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Tree Campus: Pacific Yew

Tree Campus SCC is a multi-year and interdisciplinary college initiative to document, map, and celebrate the incredible diversity of trees planted on the campus. With over 200 species, Shoreline Community College is an arboreal paradise that deserves to b


Pacific Yew

c̓əx̌bidac - S. Lushootseed

Taxus brevifolia (TAXACEAE)



PNW, S. Alaska to central California, especially Pac. Coast Ranges



"Fruits ripen from August to October of the same year that flowering occurs. Fruits either drop to the ground or are taken from trees by birds or rodents. Birds devour the fleshy arils and void the seeds which remain viable. Chipmunks and squirrels often take only the seeds. Rodents and some birds-nuthatches, for example-cache yew seeds, thus creating the clusters of yew seedlings observed in some areas." [1]


Equity: Cultural and Historical Significance

"The wood of Pacific yew has been used for archery bows, canoe paddles, tool handles, gunstocks, boat decking, furniture, musical instruments, carved figurines, and miscellaneous novelty items. (In a recent western State gubernatorial election, campaign buttons were made of yew wood.) Japanese have used Pacific yew for ceremonial "Toko" poles, which they place next to entrances of their homes. Pacific yew's resistance to decay makes it useful for fenceposts. Of seven northwest species tested for use as untreated fenceposts, Pacific yew was the second most durable, with an average service life of 25 years. In the mid-1980's Japanese purchasers paid $3,600 per thousand board feet for Pacific yew logs, mostly for wood carvings. In 1989, Japanese buyers agreed to pay $4,150 per thousand for grade 1 yew logs, and a Taiwanese buyer paid $6,100.

Among Native Americans, Saanich Tribal women used Pacific yew to remove underarm hair; Okanagans made a red paint from ground yew wood mixed with fish oil; several tribes smoked dried yew needles, which was said to cause dizziness; Haidas believed that women who ate yew berries would not conceive. Yew was valued as an item of trade and used in making instruments for hunting, fishing, and warring; tools, such as mauls and splitting wedges; household utensils, such as bowls and spoons; and medicine for a broad range of ailments...

Some limited use of T. brevifolia as an ornamental indicates it also has potential as a shade tree, for hedges, and for topiary." [1]



"The wood is hard, heavy, and resistant to decay. Although not of great interest to the forest products industry, it has many special uses. The bark of Pacific yew contains a drug, taxol, that is being used in cancer research, so demand for yew bark by the National Cancer Institute has increased dramatically in recent years...

Continued or increased demand for yew bark for taxol production could further decrease a resource that has already been greatly reduced. Attempts to synthesize taxol in the laboratory have failed, and prospects for success in the future are considered to be poor. The only known source of taxol now is yew bark. Taxol has been found in most of the several other species of Taxus that exist, but Pacific yew is the only one that is considered to be a practical source of quantities sufficient for clinical use. At least one private organization has begun to investigate alternative ways of producing taxol, through tissue culture and by growing vegetatively propagated seedlings in a controlled environment." [1]



[1] Bolsinger, C. and Jaramillo, A. Pacific Yew.

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