If you would like to support this site, please consider Donating.
Useful Temperate Plants

Taxus contorta

Griff.

Taxaceae


In most of the literature referring to Taxus in the Himalayas only one species, Taxus wallichiana, is recognized for the entire mountain chain [often referred to as Taxus baccata wallichiana (Zucc.) Pilg.]. More recently, all of the populations occurring from central Nepal westward to northern Pakistan and Afghanistan have been assigned to the relatively recently described species Taxus fuana Nan Li & R.R.Mill, which was first known from the Himalayas of SW Xizang [Tibet]. This species has turned out to be synonymous with Taxus contorta Griff., a much earlier name, that has priority and must therefore be used[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].
The species of Taxus are more geographically than morphologically separable; and they were all treated by Pilger (1903) as subspecies of Taxus baccata. All species are poisonous; most contain the anti-cancer agent taxol; and a study of heartwood constituents of Taxus baccata, Taxus brevifolia, Taxus cuspidata and Taxus floridana found them to be chemically almost identical. However, the vast ecological amplitude displayed by the various described species (over 60° of latitude and an impressive temperature and precipitation range) suggests that they are, in a meaningful sense, true species. Detailed study of the genus (not neglecting the cultivated representatives), including extensive fieldwork, is much needed and long overdue[
329
Title
The Gymnosperm Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.conifers.org/index.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A vast amount of information on conifers and families of gymnosperms.
].

+ Synonyms

Taxus fuana Nan Li & R.R.Mill

Taxus wallichiana contorta (Griff.) Silba

Common Name:

No Image.

General Information

Taxus contorta is an evergeen shrub or a tree that can grow up to 12 metres tall. The bole often branches from low-down; in mature trees ir can be up to 350cm in diameter[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild mainly for medicinal use and for its wood. The plant has been harvested on a large scale for its bark and shoots, which are a source of the anticancer drug 'taxol'. This harvesting has proved to be unsustainable, and efforts are being made to cultivate the plant for this purpose. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental, mainly in Asia[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].
Taxus contorta has undergone a recent, rangewide population decline of at least 50 % but probably less than 80%. The causes of the decline are varied, ranging from over-exploitation associated with medicinal use to overcollection for fuelwood and fodder. The decline is continuing and while the causes are largely understood, in many areas they will not be reversible. The plant is classified as 'Endangered' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

All parts of the plant, except the flesh of the fruit (actually an aril), are potentially highly poisonous. They contain the alkaloid taxine and , if ingested, can cause nervousness, trembling, slow pulse, pupil dilation, difficult breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness and convulsions - in larger doses it can be fatal, having a paralyzing affect on the heart[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
,
10
Title
Poisonous Plants and Animals.
Publication
 
Author
Altmann. H.
Publisher
Chatto and Windus
Year
1980
ISBN
0-7011-2526-8
Description
A small book, reasonable but not very detailed.
,
19
Title
Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Stary. F.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1983
ISBN
0-600-35666-3
Description
Not very comprehensive, but easy reading.
,
65
Title
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J.
Publisher
Wolfe
Year
1984
ISBN
0723408394
Description
Brilliant. Goes into technical details but in a very readable way. The best work on the subject that I've come across so far.
,
293
Title
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent concise but comprehensive guide to toxic plants that grow in N. Carolina. It lists even those plants that are of very low toxicity, including several well-known food plants such as carrots and potatoes.
].

Botanical References

266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.

Range

Asia - northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, western China, Nepal, northern India

Habitat

Small scattered populations, usually along streams within coniferous forests; at elevations from 1,700 - 2,600 metres[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]. Mixed forests and Pinus forests, usually in shade; at elevations from 2,500 - 3,400 metres[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].

Properties

Conservation StatusEndangered
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Tree
Height9.00 m
PollinatorsWind
Self-fertileNo
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental, Wild

Cultivation Details


Plants are very shade tolerant[
81
Title
Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Rushforth. K.
Publisher
Christopher Helm
Year
1987
ISBN
0-7470-2801-X
Description
Deals with conifers that can be grown outdoors in Britain. Good notes on cultivation and a few bits about plant uses.
], though they can also succeed in full sun. They thrive in almost any soil, acid or alkaline, as long as it is well-drained[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Succeeds in dry soils. Plants grow best in a position sheltered from cold, dry winds[
352
Title
KemperCentreForHomeGardeningPlantFinder
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic cultivation details, plant uses, habitat etc for several thousand species of plants, mainly from the temperate zone.
].
Since the exploitation of Himalayan yew for its foliage containing taxanes has proved to be unsustainable, cultivation efforts are being undertaken in the Himalayan foothills and elsewhere in India; this involves both species Taxus contorta and Taxus wallichiana.
Because of its similarity with the European Yew (Taxus baccata), this species is rarely found in cultivation in Europe, but is used as an ornamental elsewhere, as in Baguio, Philippines[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].
Regeneration in the wild is poor in most areas[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].
A dioecious species, both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.

Edible Uses

We have no specific information for this species, but the fruit (a fleshy aril) of all members of the genus should be edible. The following is a general description.
Fruit - raw[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
65
Title
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J.
Publisher
Wolfe
Year
1984
ISBN
0723408394
Description
Brilliant. Goes into technical details but in a very readable way. The best work on the subject that I've come across so far.
,
81
Title
Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Rushforth. K.
Publisher
Christopher Helm
Year
1987
ISBN
0-7470-2801-X
Description
Deals with conifers that can be grown outdoors in Britain. Good notes on cultivation and a few bits about plant uses.
,
158
Title
Forest Flora of Chakrata, Dehra Dun and Saharanpur.
Publication
 
Author
Gupta. B. L.
Publisher
Forest Research Institute Press
Year
1945
ISBN
-
Description
A good flora for the middle Himalayan forests, sparsly illustrated. Not really for the casual reader.
]. Very sweet and gelatinous, most people find it delicious though some find it sickly[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. A number of people who like the flavour do not like the texture which is often described as being 'snotty'[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]
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 it is bitten into, however, you will notice a very bitter flavour and the seed should immediately be spat out or it could cause some problems. The fruit is a fleshy berry about 10mm in diameter and containing a single seed[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Medicinal

Bark, leaves and twigs have a range of traditional medicinal uses and are also used for the commercial production of Taxol, an anti-cancer drug. It is this latter use that is the main driver behind its decline in India and Nepal[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

The following uses were originally stated for Taxus baccata growing wild in India. It is now considered that Taxus baccata is not found wild in India and that references to that taxon apply to Taxus mairei and Taxus wallichiana (both in the eastern Himalayas) and Taxus contorta (in the western Himalayas)
The leaves and fruits are antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, emmenagogue and sedative[
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
]. The leaves are used in the treatment of asthma, bronchitism hiccough, epilepsy and indigestion[
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
].
Care should be taken in the use of this remedy - see notes above on toxicity.

Other Uses

The bark of most, if not all species of taxus is a moderate source of tannins[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
,
331
Title
Flora of Guatemala
Publication
 
Author
Standley P.C. & J. A. Steyermark
Website
http://www.archive.org/
Publisher
 
Year
1946 - 1976
ISBN
 
Description
A superb reference, though somewhat dated. Gives lots of plant uses as well as information on plant habit and habitat. The entire flora (13 volumes) can now be downloaded from http://www.archive.org/
]. It is used in several species to produce a red dye[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

The wood is used for house construction (roof shingles especially) and furniture as well as more specialised uses such as grave coverings and beehives[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].
In Pakistan especially, the timber is also valued as fuel[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Propagation

Seed - can be very slow to germinate, often taking 2 or more years[
78
Title
Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Sheat. W. G.
Publisher
MacMillan and Co
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
,
80
Title
Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Publication
 
Author
McMillan-Browse. P.
Publisher
Grower Books
Year
1985
ISBN
0-901361-21-6
Description
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
]. 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
Title
The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
Publication
 
Author
Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W.
Publisher
Athens Ga. Varsity Press
Year
1987
ISBN
0942375009
Description
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
]. 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
Title
Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Publication
 
Author
McMillan-Browse. P.
Publisher
Grower Books
Year
1985
ISBN
0-901361-21-6
Description
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
]. 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
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
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
Title
Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Sheat. W. G.
Publisher
MacMillan and Co
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
]. High percentage[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
Cuttings of ripe terminal shoots, taken in winter after a hard frost, in a shaded frame[
113
Title
The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
Publication
 
Author
Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W.
Publisher
Athens Ga. Varsity Press
Year
1987
ISBN
0942375009
Description
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
].
Layering

Add a Comment:

If you have any useful information about this plant, please leave a comment. Comments have to be approved before they are shown here.