Canadian Yew (Taxus canadensis)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Canadian Yew
Taxus canadensis
Taxaceae

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[257].

  • Medicinal Use

    The Canadian yew is a very poisonous plant, though it was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used minute amounts of the leaves both internally and externally in order to treat a variety of complaints including rheumatism, fevers, influenza, expelling afterbirth and dispelling clots[213, 222, 257]. Modern research has shown that it contains the substance ‘taxol’ in its shoots and bark. Taxol has shown exciting potential as an anti-cancer drug, particularly in the treatment of ovarian cancers[222, 238]. This remedy is very toxic and, even when used externally, should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity.

    The plant is abortifacient, analgesic, antirheumatic, antitumor, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge and pectoral[257].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw[43, 46, 61, 105]. Very sweet and gelatinous, most people find it delicious though some find it sickly[K]. The fruit is a fleshy berry about 8mm in diameter and containing a single seed[200]. 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.

  • Cautionary Notes

    All parts of the plant, except the flesh of the fruit, are highly poisonous[1, 4, 7, 10, 19, 65].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – can be very slow to germinate, often taking 2 or more years[78, 80]. 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[113]. 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[80]. 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[K]. 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[78]. High percentage[11]. Cuttings of ripe terminal shoots, taken in winter after a hard frost, in a shaded frame[113].
Thrives in almost any soil, acid or alkaline, as long as it is well-drained[200]. Plants are very shade tolerant82]. This species is the most cold-hardy member of the genus[11] – dormant plants will tolerate very heavy frosts though the young growth in spring can be damaged by a few degrees of frost. The plants produce very little fibrous root and should be planted in their final positions when still small[81]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Another report says that this species has monoecious flowers (separate male and female flowers, but both borne on the same plant)[82].
Eastern N. America – Newfoundland to Western Virginia, Manitoba, Kentucky and Iowa.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.