Chinese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus fortunei)

C. filiformis. C. mascula. C. pendula.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Chinese Plum Yew
Cephalotaxus fortunei

Some forms of this species are procumbent in habit and can be used as ground cover in shady places[200].

Very tolerant of pruning, this plant makes a very good hedge in shady positions[200].

  • Medicinal Use

    Substances from the plant have shown anticancer activity[218].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit[2]. Fairly large, it is about 30mm x 15mm[200]. We have no further details, though it is closely related to C. harringtonia, the fruit of which is edible raw if fully ripe[K]. The fruit does not always ripen in Britain, before full ripeness it has a disgusting resinous flavour that coats the mouth and refuses to go away for hours[K].

    It is quite possible that the seed of this species is also edible[K].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[113], it should then germinate in the following spring[K]. A hard seedcoat can delay germination, especially in if the seed is not sown as soon as it is ripe[81, K]. Stored seed should be cold-stratified and sown in a cold frame in the spring[200]. Germination can take 18 months or more. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on for at least their first winter under cover. Plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Greenwood cuttings of terminal shoots, August/September in a humid cold frame[1, 200]. Difficult[113].
Prefers a moist well-drained sandy soil but succeeds in most soils though it dislikes dry gravelly or chalky soils[1, 200]. Prefers a position in semi-shade but tolerates full shade[11, 81] and it also succeeds but does not usually thrive in full sun[200]. It grows very well in the mild wet coastal region of W. Scotland where it succeeds even in full sun[200]. Requires a humid sheltered site[200], strongly disliking very exposed positions[1]. Although the dormant plant is very cold-hardy, the young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun[K]. The Chinese plum yew is a very slow growing shrub or small tree[185] that has excellent potential as a nut crop in Britain. It usually fruits regularly and well in most parts of the country[K] and does well in Cornwall[59]. Trees growing in the shade of other conifers fruit regularly and heavily at Kew Botanical gardens and, unlike most nut trees there, the seeds do not get eaten by the squirrels[K]. Although we have seen no records of edibility for the seed of this species, the closely related C. harringtonia does have edible seed[K]. There are some named forms selected for their ornamental value[200]. ‘Grandis’ is a long leafed female form[200]. ‘Longifolia’ is male but otherwise similar to ‘Grandis'[200]. ‘Prostrata’ (syn ‘Prostrate Spreader’) is a procumbent ground-covering plant that arose as cuttings from a side-shoot of a normal plant[200], a plant of this cultivar was seen with a very heavy crop of immature fruit in mid September 1994 at Hillier Arboretum[K]. Plants are dioecious, but female plants sometimes produce fruits and infertile seeds in the absence of any male plants[11]. However, at least one male plant for every five females should be grown if you are growing the plants for fruit and seed. Plants have also been known to change sex[81]. Male cones are produced in the axils of the previous year’s leaves, whilst female cones are borne at the base of branchlets[200].
E. Asia – E. and C. China.

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*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.