E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Taxus brevifolia Nutt.
western yew (Pacific yew)
Taxaceae (Yew family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Val George  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #84142)

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Distribution of Taxus brevifolia
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The Pacific or western yew is a small (to 15 m) evergreen coniferous trees species that is native to the Pacific Northwest of North America where is is found in Alberta, British Columbia, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and California (Hils 2011). In British Columbia, this species is common in coastal areas and in the south-central and south-eastern regions of the province in the lowland and montane zones (Douglas et al.2000). Habitat range from "open to dense forests, along streams, moist flats, slopes, deep ravines, and coves" (Hils 2011).

The Pacific yew is on the IUCN red list of threatened species: "Native populations have been under considerable pressure from the scale of exploitation of the bark by pharmaceutical companies." (Conifer Specialist Group 1998). This species is a source of the cancer drug taxol (Hils 2011).

Species Information

Click on the image below to view an expanded illustration for this species.

Small tree 2-15 m tall, often shrubby; branches spreading to drooping in flat sprays; bark thin, with outer purplish scales over reddish to reddish-purple inner bark; male and female plants separate.
Needles 2-ranked, flattened, and pointed at tip, (12) 14-18 mm long, 1-2 mm broad; yellow-green and paler on lower surface.
Fruit is a round, red, fleshy aril, 5-6 mm long, borne on the underside of the branches; pollen cones yellow, globe-shaped, 3 mm long.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Blooming Period:
Early Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to mesic slopes and creek sides in the lowland and montane zones; common along the coast and in SC and SE BC; N to SE AK and S to N CA, NE OR, ID, and NW MT.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Taxus brevifolia

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 722 1890
Slope Gradient (%) 0 27 150
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 229 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(83), CWH(543), ESSF(30), ICH(1158), IDF(16), MH(8), MS(11)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant, submontane to subalpine, Western North American conifer distributed equally in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions. Occurs in cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates; its occurrence increases with increasing precipitation and decreases with increasing latitude and elevation. Scattered in coniferous forests; common on water-receiving sites, frequent on water-collecting sites, and occasional on water-shedding sites. Characteristic of temperate and mesothermal coniferous forests.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool temperate & cool mesothermal.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References