Botanical Name: Taxus baccata
Common Name: English Yew
Origin: Europe/W. Asia/N. Africa
Notable Feature: Yew is extremely toxic to humans and many grazing animals. Almost every single part of the tree is poisonous, from the needled leaves to the bark, roots, and seeds; however, the bright red, fleshy cup surrounding each seed is not toxic.
Habit: A conical to pyramidal evergreen, typically growing 20 to 30 feet tall. This long-lived tree develops a reddish brown bark that is scaly and slightly peeling.
Flower: Species is dioecious – male and female flowers occur on separate trees; male flowers are small, round and yellow, and borne on the undersides of the needles; female flowers are solitary and inconspicuous.
Fruit: In late summer a red, ornamentally attractive, berry-like fruit is produced. The fleshy cup that surrounds the seed, known as the aril, is not poisonous; however the seed itself contains the alkaloid, taxine, highly toxic to man and livestock. The many birds and animals that relish the fruit are unable to digest the seeds, thus the toxin passes through.
Foliage: Lustrous, dark green, and flattened, each needle is up to 1½” long and arranged spirally on the stem.
Interesting Fact: Taxus baccata can reach 400 to 600 years of age. It is most easily recognized in its trimmed form as dense hedges or topiary. It is also used for bonsai and Christmas trees.