Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia)

Taxus harringtonia.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Japanese Plum Yew
Cephalotaxus harringtonia

An oil obtained from the seed is used as an illuminant[105].

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

  • Medicinal Use

    None known

  • Edible Use

    Fruit. – raw or cooked. About 2 – 3cm long[200]. The fruit of this plant is said to be astringent and inedible even when fully ripe[200]. However, several of its sub-species produce a very nice sweet fruit – see cultivation details for more information.

    Seed – raw or cooked[81, 105]. Oily[1] with a slightly resinous flavour[K]. The seed is up to 15mm long.

  • 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 Japanese plum yew is a very slow growing tree[185] with an excellent potential as a food crop in Britain. It generally has a large crop of fruit and seeds, these are often eaten in Japan. In addition, the seeds seem to be immune to the predations of squirrels, the seed on trees growing at Kew Botanical gardens being untouched even though virtually every other nut tree there has its crop destroyed[K]. There has been some confusion in the naming of this species. Some botanists have separated off C. drupacea as a separate species, though most nowadays include it as a subspecies of this plant as C. harringtonia drupacea. (Sieb.&Zucc.)Koidzumi., differing from the species in its shortly pedunculate male catkins[81]. In cultivation it is often known as the variety ‘Fastigiata'[81]. Another subspecies, C. harringtonia nana. (Nakai.)Rehd. is a small spreading shrub to 2 metres, spreading by means of suckers[81, 200]. This form is said to have the best fruit of this genus[200], it is a very hardy plant, succeeding as far north as S. Sweden and Nova Scotia[200]. 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 – Japan.

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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.