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Taxus brevifolia

Taxus brevifolia Nutt.

Pacific Yew, Western Yew

Taxaceae (Yew Family)


USDA Symbol: TABR2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

Pacific Yew or Western Yew is a 15-50 ft., sometimes taller, evergreen shrub or small tree with red-brown, scaly bark; horizontal, drooping branches and deep, yellow-green foliage in flat sprays. Poisonous, nonresinous, evergreen tree with angled trunk often twisted or irregular and with broad crown of slender, horizontal branches; sometimes shrubby.

The strong wood has been used for archery bows, poles, canoe paddles, and small cabinetwork; however, the limited supply and small dimensions restrict use. While most parts of yew plants, are deadly poisonous, the red, juicy cup around the seed is reported to be edible, provided the poisonous seed is not chewed or swallowed. Birds eat these cups and scatter the seeds.


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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 80 feet tall, often shorter.
Leaf: Gray-Green
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul
Bloom Notes: Flowers inconspicuous. Pollen cones yellowish.


USA: AK , CA , ID , MT , NV , OR , WA
Canada: AB , BC
Native Distribution: Extreme s.e. AK to c. CA & n.w. MT; historically in NV
Native Habitat: Damp, partly shady, mt. ravines below 7000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist soils.


Use Food: EDIBLE PARTS: The red arils, in small amounts, are edible. The green seed is toxic. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Use Medicinal: Taxol (terpenoid) comes from the bark and is used to treat breast and ovarian cancer. Inhibits mitosis.
Warning: Bark, leaves, seed pit (red, fleshy surrounding part, called the aril, is OK to eat). Highly Toxic! May be Fatal if Eaten! Symptoms include nervousness, trembling, slow pulse, pupil dilation, difficult breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, convulsions; may be fatal. Toxic Principle: Alkaloid taxine. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Attracts: Birds

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA


Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 663 - Poisonous Plants of North Carolina (1994) Vondracek, W. ; L. Van Asch

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1991 VOL. 8, NO.4 - A National Environmental Research Plan, Director's Report, Discover the Secrets ...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Taxus brevifolia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Taxus brevifolia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Taxus brevifolia


Record Modified: 2023-05-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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