of Interest for Carolina Landscapes
Chinese yew, Taxus chinensis, has emerged as having great
potential in our Carolina landscapes. This small evergreen tree
somewhat resembles a hemlock but grows only 10 feet in height.
A specimen just outside the lath house at the JC
Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) at NC State University is
still performing magnificently after many years.
This tree is easy to root from cuttings, responds well to pruning
and is tolerant of heat, drought, sun and shade. You may actually
be familiar with many other members of this family of trees but
perhaps don't realize it. Known by the common name of yews, they
can be tree form, shrub-like, dwarf or prostrate in habit. Whatever
the shape, all yews are narrow-leaved evergreens with needles
about an inch long in two ranks that are spirally arranged along
the green twigs. The fruits are most distinctive. The yew produces
a fleshy berry about the size of a pea and is open on one end
to reveal a single, hard seed inside. The seeds are often poisonous,
so be sure to teach children not to randomly eat parts of any
landscape plant, yews included.
Most people have great familiarity with the English yew, Taxus
baccata, which is among the most ancient of trees with some
English specimens known to be 3,000 years old. It has also been
a mainstay of the American suburban landscape for decades. Another
relative, Japanese yew, T. cuspidata, also shows great
hardiness and variability within the genus. All yews seem to be
capable of hybridizing among themselves which has led to a great
degree of confusion at times in naming the species.
Look carefully for Chinese yews in your local garden centers.
If you can't find them, ask for them, repeatedly. Try the Internet,
too, as mail order sources are becoming more prominent in this
new age of marketing plants. The JCRA is certainly one place where
a quick look at this plant is an easy way to make your own evaluation.
While you're there, make a comparison of the more than half dozen
types of yews in their collections.
All photos courtesy JC Raulston