Monday, March 16, 2020
Pacific Yew - Taxus breifolia
The Pacific Yew - Taxus breifolia - is an extremely slow grower that sometimes rots from the inside, making it hard to determine the age by counting growth rings. The trunk often appears twisted and asymmetrical when left to grow in open areas but when growing in the tight confines of a thick forest it has little option but to grow straight. This conifer is native to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, from the southern portions of Alaska in the North through the Northern portions of California in the South. To the untrained eye it can easily be mistaken for a baby Hemlock , the best way to tell the difference between a Hemlock and a Yew is to look at the underside of the needles, Hemlock will be silvery in color and Yew will be a yellowish-green. The California Torreya also resembles the Pacific Yew, though it has longer needles and has seed coverings that are more plumlike and streaked in purple.
Image Citation: Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org
The fleshy coral colored fruit is frequently eaten by birds even though it contains a poisonous seed. The seeds simply passes through their bodies intact so it does not harm them. The fruit has a sweet mucilaginous pulp that surrounds the seed. The bark is thin, scaly and brown to reddish-purple in color. The bark scales off in thin irregular patches. The flowers are pale yellow (male) and appear in axils of scales on short branches.