Taxus- Yew

Slow-growing conifers with flattened, usually dark-green needles which are poisonous, as are the berries.


Taxus baccata is ideal for hedge making. Such hedges will last for centuries and may grow to several metres in height; they provide nesting places for innumerable birds. The bush forms are used as striking ornamental shrubs in larger than average gardens. All species tolerate a fair amount of shade, but too much of it will lead to thin patches in the hedge.


Will grow in practically any soil, provided the water level is below 50 cm. Taxus appreciates feeding.


The common hedge plant is always grown from seed, hence the attractive small colour variations. Cultivars are increased from winter cuttings.

Taxus baccata, English yew: Height to 20 m, but trees of this size are rare. The needles are 1.5-3 cm long, flat, dark-green and glossy. The seed is contained in bright-pink capsules which are not poisonous. Innumerable garden forms have been developed, some in golden-yellow shades. Tastigiata’ and ‘Raket’ are well known columnar forms; in ‘Fastigiata Aureomarginata’ the leaves are edged with golden yellow. An attractive weeping form with drooping branches is called ‘Dovastoniana’, also available in yellow form. There is a dwarf form with creeping habit called ‘Repandens’; another spreading form, though somewhat taller, is ‘Adpressa’; the spreading, densely branched shrub ‘Semperaurea’ has bright-yellow needles. In ‘Washingtonii’ the needles are yellow green, bronze coloured in winter; this is another large, spreading shrub.

Taxus cuspidata: Height to 15 m; closely resembles Taxus baccata except that the bud scales are more sharply pointed and the needles are thicker and end in an abrupt point. ‘Nana’ is a low shrub with spreading branches; the needles are short and are piled up at the tips of the twigs. In ‘Aurescens’ the needles are golden yellow. Taxus X media: The result of crossing the two previous species. ‘Hatfieldii’ is a broad, bushy shrub with dark-green needles and strongly erect branches; ‘Hicksii’, the best known form, has broad needles and a broad columnar habit. Suitable for medium to tall hedges.

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