American Yew

By: C. Colston Burrell
American yew is an

American yew is the hardiest of all yews, yet the eastern and central North American native has been little exploited in ornamental horticulture.

: The American yew has the typical flat, dark green needles of the more horticulturally important yews and similar reddish brown bark. It has a variable growth pattern, from spreading to nearly prostrate, often rooting in the ground as it spreads. The shrub eventually reaches 6 feet in height and 8 feet in width. Its needles have a tendency to turn reddish in winter, but careful selection may reveal, as it has for other conifers, superior clones with more attractive winter color. The berries are bright red.


: The American yew is normally an understory plant in dense, moist forests, so it should do well in similar conditions in culture. It needs cool conditions and winter shade to do well. Like all yews, it is readily pruned at any season.

: This shrub is best used as an evergreen ground cover in shady spots.

American yew related species: The Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) and its hybrid (T. x media) are the best-known yews for landscaping purposes. Both offer many varieties, from upright to spreading to conical to low-growing. If not pruned, most eventually attain tree size after many years of growth. They are commonly used in hedges, topiary, and foundation plantings.

: Taxus canadensis


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