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Pacific Yew Cephalotaxus harringtonia

Other plants called Pacific Yew:

Previously known as:

  • Taxus baccata
Phonetic Spelling
sef-ah-loh-TAKS-us har-ring-TOH-nee-ah
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Japanese plum yew is an evergreen, needled shrub or small tree in the Taxaceae (yew) family and native to Assam and China. Its name is derived from the Greek words kephale and taxus meaning 'head' and 'yew' respectively. The specific epithet harringtonia was given in recognition of the Earl of Harrington who became an early adopter and enthusiast of the species in the early 19th century.

Ideal for the southeastern United States, as it tolerates both the summer heat and humidity unlike other yews, it has a broad, shrubby habit with horizontal branches but can also be trained into a small tree.   This plant produces fruits similar to plums which are edible, hence its common name 'Plum Yew'. However, being a dioecious plant, it requires at least one male plant for the female plants to produce fruit.

This plant prefers moist, well-drained soil but tolerates dry, sandy, or clay soil. Plant it in full sun if you have cool summers; otherwise, it needs partial shade and tolerates shade better than most other needled evergreens. 

Once established this plant is drought tolerant and deer resistant. Its texture is medium to fine, and this yew is normally wider than tall, reaching a height of 5 to10 feet tall and about as wide.

Japanese plum yew works well in a woodland or shade garden as an accent or planted in mass along a border. It makes an interesting change in the landscape from the typical junipers.  

Quick ID Hints:

  • Gymnosperm, linear leaves
  • Two white, glaucous bands on underside
  • Juvenile growth has leaves spirally arranged
  • Adult growth has a V-shaped leaf pattern on branch

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No significant problems.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Patio Room Hydrangeas in the Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Duke Gardens', 'Fastigiata', 'Korean Gold', 'Mary Fleming', 'Prostrata'
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#shrub#slow growing#shade garden#low maintenance#winter interest#accent plant#mass planting#cpp#needled evergreen#deer resistant#fantz#humidity tolerant#sandy soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#partial shade tolerant#Buncombe County Sun and Shade Garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Duke Gardens', 'Fastigiata', 'Korean Gold', 'Mary Fleming', 'Prostrata'
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#shrub#slow growing#shade garden#low maintenance#winter interest#accent plant#mass planting#cpp#needled evergreen#deer resistant#fantz#humidity tolerant#sandy soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#partial shade tolerant#Buncombe County Sun and Shade Garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cephalotaxus
    Species:
    harringtonia
    Family:
    Taxaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Assam, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant is particularly resistant to damage by deer.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    particularly resistant to deer damage, drought and heat tolerant; tolerates dry, sandy, or clay soil.
    Edibility:
    Red fleshy plum-like fruit around the green seed (pit) is okay to eat. Pits are poisonous.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 5 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 5 ft. 0 in. - 14 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Olive-like red axillary cones on female plants resembling small(up to 1") plums, a fleshy aril nearly surrounding the green seed. Male cones are clustered on last season's branches, globular.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    Flower Description:
    Non-showy yellow flowers enclosed in a bract on male plants
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Leaf Type:
    Fronds
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Other/more complex
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    0.5-1.2 in. feather-like needles, dark green leaves, linear with a sharp taper, spirally arranged in a v-shaped pattern. Lustrous underneath, holds color well in winter unless exposed to full sun and wind. Linear, spirally arranged (juvenile) to 2-ranked (adult) forming a V-shaped along branch, lower surface with 2 whitish glaucous bands.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Shade Tree
    Small Tree
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Heat
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    All plants in this botanical group are quite poisonous if ingested but are not dangerous to handle. Nervousness, trembling, slow pulse, pupil dilation, difficult breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, convulsions; seizures, sudden death from acute heart failure.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Alkaloid taxine, Volatile oil
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Leaves
    Seeds