Herb: Japanese Yew
Latin name: Taxus cuspidata
Family: Taxaceae (Yew Family)
Medicinal use of Japanese Yew:Modern research has shown that yew trees contain the substance "taxol" in their shoots and bark. Taxol has shown exciting potential as an anti-cancer drug, particularly in the treatment of ovarian cancers. This remedy is very toxic and, even when used externally, should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See also the notes above on toxicity. A compound used to treat diabetes is extracted from the wood, bark, leaves, and roots.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Mountains throughout Japan. Acid soils in cold, humid places at elevations of 500 - 1000 metres in Heilongjiang, E Jilin, Liaoning and Shaanxi provinces, China.
Edible parts of Japanese Yew:Fruit - raw or made into jam. Very sweet and gelatinous, most people find it delicious though some find it sickly. The fruit is a fleshy berry about 8mm in diameter and containing a single seed. All other parts of this plant, including the seed, are highly poisonous. When eating the fruit you should spit out the large seed found in the fruit's centre. Should you swallow the whole seed it will just pass straight through you without harm, if the seed has been bitten into, however, it could cause some problems.
Other uses of the herb:A brown dye is obtained from the heartwood. Red according to another report. An oil is extracted from the seeds. Wood - hard, strong, elastic, fine grained, takes a beautiful polish. Used for furniture, bows etc. The wood is used in building construction, furniture manufacture and as a carving material.
Propagation of Japanese Yew:Seed - can be very slow to germinate, often taking 2 or more years. It is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn when it should germinate 18 months later. Stored seed may take 2 years or more to germinate. 4 months warm followed by 4 months cold stratification may help reduce the germination time. Harvesting the seed "green" (when fully developed but before it has dried on the plant) and then sowing it immediately has not been found to reduce the germination time because the inhibiting factors develop too early. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in pots in a cold frame. The seedlings are very slow-growing and will probably require at least 2 years of pot cultivation before being large enough to plant out. Any planting out is best done in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe terminal shoots, 5 - 8cm long, July/August in a shaded frame. Should root by late September but leave them in the frame over winter and plant out in late spring. High percentage. Cuttings of ripe terminal shoots, taken in winter after a hard frost, in a shaded frame.
Cultivation of the herb:Mountains throughout Japan. Acid soils in cold, humid places at elevations of 500 - 1000 metres in Heilongjiang, E Jilin, Liaoning and Shaanxi provinces, China.
Known hazards of Taxus cuspidata:All parts of the plant, except the flesh of the fruit, are highly poisonous.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.