is a shade-tolerant tree that seldom grows taller than about 50 feet
(15 meters). In its search for sunlight in the shady understory, it
seldom grows straight like other conifers.
has short, flat, needles that spread out on
opposite sides of the twig in flattened rows. They are dark
green on top and lighter green below. The white lines on the lower
surface are often indistinct or not visible. The needles are shorter
Fir needles, but generally
longer than those of Western
The seeds are
partly enclosed in a modified cone scale that develops into a small,
berry-like fruit, called an "aril." Birds eat the arils and disperse
the seeds, but these
arils, or at least the seeds, are quite poisonous to
are either male or female. Pollen
cones and arils do not grow on the same tree. Only the female
When not completely covered in moss, Pacific Yew bark
is a distinctive patchwork
of peeling papery brown or gray scales over a smooth inner layer that
Where it grows: Pacific
yew grows in moist, shady
areas throughout the Northwest at elevations up to 5000 feet (1500
not common, and when you find one, there may be no others growing
Pacific yew has not had great commercial use, it
important when scientists found that taxol rendered from the bark can
to treat cancer.
Fortunately for the Pacific yew, scientists soon discovered a way to
from needles and twigs of other cultivated yews.
The wood of Pacific yew is exceptionally hard and strong, and Indians
used it to make tools, canoe paddles and weapons, especially bows. The
needles and bark of the yew also had various medicinal uses.
is Latin for "short
leaved." Indians called it "haida," meaning bow-plant. Other common
names: Western yew, California yew, and mountain mahogany.
bark often becomes fluted on larger