Canada Yew

Taxus canadensis

Taxus canadensis, the Canada yew or Canadian yew, is a conifer native to central and eastern North America, thriving in swampy woods, ravines, riverbanks and on lake shores. Locally called simply "yew", this species is also referred to as American yew or ground-hemlock.

Male and female flowers are cone like structures called strobili, both about 3 mm long, borne singly in the leaf axils usually on different branches of the same plant, occasionally on separate plants. Male strobili are numerous, oval-elliptic, the cone scales yellowish, the pollen sacs initially creamy colored, turning tan.

Female strobili are more bud-like and less numerous than male strobili, with brown to greenish egg-shaped scales.

The cup-shaped, berry-like cone called an aril, up to 9.5 mm long, maturing to bright red, open at the top exposing the single seed. Seeds are 4 to 5 mm long, oval to egg-shaped with a pointed tip, slightly flattened, dark brown with a textured surface.

Leaf attachment: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaves are evergreen, needle-like with a minute sharp point at the tip (mucronate), single, flattened, 3/8 to about 1 inch long, dark green on the upper surface, the lower surface paler with a prominent green midvein and appearing striped. Needles are arranged in a spiral around the twig but those on top and underneath the twig twist so that needles appear to be mostly lateral, giving the branch a flattened appearance.

Twigs are mostly alternate, hairless, green to yellowish when young, becoming brown to reddish-brown the second year. Older bark is thin and scaly. Plants lack a central stem, the trunks branched from the base, the branches mostly widely spreading but rising at the tips, sometimes ascending, rarely erect. Branches root where they touch the ground and dense colonies may form.
Taxus canadensis Part of a massive Taxus canadensis (Canada Yew) shrub in a Black Spruce Swamp. Canada Yew,Geotagged,Spring,Taxus canadensis,United States


Shrubs to 2 m, usually monoecious, low, diffusely branched, straggling, spreading to prostrate. Bark reddish, very thin. Branches spreading and ascending. Leaves 1--2.5 cm by 1--2.4 mm, pale green abaxially, mostly without cuticular papillae along stomatal bands, dark green to yellow-green adaxially, epidermal cells as viewed in cross section of leaf wider than tall or ± isodiametric. Seed somewhat flattened, 4--5 mm, surrounded by a scarlet mucilaginous, soft, thick, cup-shaped aril that is open at apex, exposing hard seed coat. 2 n = 24.
Taxus canadensis Taxus canadensis found in a White Cedar Swamp. This species prefers rich habitats and can also be found in Sugar Maple forests and nutrient-rich Black Spruce swamps. Canada Yew,Geotagged,Minnesota,Spring,Taxus canadensis,United States


Taxus canadensis Marshall, Arbust. Amer. 151. 1785.
Taxus baccata Linnaeus subsp. canadensis (Marshall) Pilger
Taxus baccata var. minor Michaux
Taxus minor (Michaux) Britton
Taxus procumbens Loddige


St. Pierre and Miquelon; Man., N.B., Nfld., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que.; Conn., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., Maine, Mass., Mich., Minn., N.H., N.Y., Ohio, Pa., R.I., Tenn., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.


Declining is many parts of its range.


Understory shrub in rich forests (deciduous, mixed, or coniferous), bogs, swamps, gorges, ravine slopes, and rocky banks.


Seeds maturing late summer--early fall.


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SpeciesTaxus canadensis