Taxus canadensis Marsh.

American yew

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

American yew is an indicator species for moist, cool conditions and old-growth forests. Look for this small shrub in the understories of northern hardwood and spruce-fir forests. It is the only conifer to produce seeds surrounded by a fleshy, red coating (aril). These arils attract many northern bird species. Moose and white-tailed deer feast on the foliage of American yew year-round.

Habitat

Forests

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a shrub (with multiple stems, or prostrate, growing close to the ground)
Leaf form
the leaves are needle-like
Leaf cross-section
the needle-like leaves are flattened (can't be rolled between the fingers)
Leaf arrangement
there is one needle-like leaf per node
Seed cone form
the seed cone is formed from a solitary seed surrounded by a red aril
Leaf clustering
the needle-like leaves are single, with one per node
Seed cone shape
  • the seed cone is ellipsoid (oval, tapering to rounded ends)
  • the seed cone is globose (spherical)
Leaves overlapping
the needle-like leaves are separate and do not hide the twig surface
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Winter bud shape
    • the winter buds are conical (cone-shaped)
    • the winter buds are ovoid (egg-shaped)
  • Fruits or seeds
    Seed cone base
    NA
    Seed cone bracts
    the bracts are covered by the seed cone scales
    Seed cone form
    the seed cone is formed from a solitary seed surrounded by a red aril
    Seed cone scales
    NA
    Seed cone shape
    • the seed cone is ellipsoid (oval, tapering to rounded ends)
    • the seed cone is globose (spherical)
    Seed cone symmetry
    the seed cone is symmetrical
    Seed cone umbo position
    NA
    Seed cone umbo spine
    NA
    Seed wings
    there are no wings on the seeds
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a shrub (with multiple stems, or prostrate, growing close to the ground)
  • Leaves
    Leaf arrangement
    there is one needle-like leaf per node
    Leaf base
    NA
    Leaf clustering
    the needle-like leaves are single, with one per node
    Leaf cross-section
    the needle-like leaves are flattened (can't be rolled between the fingers)
    Leaf duration
    the needle-like leaves remain green all winter
    Leaf form
    the leaves are needle-like
    Leaf glands
    there are no glands on the underside of the needle-like leaves
    Leaf stalks
    the needle-like leaves have a small leaf stalk
    Leaf types
    there is only one type of needle-like leaf on the twig
    Leaves overlapping
    the needle-like leaves are separate and do not hide the twig surface
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    forests
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Bark resin blisters
    there are no resin blisters on the bark
    Leaves on shoots
    the needle-like leaves do not grow in tight clusters on a short, knob-like shoot
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hair type
    the twigs have few or no hairs on them
    Twig hairs
    the twig does not have hairs
    Twig winter color
    • brown
    • red

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Rhode Island
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), concern (code: C)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Taxus baccata L. var. minor Michx.
  • Taxus minor (Michx.) Britt.

Family

Taxaceae

Genus

Taxus

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Taxus canadensis Marsh. var. canadensis is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT.T. canadensis var. minor (Michx.) Spjut is known from ME.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

2.  Taxus canadensis Marsh. N

American yew. 2b. Taxus baccata L. var. minor Michx.; T. minor (Michx.) Britt. • CT, MA, ME, NH, 
 RI, VT. Forests, predominantly deciduous and mixed evergreen-deciduous types.

1a.  Leaves mainly spreading and borne in 2 lateral ranks, the blades acute at the margin as seen in cross-section, slightly revolute, acute to acuminate at the apex, and keeled on the abaxial surface due to the raised midrib … 2a. T. canadensis var. canadensis

1b.  Leaves ascending to erect, not borne in 2 spreading ranks, the blades round at the margin, plane, obtsuse to acute at the apex, and flat on the abaxial surface (i.e., the midrib not raised from the surface) … 2b. T. canadensis var. minor (Michx.) Spjut

Variety canadensis is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Variety minor is known from ME.