Herbs & Plants

Taxus cuspidata

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Botanical Name: Taxus cuspidata
Family: Taxaceae
Genus: Taxus
Species: T. cuspidata
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales

Common Names: Japanese yew or Spreading yew

Habitat :Taxus cuspidata is native to Japan, Korea, northeast China and the extreme southeast of Russia. It grows on mountains throughout Japan. Acid soils in cold, humid places at elevations of 500 – 1000 metres in Heilongjiang, E Jilin, Liaoning and Shaanxi provinces, China.
It is an evergreen tree or large shrub growing at a slow rate to 10–18 m tall, with a trunk up to 60 cm diameter. The leaves are lanceolate, flat, dark green, 1–3 cm long and 2–3 mm broad, arranged spirally on the stem, but with the leaf bases twisted to align the leaves in two flattish rows either side of the stem except on erect leading shoots where the spiral arrangement is more obvious.

The seed cones are highly modified, each cone containing a single seed 4–8 mm long partly surrounded by a modified scale which develops into a soft, bright red berry-like structure called an aril, 8–12 mm long and wide and open at the end. The arils are mature 6–9 months after pollination. Individual trees from Sikhote-Alin are known to have been 1,000 years old.


It is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan, and the seeds ripen from Sep to November. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.

It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Thrives in almost any soil, acid or alkaline, as long as it is well-drained[1, 200]. Succeeds in dry soils. Very shade tolerant. The dormant plant is hardy to about -35°c but it requires more summer heat and humidity than T. baccata and is rarely more than a shrub in Britain. Young shoots can be damaged by late spring frosts. The foliage may turn reddish-brown in cold winters[81]. There are several named varieties selected for their ornamental value. Plants produce very little fibrous root and should be planted in their final positions when still small. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if fruit and seed is required. Female plants fruit freely in Britain if they are pollinated. Special Features:Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Seed – can be very slow to germinate, often taking 2 or more years. It is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn when it should germinate 18 months later. Stored seed may take 2 years or more to germinate. 4 months warm followed by 4 months cold stratification may help reduce the germination time. Harvesting the seed ‘green’ (when fully developed but before it has dried on the plant) and then sowing it immediately has not been found to reduce the germination time because the inhibiting factors develop too early[80]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in pots in a cold frame. The seedlings are very slow-growing and will probably require at least 2 years of pot cultivation before being large enough to plant out. Any planting out is best done in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe terminal shoots, 5 – 8cm long, July/August in a shaded frame. Should root by late September but leave them in the frame over winter and plant out in late spring. High percentage. Cuttings of ripe terminal shoots, taken in winter after a hard frost, in a shaded frame.

Edible Uses:
Fruit – raw or made into jam. Very sweet and gelatinous, most people find it delicious though some find it sickly. The fruit is a fleshy berry about 8mm in diameter and containing a single seed. All other parts of this plant, including the seed, are highly poisonous. When eating the fruit you should spit out the large seed found in the fruit’s centre. Should you swallow the whole seed it will just pass straight through you without harm, if the seed has been bitten into, however, it could cause some problems.
Medicinal Uses:
Modern research has shown that yew trees contain the substance ‘taxol’ in their shoots and bark. Taxol has shown exciting potential as an anti-cancer drug, particularly in the treatment of ovarian cancers. This remedy is very toxic and, even when used externally, should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See also the notes below on toxicity. A compound used to treat diabetes is extracted from the wood, bark, leaves, and roots.

Other Uses :
A brown dye is obtained from the heartwood. Red according to another report. An oil is extracted from the seeds. Wood – hard, strong, elastic, fine grained, takes a beautiful polish. Used for furniture, bows etc. The wood is used in building construction, furniture manufacture and as a carving material.

Landscape Uses:Hedge, Screen, Superior hedge, Specimen. It is widely grown in eastern Asia and eastern North America as an ornamental plant.
Known Hazards: All parts of the plant, except the flesh of the fruit, are highly poisonous. The entire yew bush is toxic enough to kill a horse, except for the fleshy berry surrounding the seed. For dogs, 2/5ths of an oz per 10 pounds of body weight is lethal. It is therefore advisable to keep domestic animals away from the plant.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.