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TREES & plants

Japanese yew

Dark green shiny needles of Japanese yew

Japanese yews are a popular and versatile evergreen shrub. They make a good foundation or accent plant and dark green leaves make good background for colorful shrubs and perennials. There are numerous cultivars available, varying greatly in size, so choose carefully to find the right one for your site. Be aware that the leaves, seeds, and bark of yews are poisonous. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

 

Botanical name: 
Taxus cuspidata
All Common Names: 
Japanese yew
Family (English): 
Yew
Family (Botanic): 
Taxaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub, 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Foundation, 
  • Hedge, 
  • Massing, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet), 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet), 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet), 
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily), 
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Early spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous, 
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Broad, 
  • Irregular, 
  • Pyramidal, 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
More Information: 

Size and form

Plants range from 40 feet high trees to 10 feet high shrubs.
Habit is erect to broadly narrow to wide-spreading, depending upon the cultivar.

Tree & Plant Care

 Yews grow in full sun to dense shade, but best in some shade to provide winter protection from strong winds.
Prefes moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Yews will not tolerate wet soil. 
Shallow roots benefit with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperatures and conserve moisture.
Water well in fall before the ground freezes.

Disease, pests, and problems

More tolerant of windy sites than other yews, but drying winds and reflecting sun can cause desiccation and winter browning.
Black vine weevil and scale can be a problem on stressed plants.
Deer can be a problem.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

None serious. 

Native geographic location and habitat

Japan, Korea, China

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Cardinal, waxwing, thrushes and many other birds are attracted to the plant’s fruit and use the plant as a nesting site and shelter.

Bark color and texture 

Older plants have reddish-brown bark, exfoliating in patches.
The leaves, bark, and seeds of all yew are poisonous.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Short-stalked, 1-inch long glossy, dark green leaves.
The leaves of all yew are poisonous.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Dioecious, male flowers are tiny, globose strobli in axils of leaves. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fleshy red fruit (arils) resemble berries, ripening in August-November

CAUTION: The leaves, bark, and seeds of all yew are poisonous.

Cultivars and their differences 

Captain yew (Taxus cuspidata 'Fastigiata'): 8 to 10 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide ; pyramidal shape; grows larger and more open if left unpruned.

Upright yew (Taxus cuspidata 'Capitata'):  25 to 30 feet high; the only tree form of Japanese yew tree; dark green leaves

 

 

 

Taxus cuspidata or Japanese yew