The genus Cephalotaxus is a very difficult one taxonomically since most species are very similar and the key differences that distinguish them generally intergrade morphologically. Over 70 names have been published, though modern treatments usually restrict the genus to between 6 - 8 species. It can be difficult to know how to identify individual plants, with differences of opinion coming from decisions of taxonomists in different countries. We are following the treatment in Lang, X.D., Su, J.R., Lu, S.G. & Zhang, Z.J. (2013). A taxonomic revision of the genus Cephalotaxus (Taxaceae). Phytotaxa 84: 1-24.[
Cephalotaxus buergeri Miq.
Cephalotaxus drupacea Siebold & Zucc.
Cephalotaxus drupacea fastigiata (Carrière) Pilg.
Cephalotaxus drupacea harringtonia (Knight ex J.Forbes) Pilg.
Cephalotaxus drupacea pedunculata (Siebold & Zucc.) Miq.
Cephalotaxus drupacea sinensis Rehder & E.H.Wilson
Cephalotaxus drupacea sphaeralis (Mast.) Pilg.
Cephalotaxus fortunei foemina Carrière
Cephalotaxus mannii Hook.f.
Cephalotaxus pedunculata Siebold & Zucc.
Cephalotaxus sinensis (Rehder & E.H.Wilson) H.L.Li
Cephalotaxus wilsoniana Hayata
Nageia koraiana (Siebold ex Endl.) Kuntze
Podocarpus koraianus Siebold ex Endl.
Taxus baccata Thunb.
Taxus coriacea Knight
Taxus drupacea (Siebold & Zucc.) C.Lawson
Taxus harringtonia Knight ex J.Forbes
Taxus inukaja Knight
Taxus japonica Lodd. ex Gordon
Taxus pedunculata (Siebold & Zucc.) C.Lawson
Common Name: Japanese Plum Yew
Cephalotaxus harringtonia is an evergreen tree forming, with maturity, a broad, rounded crown of spreading branches; it usually grows up to 10 metres tall, occasionally reaching 16 metres. The bole can be 30 - 60cm in diameter[
The plant is often harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials. The plant has also been harvested on a commercial basis for its leaves and bark, which contain compounds that can be used in treating cancer. The plant has excellent potential as a fruit and nut crop and is often grown as an ornamental, with several described cultivars that vary in growth habit, shade tolerance, and cold tolerance[
The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
E. Asia - China, Japan, Korea, northeastern India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos
An understorey shrub in woodlands[
]. Montane coniferous or mixed forests, thickets, stream valleys, valley bottoms, open situations, on granite, sandstone, and limestone substrates; at elevations from 600 - 3,000 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Cephalotaxus harringtonia has a wide native range, from the temperate zone to moderate elevations in the tropics. Some provenances, at least, are fairly cold-hardy when dormant, tolerating temperatures down to between -17.7°c and -12.2°c[
]. The young growth in spring however, 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[
Prefers a moist well-drained sandy soil but succeeds in most soils though it dislikes dry gravelly or chalky soils[
]. Prefers a position in semi-shade but tolerates full shade[
] and it also succeeds but does not usually thrive in full sun[
]. It grows very well in the mild wet coastal region of W. Scotland where it succeeds even in full sun[
]. Requires a humid sheltered site[
], strongly disliking very exposed positions[
The Japanese plum yew is a very slow growing tree[
] 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[
Plants are dioecious, but female plants sometimes produce fruits and infertile seeds in the absence of any male plants[
]. 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[
]. Male cones are produced in the axils of the previous year's leaves, whilst female cones are borne at the base of branchlets[
Fruit. - raw or cooked[
]. The fruit closely resembles a plum in its structure, the fully-ripe flesh is thick, juicy and very sweet with a hint of pine in its flavour[
]. The fruit is about 20 - 30mm long[
]. 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[
]. (As Cephalotaxus drupacea)
Seed - raw or cooked[
] The seed has a firm texture and a slightly resinous flavour[
]. The seed is up to 15mm long. The ovoid or obovoid to ellipsoid seed is 18 - 25mm long and 9 - 12mm wide[
The branches, roots, leaves, and seeds are a source of many alkaloids, which are used to treat leukaemia and lymphosarcoma[
Very tolerant of pruning, this plant makes a very good hedge in shady positions[
An oil obtained from the seed is used as an illuminant[
The wood is used to make furniture, farm implements, crafts, and utensils[
]. (As Cephalotaxus sinensis)
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[
], it should then germinate in the following spring[
]. A hard seedcoat can delay germination, especially in if the seed is not sown as soon as it is ripe[
]. Stored seed should be cold-stratified and sown in a cold frame in the spring[
]. 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, mid summer to early autumn in a humid cold frame[