En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - July 12, 2013

From: Granite City , IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Soils, Poisonous Plants, Trees
Title: Member of Taxus genus native to southern Illinois from Granite City IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Is there a native Southern Illinois similar to Taxus baccata? I live in Granite City IL and am looking for a native plant/scrub that stays green year round about 2-3 feet tall to it helps insulate the basement during.

ANSWER:

Indeed, Taxus canadensis (Canada yew) is native to Illinois. Whether it is similar to Taxus baccata remains to be seen.

This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that Taxus baccata (English yew) has been reported as growing in New York State, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington State; however, it is native to Europe, Iran, Africa and Asia. From the Gymnosperm Database, here is an article on Taxus baccata, which states that most members of the genus Taxus are pretty similar, so that helps in establishing similarity to the North Americana native Taxus canadensis (Canada yew). From the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens in England, here is another article on Taxus baccata.

So, now that we know what characteristics we are comparing, lets go back to the native Taxus canadensis (Canada yew) to see how similar they are. This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that it grows naturally in the northern counties of Illinois, but not in Madison County on the southwestern border. That doesn't mean it won't grow there, it just means it hasn't been reported as growing there. We always check this to try and find out if the the climate, rainfall and soil would be acceptable. From our webpage on this plant, here are the growing conditions:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist sands or sandy loams.
Conditions Comments: Needs protection from winter sun and wind, heat or drought. Pest free."

From that same webpage:

"'American yew is a low, straggling shrub or ground cover, 3-6 ft. tall and twice as wide, with flat, narrow needles that are dark green above and pale green below. Evergreen foliage takes on a reddish-brown tint in winter. Spreading limbs ascend at the tips. Bright-red, berry-like fruit grows at the tips of the branches."

Both of the articles on the Taxus baccata used metric terms to describe the size of that plant. This member of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team doesn't speak metric but the comparisons in size between the native and your description of size of the non-native sound pretty close. Both are evergreen, both have rather flat needles and both have  bright red berries. Pictures and more information on Taxus canadensis (Canada yew). Pictures and more information on Taxus baccata.

On the Gymnosperm Database referenced above, mention is made that all members of the Taxus genus had a pretty high level of toxicity.

So, if you think your soil and rainfall are sufficiently like those called for in the Growing Conditions for Taxus canadensis (Canada yew), it would seem it would grow in your garden. Whether it would help insulate your basement, we couldn't tell you.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Canada yew
Taxus canadensis

More Soils Questions

Plants for acid soils and coffee grounds for the soil
April 21, 2008 - Please tell me what plants & flowers need acid soil and are coffee grains good to make soil acid?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen hedge for constant rain
June 24, 2008 - We live in Washington State up north by Canadian border. We need a hedge that will survive the constant rain. We have tried cedar. They seem to turn brown and die,one at a time so we keep replacing th...
view the full question and answer

Turf grass for a sandy site in central Texas
February 16, 2015 - I want to plant grass over an old sand volleyball court in our back yard in Bastrop, Texas. What is the best way to go? Adding top soil and buffalo grass seed or try St. Augustine?
view the full question and answer

Failure of TX bluebonnets to thrive
May 28, 2015 - We have had extraordinary luck with bluebonnets growing in our driveway of decomposed granite--until last year and this year. The bluebonnets seem to be drying up and wilting away. The ones in other a...
view the full question and answer

Source for information on Habiturf from Utopia, TX
February 25, 2014 - During a recent Central Texas Gardener TV show, someone from the Center mentioned that your Habiturf was going to be available as sod from someone in the San Antonio area this spring. Is that true an...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center