • Tip sharp, abruptly pointed
  • Base tapered to a short slender stalk attached to the forward end of a flat leaf-cushion
  • Spirally arranged, often appearing to be 2-ranked or spreading from 3 sides
  • No resin ducts

Length

  • 13–25 mm

Colour

  • Upper surface dark yellowish-green
  • Lower surface pale

Buds

Form

  • Terminal bud small, rounded, with thin, closely overlapping scales
  • Lateral buds similar but smaller
  • Bud scales keeled acute, loose

Colour

  • Terminal bud green

Twigs

Form

  • Slender, flexible, hairless
  • Leaf-cushions evident as flat ridges extending a few millimetres below each leaf, separated by incised grooves

Colour

  • Green, becoming greenish-brown or reddish-brown

Pollen cones

Form

  • Globular, small
  • 6–12 scales
  • On short stalks from winter buds on the underside of previous year’s twigs
  • Pollen cones and seed-bearing structure on separate trees

Colour

  • Pollen cone yellow

Seed cones (mature)

Form

  • A single ovule set on the end of a short scaly stalk
  • Wind-pollinated

Colour

  • Ovule greenish

Structure

  • Coming from a lateral winter bud on previous year’s twig

Timing

  • Ripens the same autumn

Seeds

  • Aril (left); seed (right) - western yew

Form

  • Hard
  • Set in a cup-shaped, fleshy aril

Length

  • About 8 mm

Colour

  • Seed dark blue
  • Aril reddish

Seedlings

Form

  • 2 short, flat, sharp-pointed cotyledons

Bark

Form

  • Thin, with large scales

Colour

  • Dark reddish-brown to purplish-brown
  • Newly exposed bark dark reddish-purple

Wood

Texture

  • Fine-textured, heavy, hard
  • Strong, resilient
  • Decay-resistant

Colour

  • Reddish to dark orange
  • Sapwood yellow

Morphology

  • Annual rings distinct, rays not visible
  • No resin ducts
  • Even-grained

Uses

  • Canoe paddles, tool handles, carved ornaments
  • Bark, needles, and twigs produce paclitaxel (Taxol), a potent anti-cancer drug

Size

Height

  • Up to 20 m

Tree form

  • Silhouette - western yew

Forest-grown

Crown

  • Conical, with spreading, irregular branches
  • Flat or slightly drooping branchlets

Habitat

Site

  • A scattered tree of the understory of conifer or northern broadleaf forests

Light tolerance

  • Very shade-tolerant, but thrives in full sunlight
Insects and diseases

Insects and diseases that are found most frequently and/or that cause the most damage in our Canadian forests.

Photos
  • Western yew
Distribution map
Distribution map - western yew
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