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Zones A3, 3-9, 14-24
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Fruit (seeds) and foliage are poisonous if ingested


Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

Yews are conifers, but they do not bear cones. Instead, they produce fleshy, scarlet (rarely yellow), cup-shaped, single-seeded, berrylike fruit. In general, yews are darker green, more formal-looking, and more tolerant of shade and moisture than most cultivated conifers. Long-lived. Only the female plants produce berries, and many do so without male plants nearby. Excellent for hedges and screens. Yews can be moved without harm even when large, but since they grow at a slow to moderate rate, big plants are luxury items.

Yews take many soils but do not thrive in strongly alkaline or strongly acid conditions. Do not take extreme heat, and reflected heat from a hot south or west wall will burn foliage. Even cold-hardy kinds show needle damage when exposed to dry winds, very low temperatures. Can take much shearing and pruning, since they sprout from bare wood. Subject to vine weevils, scale insects, and spider mites. During prolonged spells of hot, dry weather, hose off plants every 2 weeks.

Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata

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Taxus baccata

Tree or shrub, from Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. Grows to 25–40 ft. or taller and 15–25 ft. wide, with a broad, low crown. Needles are 1/2–1 1/2 in. long, dark green and glossy above, pale beneath; spirally arranged. Far more common than the species, are garden varieties.

Taxus cuspidata

In its native Japan, a tree to 50 ft. tall; in North America, usually seen as a compact, pyramidal tree that grows to 10–25 ft. (possibly taller) and half as wide. Can be kept lower by pinching new growth. Fruits heavily. This is the most useful yew in cold-winter areas east of the Cascades. Will succeed in shaded areas of Rocky Mountain gardens. Needles are 1/2–1 in. long, dark green above, tinged yellowish beneath; usually arranged in two rows along twigs to make a flat or V-shaped spray.

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