Yew — Yew is the common name for the 8 species of the genus Taxus in the yew family, Taxaceae. These shrubs or small trees have thin, reddish-brown to purple, scaly bark. Native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, yews generally grow well in moist soils and shade, with some species growing to heights of 23 m (75 ft).
The evergreen needles are dark green above, with a lighter green to yellow below, and are spirally arranged on alternate branchlets. The foliage is poisonous if ingested. Yews are dioecious, having male and female reproductive organs on separate plants. Seeds produced on the female plant are partially enclosed within a fleshy scarlet aril, which matures in its first year.
The English yew, Taxus baccata, and its cultivars are the most popular yews used as ornamentals. This species is also well known in English history and folklore for the excellent bows made from the wood. Although this plant may grow as high as 18 m (60 ft), it is often trimmed as a shrub for foundation plantings. North American yews include the ground hemlock, Taxus canadensis, which is a straggling shrub growing up to heights of 2 m (6 ft) and widely dispersed throughout the northeastern United States; the Pacific, or western, yew, Taxus brevifolia, which grows as high as 14 m (45 ft) along the west coast from Alaska to California; and the Florida yew, Taxus floridana, which may be a shrub or a small tree and is limited to river banks in northwest Florida.