Characteristics of Japanese Yew Tree (Taxus cuspidata) in the Wild

Taxus cuspidata
Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) is a member of the genus Taxus originating from Japan, Korea, northeast China and the southeasternmost part of Russia.

All parts of the Japanese yew tree are very poisonous because a chemical called an alkaloid taxine is contained in the tree. If any yew leaves or seeds are swallowed, urgent medical advice is recommended observation at least 6 hours after consumption.

Japanese yew poisoning is relatively common in pets and wild animals that consume plants accidentally.

Taxine alkaloids from swallowed parts of the Japanese yew tree will be absorbed quickly from the intestine, and in quite high amounts, it can cause death due to heart failure, heart attack, or respiratory failure.

Substance taxines can also absorb into the body through the skin. Therefore, touching the tree species Taxus (Yew family) must be carefully and better to wear safety gloves.

Aside from consuming tree parts and getting sap in the bark, Japanese yew trees are also dangerous if the woodcut powder is inhaled. Toxins contained in every part of the tree will not disappear in a few months even if the tree is dead or has been cut down.

The deadliest species of the Taxus tree family other than Japanese yew is the English yew (Taxus baccata) which contains about 5 mg of taxon per 1g of leaves. Doses that can kill humans from British Juniper leaves are 3.0-6.5 mg/kg body weight. At present no antidote is known to treat Taxus poisoning, but drugs such as atropine are often used to treat symptoms.

Although the Japanese yew and the British Juniper are both from the highly poisonous Taxus tree family, both are trees that are valued as ornamental trees, especially in bonsai. Long-lived trees like Taxus have been used by professional bonsai artists since ancient times.


Characteristics of Japanese Yew Leaf

Taxus cuspidata Leaf
Source : C. Willson

The leaves are lanceolate, dark green, 1-3 cm long and 2-3 mm wide, and arranged spirally on the stem.


Characteristics of Japanese Yew Fruit

Taxus cuspidata Fruit
Source :

Cone fruit, each cone contains one seed measuring 4-8 mm long.


Characteristics of Japanese Yew Tree

Taxus cuspidata Tree
Source :

Japanese Yew trees grow to form large shrubs 10-15 meters high, with trunk diameters up to 70 cm. The age of the tree is very long, in the wild, it is commonly found at more than 1,000 years old.


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