Foliage: 1 inch long needles; evergreen
Height: Depends on cultivar
Spread: Depends on cultivar
Shape: Depends on cultivar
Yews are slow-growing evergreen conifers. There are three main species of yews that are used in the landscape, English yew (Taxus baccata), Japanese yew (T. cuspidata) and Anglojap yew (T. ×media). In the nursery and landscape trades, these yews are almost always represented by cultivars (the straight species are rarely, if ever, are available). Their cultivars range from small (medium in many years) tree forms to low-growing shrubs. Yews have an absolute requirement for well-drained soils. Poorly drained soil (such as clay soils or soils in low areas) is the “kiss of death” to yews. These species, especially when sheared, offer a very formal appearance due to their dark green, symmetrical solid canopy. Because of its extreme toxicity to humans, yews should not be planted around playgrounds or other areas where children (or livestock) may be tempted to eat the foliage, bark, or seeds; the red fleshy portion surrounding the seed, the aril, is not poisonous. Deer relish yew foliage without any ill effect – too bad.
Since their culture and landscape functions are very similar, they will be presented collectively in the Plant Needs, Functions, and Care Sections. Cultivars for each species will be described in the Additional Information Section.
Here are some notable cultivars (a mere subset) for each species, many other cultivars exist.
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
November 3, 2010