Taxus

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yew tree

yew tree

Looks like a pine tree, but is NOT a pine tree. The "needles"/leaves are toxic, but the berries are edible (not the seed of the berry). It is distinguishable by its SOFT, FLAT opposing needles (pine needles are hard, not soft). This tree is strong medicine. The drug Tomoxifin, used in the treatment of breast cancer is made from this tree. If you prune the tree, it will produce fruit later in the summer, - a tiny red berry with a hollow hole in the bottom containing the seed. You can eat the red flesh but spit out the seed which is toxic. You can tell it's ready to eat when the birds are eating the fruit. The fruit tastes amazing, like a sweet dessert that melts in your mouth.

Taxus

 

(yew), a genus of coniferous, evergreen, dioecious (rarely monoecious) trees and shrubs of the family Taxaceae. The leaves are alternate but, because of the deflection of the petioles, grow in a two-tanked position on the lateral horizontal shoots. They are dark green and shiny and have a protruding midrib. The male spikelets are solitary and spherical. The pollen has no air sacs. The berry-like fruits are solitary and contain one seed surrounded by a fleshy red aril.

There are approximately ten species of Taxus, which are distributed in Europe, Asia Minor, East Asia, the Caucasus, and North America. Two species grow in the USSR: the English yew (T. baccata) and the Japanese yew (T. cuspidata). The English yew grows in the Belovezh Virgin Forest (western Byelorussia), Bucovina (western Ukraine), the southern Crimea, and the Caucasus. It attains a height of 27 m and a diameter of 1.5 m. It is shade-tolerant and lives as long as 2,000–3,000 years. Its hard, durable, reddish brown wood is highly valued for use in furniture-making and cabinetry. The entire plant is poisonous, espedaily to horses, because of the presence of the alkaloid taxine. Shrub forms have been grown since antiquity as ornamental hedges and borders and for topiary work.

The Japanese yew grows in the Soviet Far East, China (Manchuria), Korea, and Japan. The tree, which reaches 20 m in height, yields a valuable rose-red wood. The Canada yew (T. canadensis) is a shrublike tree growing 1–2 m tall that has yellowish leaves. It is sometimes grown in the USSR.

REFERENCES

Derev’ia i kustarniki SSSR, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Dallimore, W., and A. B. Jackson. A Handbook of Coniferae and Ginkgoaceae, 4th ed. London, 1966.

T. G. LEONOVA