Are yew berries poisonous

Contents

Plants toxic to dogs

Many common garden plants, such as apples and tulips, have some toxic elements that could prove dangerous to your dog. The majority won’t cause much more than an upset stomach, and most dogs won’t eat plants that are poisonous to them. Most toxic garden plants, such as granny’s bonnet, bluebells and hellebores, need to be eaten in such huge quantities to cause harm, that they’re very unlikely to do so.

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However, some garden plants can be lethal to dogs. It’s therefore important to identify the worst culprits, so you can avoid growing them.

As with all fear of toxicity, if you suspect your dog has eaten part of a toxic plant then seek veterinary advice immediately.

With help from Dogs Trust, we’ve created a list of the most toxic plants to dogs. All of these are plants can be lethal to dogs and dog owners would be well advised to avoid growing them.

For a complete list of plants that have varying levels of toxicity to dogs, see the Dogs Trust factsheet.

Browse our list of plants that are lethal to dogs, below.

The majority won’t cause much more than an upset stomach, and most dogs won’t eat plants that are poisonous to them. However, there are some garden plants that can be lethal to dogs. It’s therefore important to identify the worst culprits, so you can avoid growing them.

Apricot

The kernals of apricots contain cyanide and can be fatal to dogs.

Azalea

Azalea flower

If ingested, all parts of azaleas and rhododendrons cause nausea, vomiting, depression, difficulty breathing and even coma. They can be fatal to dogs if eaten in large enough quantities.

Castor bean, Ricinus communis

Castor oil plant, Ricinus communis

All parts of the the castor oil plant are lethal to dogs and humans, and even the tiniest amount, such as a single seed, can kill.

Daffodil

Narcissus ‘Hawera’ daffodil

Daffodil and other narcissus bulbs are toxic to dogs and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. They can be fatal.

Elephant ears, Bergenia

Eating the leaves or flowers of elephants’ ears can cause burning, irritation and swelling of the mouth and throat. If your dog’s tongue swells enough to block its air passage it could die.

Grapevines, Vitis

Grape ‘Schiava Grossa’

Eating grapes and raisins can cause serious kidney failure and death.

Jessamines, Cestrum

Eating the berries and sap of jessamines can cause digestive problems, including vomiting and diarrhoea, affecting the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. Can be fatal.

Jimson weed, Datura

Eating any part of the plant can cause extreme thirst, distorted vision, delirium, incoherence, coma and death to your dog.

Larkspur, Delphinium (young plants and seeds)

Larkspur flowers

Eating young larkspur plants and seeds can cause digestive problems including vomiting and diarrhoea, nervousness, depression. Can be fatal to dogs.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe growing on an apple tree

While it’s unlikely that your dog would reach mistletoe growing in the garden, problems can occur when you bring plants into the house for Christmas. Eating mistletoe berries can upset the gastrointestinal tract and cause dermatitis. Just a few berries are enough to kill puppies.

Deadly nightshade, Atropa belladonna

Eating any part of the plant can cause severe digestive problems and death.

Oleander

Oleander flowers

Eating any part of oleander can cause heart problems, severe digestive problems, dermatitis and sometimes death to dogs.

Poison hemlock, Conium maculatum

Eating any part of the plant can affect the nervous system, cause dermatitis and be fatal to dogs.

Ragwort

Any part of the plant can cause irreversible kidney and liver failure in your dog. Tiny doses can be fatal.

Wild cherry, Prunus avium

Wild cherry blossom

Eating the twigs and leaves of wild cherry can be fatal.

Yew, Taxus baccata

Yew hedge

Eating yew berries and foliage (but particularly the foliage) can cause dizziness, a dry mouth, abdominal cramps, salivation and vomiting. Can be fatal to dogs and death can come without any prior symptoms.

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Reducing the risk of poisoning

Bear in mind that most dogs don’t eat plants that are poisonous to them. Those that do may be bored or stressed, so consider looking at ways in which you can change your dog’s lifestyle to encourage them not to eat garden plants in the first place.

Further information

  • Dogs Trust factsheet on toxic plants
  • How to create a cat-friendly garden
  • Most poisonous garden plants
  • Cats’ Protection League list of dangerous plants to cats
  • Browse our Plant Finder

Toxicology Brief: The dangers of yew ingestion

For millennia, people used yew alkaloids as both a method of suicide and a chemical weapon during hunting and warfare. Even sleeping beneath the shade of a yew bush was once considered dangerous.1

Yew also has a notorious reputation among livestock veterinarians in the Northern Hemisphere, and, within this context, Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata), English yew (Taxus baccata), and Chinese yew (Taxus chinensis) are among the most toxic plants in North America.1 Chewing on Taxus species branches has caused death in dogs.1,2 And yew plants are potentially toxic to pet chinchillas and companion birds such as budgerigars and canaries, although macaws appear to be resistant.1,2

Identification and sources

Taxus species’ leaves are distinctive, making the plants relatively easy to identify. The simple, needlelike leaves are 1 to 2.5 cm long and less than 0.25 cm wide. They are alternately spirally arranged but twisted so they are two-ranked, linear-lanceolate, and decurrent (many lateral leaves with a central stem).1

Taxus cuspidata, T. baccata, and Taxus x media (T. baccata crossed with T. cuspidata) are common shelter, shade, and ornamental plants in the United States.1 Typically, they are planted as hedges or screens. In northern areas, T. cuspidata is preferred, probably because of its greater winter hardiness.1 Taxus baccata are long-lived; some English yews are more than 2,000 years old. Taxus canadensis (Canada yew, ground hemlock, American yew) is a native, cold-tolerant woodland shrub distributed from the Ohio River Valley to the far northeastern parts of Canada. Taxus floridana is a small tree whose distribution is limited to the Apalachicola River area of Florida. Taxus brevifolia (Pacific or western yew) is an understory tree in forests in the western United States. Pacific yew contains only minimal amounts of taxine alkaloids, the principal toxins associated with yew poisoning, and, thus, has a lower toxic potential than other Taxus species.

Toxic principles and toxicokinetics

While various potentially toxic chemicals are present in Taxus species, all parts of the plants except the aril (i.e. the fleshy covering of the seeds) contain cardiotoxic taxine alkaloids, the main compounds of toxicologic concern. The two important cardiotoxic alkaloids present are taxine A and taxine B.1,2 The cinnamate metabolites of both taxines are also cardiotoxic. Paclitaxel, which is of pharmacologic interest because of its antimitotic and anticancer effects, is also present in Taxus species and is potentially arrhythmogenic in some people; however, it is not the major toxic principle in this plant.

Taxines remain in the plant throughout the year, with the maximal plant taxine concentrations appearing during the winter.2 Dried yew plant material retains its toxicity for several months and remains a hazard to domestic animals.

The amount of plant material required to obtain a lethal dose is quite small: The LDmin in dogs is about 2.3 g of leaves/kg, or about 11.5 mg/kg of taxine alkaloids.2 So a dog could consume a potentially lethal dose while playing with Taxus species branches or sticks. Since cases have been recorded in which horses have collapsed within 15 minutes of consuming Taxus species, absorption of ingested taxine alkaloids in monogastric animals is rapid.1 One factor that may limit the ingestion of the leaves or bark is a volatile oil irritant in the plant.

Mechanism of action

In isolated guinea pig heart models, both taxine A and B are potentially cardiotoxic, but taxine B is significantly more potent.2 Taxine B has both negative inotropic and atrioventricular (AV) conduction delay effects.2 Taxine B-induced AV conduction delay produces the classic increase in the electrocardiographic QRS complex duration that is observed in people, pigs, and guinea pigs with yew toxicosis.2 The P wave may also be depressed or absent. Taxine B also acts as a class I antiarrhythmic drug and, thus, reduces cardiac contractility and the maximum rate of depolarization. Taxine cinnamate metabolites have an arrhythmogenic effect because of their ability to reduce coronary blood flow.

Taxines, particularly taxine B, are potent direct cardiac myocyte calcium and sodium channel antagonists that inhibit calcium and sodium currents in a manner similar to that of drugs such as verapamil, although taxines are more cardioselective. Potential cardiac effects associated with calcium channel blockade include increased coronary arterial vasodilation and blood flow and suppressed cardiac contractility, sinoatrial node automaticity, and AV node conduction. Like other calcium channel antagonists, taxines also suppress vascular smooth muscle contraction and can produce marked arterial vasodilation-mediated hypotension. Thus, the most common effect of taxine alkaloids in monogastric animals with yew toxicosis is peracute death due to diastolic cardiac standstill and possibly concurrent arterial vasodilation and hypotension.

Volatile oil irritants in the plant may trigger acute gastroenteritis if the animal survives long enough. Clinical signs referable to central nervous system excitation have been observed in dogs. The mechanism of this effect is unknown.

Clinical signs

Often, the first evidence of yew toxicosis is unexpected death. Clinical signs or death may occur within minutes to several days after plant ingestion. Clinical signs, when observed, may include trembling, dyspnea, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In a nonfatal case of T. cuspidata ingestion in a dog, clinical signs relating to central nervous system disturbance (particularly mydriasis, tetanic seizures, and increased aggressiveness) and gastroenteritis lasting one week were reported.3 Clinical signs in experimentally poisoned canaries and budgerigars included vomiting, regurgitation, dyspnea, depression, weakness, a wide-based stance, ataxia, cyanosis, and death.1 As stated earlier, the most important electrocardiographic findings in poisoned mammals include bradycardia, depression or the absence of the P wave, and the increased QRS complex duration secondary to AV conduction delay.

Lesions, laboratory findings, and diagnosis

Gross and microscopic lesions are often absent in animals with yew toxicosis. Nonspecific findings at necropsy may include nonspecific pulmonary edema, congestion, and hemorrhage secondary to acute cardiovascular disturbance.1,2 Evidence of acute gastroenteritis may be present if the animal survives long enough. Reported necropsy findings in subacutely poisoned ruminants also include myocardial hemorrhages and focal interstitial myocarditis.2

Diagnosis depends on a history of potential exposure, clinical signs, and the detection of either yew leaves in the gastric contents or taxines in gastric contents or blood by gas or liquid chromatography and mass spectroscopy.1,2 The presence of 3,5-dimethoxyphenol, an agylactone of the taxine alkaloid taxicatine, in the gastric contents or blood has also been suggested as a marker for yew exposure. While the leaves of Taxus species are distinctive, submitting masticated samples to a plant identification laboratory for microscopic examination may be required for positive identification. Because of the small amount of leaves required for toxicosis, make sure to thoroughly and systematically examine the gastric contents.

Treatment

Sadly, death is often the first indication of yew toxicosis, and little opportunity for therapeutic intervention may be available. No specific antidote exists, and successful treatment has never been demonstrated experimentally.

Induce emesis within one hour (preferably within 30 minutes) after ingestion with due clinical prudence in asymptomatic animals in which electrocardiographic anomalies are not present. If large amounts of taxine alkaloids have already been absorbed, inducing emesis carries the potential risk of triggering cardiac and central nervous system complications. When emesis is contraindicated, consider gastric lavage. If emesis is induced or gastric lavage is performed, carefully examine the gastric contents for yew leaves, and submit samples for taxine alkaloid determination. Decontamination involving activated charcoal administration has been effective in some cases of subacute yew toxicosis in ruminants, so administer activated charcoal to potentially poisoned companion animals.

Periodic electrocardiographic monitoring of the QRS complex interval and other cardiac arrhythmias for several days after exposure is important, even in asymptomatic animals. Avoid additional cardiac stressors or triggers of cardiac arrhythmias such as exercise, transportation, or excitement. Administering atropine sulfate has been suggested to counteract the cardiotoxic effects of taxines in domestic animals; however, Taxus species-induced arrhythmias in people are difficult to control.2,4 Use caution if administering atropine since it can increase myocardial oxygen demand and potentiate myocardial hypoxia and dysfunction. Atropine is considered to be more effective in yew toxicosis if it is administered early. Repeated high doses of intravenous lidocaine have been used successfully to control yew-induced ventricular fibrillation in one person.5 Intravenous boluses of hypertonic sodium bicarbonate were ineffective in reversing the widening of the QRS complex interval in swine with T. x media toxicosis.6

Other treatments are essentially symptomatic and supportive: fluid therapy to support blood pressure and maintain hydration and renal function; positive pressure ventilation if respiratory distress is present; antiemetics (e.g. metoclopramide 0.2 to 0.5 mg/kg orally, intravenously, or subcutaneously every eight hours); and gastrointestinal protectants (e.g. kaolin and pectin 1 to 2 ml/kg orally every six to 12 hours). Aggressive behavior and seizures should also be controlled (e.g. diazepam at 0.5 to 1 mg/kg intravenously or 4 mg/kg rectally in increments of 5 to 20 mg to effect).

Prognosis and prevention

Since yew toxicosis is often a postmortem diagnosis, preventing exposure is paramount. Make sure pet owners know that yew branches or leaves should not be used as play items for dogs or as perches for companion birds. And owners should dispose of yew trimmings by removing, burning, or burying the trimmings where animals cannot access them.

“Toxicology Brief” was contributed by R.B. Cope, BSc, BVSc, PhD, Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 97331. The department editor is Petra A. Volmer, DVM, MS, DABVT, DABT, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61802.

1. Burrows GE, Tyrl RJ. Taxaceae. In: Toxic plants of North America. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2001;1149-1157.

3. Evans K, Cook J. Japanese yew poisoning in a dog. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 1991;27:300-302.

4. Willaert W, Claessens P, Vankelecom B, et al. Intoxication with Taxus baccata: cardiac arrhythmias following yew leaves ingestion. Pacing Clin Electrophysiol 2002;25:511-512.

6. Ruha AM, Tanen DA, Graeme KA, et al. Hypertonic sodium bicarbonate for Taxus media-induced cardiac toxicity in swine. Acad Emerg Med 2002;9:179-185.

Many beautiful and common plants in the average English garden can prove fatal to household pets. Peter Green, a veterinary surgeon, gives his advice on some of the most common things to look out for.

Mention poisonous plants and we may think immediately of dangers such as deadly nightshade (Atropa), yew (Taxus) and hemlock (Oenanthe), or lethal fungi such as the death cap (Amanita) and Cortinarius.

We probably remember that foxgloves (Digitalis) contain a powerful cardiac medicine and, of course, we all know that poppies (Papaver) are cultivated around the world because of the opium they produce. The idea of plants containing strong chemicals is the basis of all herbal medicine, but somehow we risk thinking that medicinal plants and poisonous plants are in a special category of their own – ‘plants that have active ingredients’ – when, in fact, all plants contain complicated organic compounds that may or may not be toxic to people and their pets.

We select our garden plants mainly for their visual character – their flowers, their foliage, their bark, their shape – and sometimes for their smell, but rarely for their safety to our pets and children.

Yet the RHS publishes a list of more than 130 common garden plants that are potentially toxic and documented cases of animals poisoned by apparently innocuous plants occur each year in the UK.

Cats and dogs are the most at risk because they are so inquisitive and regularly ingest plant material. They may avoid poisonous berries, leaves or fruits if they are unpalatable, but it’s surprising what they will eat.

The risk is increased if they have access to clippings or prunings as these may become more palatable as they wilt, and may also have the master’s or mistress’s scent all over them.

So, what are the unlikely risky garden plants for our household pets?

Spring bulbs, whether dug up in Spring or ready to plant in Autumn

Believe it or not, dogs may be poisoned by the most common spring flower bulbs in our gardens: daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. These cases occur either in the autumn, when the bulbs are lying about for planting, or in the spring, when they are lifted after flowering.

Big, greedy breeds – labradors, retrievers, poodle crosses and springer spaniels – are the worst as they seem to think that bulbs are for eating, especially when we play the game ‘you plant it and I’ll find it, dig it up and eat it’. A bellyful can be fatal.

Lily of the Valley, and other plants that love shady corners

Both dogs and cats have been poisoned by lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). All parts of the plant are poisonous, but the strong fragrance seems to attract browsing when it is in flower.

It’s a plant of damp, shady places where pets love to nose about and where they may also encounter the attractive berries of the cuckoo pint or lords-and-ladies (Arum maculatum).

This distinctive little plant is a native that is rarely planted deliberately, but is common in larger, wilder gardens and its brightly orange-coloured berries are both palatable and poisonous. Gardeners are well advised to cut off the seed-bearing stems when the berries start to ripen.

Lilly of the Valley

Deadly plants you’ll see in borders

Monkshood (Aconitum) is widely planted in herbaceous borders, where it offers tall, spike-like racemes of deep-blue flowers; its wild cousin, wolfsbane, is sometimes cultivated.

Both are very toxic indeed and share the ability to cause poisoning by contact of the plant juices with the skin of gardeners or their pets. Human fatalities from such contact are not unknown and both dogs and cats are known to have succumbed to the alkaloid aconitine present throughout the plant.

Monkshood

The deadly bush flourishes in dry, hot summers – and can be harmful even when on the bonfire

The shrub Nerium oleander is a drought-tolerant Mediterranean bush with narrow, dark-green leaves and trusses of pink or red flowers. With climate change and an emphasis upon plants that thrive without irrigation, it is appearing more commonly in garden centres and retail outlets, especially in the south of England, where it is frost tolerant to just below freezing.

Nerium oleander, however, is a killer – all parts of the plant are toxic and it is the most common cause of animal poisoning in some parts of the southern USA. If bushes are trimmed, the clippings are attractive to both dogs and cats and, unlike most other toxic plants, if you put the clippings on the bonfire, the smoke itself is dangerous.

Oleander (aka Nerium oleander)

Lilies that can kill with the bite of a petal

Cats are at great risk from garden lilies, including Lilium and Hemerocallis species: day lilies, tiger lilies, Easter lilies and stargazers all contain acutely toxic substances. Even a brush with the pollen or a bite on a couple of petals can be fatal.

Remember, autumn crocuses (Colchicum) are actually lilies and are equally toxic.

Tiger lilies

What to do if your pet eats a poisonous plant

If plant poisoning is suspected when a pet falls suddenly sick, seek veterinary advice immediately – and be certain to take along a specimen of the plant that has been eaten.

It is, of course, better to be on guard in the garden. Don’t leave clippings lying about to wilt, and clear up fallen berries – the fruits of laburnum, mistletoe, privet, cherry laurel and wisteria are all potentially poisonous.

Finally, if you are fortunate enough to have a lovely vine in the garden, keep an eye on the dogs – grape poisoning in canines is well recognised.

A violet flower of Colchicum, or autumn crocus

Dwarf Golden Japanese Yew

Dwarf Golden Japanese Yew

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Dwarf Golden Japanese Yew foliage

Dwarf Golden Japanese Yew foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 3 feet

Spread: 5 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 4b

Description:

A dwarf evergreen shrub featuring beautiful golden foliage in spring which fades to green; very compact form, ideal for a color accent in the home garden or rock garden, color is best with some shade

Ornamental Features

Dwarf Golden Japanese Yew has attractive lime green foliage which emerges yellow in spring. The ferny leaves are highly ornamental and remain lime green throughout the winter. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Dwarf Golden Japanese Yew is a dense multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with a more or less rounded form. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance shrub, and can be pruned at anytime. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Dwarf Golden Japanese Yew is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • Hedges/Screening
  • General Garden Use
  • Topiary

Planting & Growing

Dwarf Golden Japanese Yew will grow to be about 3 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 5 feet. It tends to fill out right to the ground and therefore doesn’t necessarily require facer plants in front. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 50 years or more.

This shrub performs well in both full sun and full shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America, and parts of it are known to be toxic to humans and animals, so care should be exercised in planting it around children and pets.

Japanese yew ‘Dwarf Bright Gold’

In the wild, the species T. cuspidata (Taxaceae) is native to Japan, Korea, and northeastern China where specimens can grow up to 60 ft. tall with 2 ft. diameter trunks. Leaves of the species–and many ornamental cultivars–are flat and lanceolate, up to 1.25 inches long, and arranged in a spiral around the woody stem.

As an ornamental, Japanese yews grow best in well-drained soils with average to medium moisture. Yews have little-to-no tolerance for wet soil conditions, which quickly promote root and trunk rot. Plants grow best in full sun and most cultivars will tolerate part-shade. Coloration in ‘Dwarf Bright Gold’ develops best when plants are grown in full sun. Japanese yews adapt well to heavy and frequent pruning, sheering, and shaping–making for great opportunities for formality or fun in your garden.

Botanical Name Taxus cuspidata ‘Dwarf Bright Gold’
Common Name Japanese yew
Family Taxaceae
USDA Zone 4 thru 7
Light Requirement Full Sun to Part Shade
Season(s) of interest All Seasons
Height and Spread 4-6ft x 5-7ft (1.2-1.8m x 1.5-2.1m)
Flower Color non-flowering
Attracts Wildlife
Additional Information Species Native to Asia
Location in Lurie Garden Low Hedge

Native to Japan and Korea, Japanese yews (Taxus cuspidata) were first introduced to North America by George R. Hall. Since the shrub species’ introduction, many cultivars have become available. All yews have needles and seeds that are highly toxic to humans and many animals, including dogs, cows and horses. For many years in England, the plants could only be planted in fenced churchyards – inaccessible to livestock. Avoid planting them if you have children or livestock nearby.

Although Japanese yews are technically classified as conifers, they don’t produce cones, but female specimens bear red berries. Japanese yews are versatile shrubs that serve a variety of purposes. Small cultivars make an attractive ground cover. Although yews are slow growing, they usually have a wide spread and will eventually fill in a large area, suppressing weed growth. Small Japanese yew species can prevent soil erosion on a slope or bank, or scramble over a wall or rock garden. Larger varieties make excellent specimen plants, especially in a formal garden. They can be pruned lightly to maintain shape and size or sheared for a trim look.

Planting Japanese Yews

Japanese yews are more cold-hardy than many evergreen shrubs, thriving in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 7. Plant Japanese yews from nursery transplants, which are often patented cultivars. Place these shrubs in full sun to partial shade. In areas with hot summers, they do best in a location with morning sun and afternoon shade. In areas with harsh winters, plant them in a protected spot, such as next to a house or wall or among other shrubs.

Japanese yews prefer a light, sandy soil on the acidic side. They do not tolerate heavy clay soils that don’t drain well. Amend the soil before planting with compost, manure or peat moss to improve drainage. If your soil is very wet or heavy, consider growing Japanese yews in raised beds or selecting a different plant.

Plant Japanese yews in spring. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Place the plant in the hole, making sure it’s straight. Fill the hole partially with water and add 2 gallons of water. Let the water drain and add the remaining soil, tamping it down with your foot. Water the plant at least weekly, especially during the first season as its roots become established. Although Japanese yews can’t tolerate soggy soils, they respond poorly to drought. Keep the soil slightly moist for best results.

Prune Japanese yews in spring or summer to remove dead branches and control the shrubs’ size. Fertilize the shrubs in early spring with ½ cup 10-10-10 fertilizer spread around the base of the plants. Japanese yew grows best with a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5. In more acidic soils, the leaves may yellow. Lime the soil a season before planting to raise the soil pH.

Pests and Problems

The most common problem associated with Japanese yews is root rot caused by wet soils. If you choose a location carefully and amend the soil, you can likely avoid this issue. Japanese yews have very fragile bark. If the bark is damaged, branches above the injury may die back.

Scale, weevils and mealy bugs can infest Japanese yews, but the damage is rarely severe.

Cultivars Worth Trying

  • ‘Capitata’ is really a tree, growing up to 50 feet tall with a conical form.
  • ‘Densa’ is a low, spreading form that grows 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
  • ‘Emerald Spreader’ grows only 2 ½ feet high, making it an ideal ground cover.
  • ‘Nana’ has a low-growing, spreading form.

For more information about Japanese yews, visit the following links:

Yews from the Virginia Cooperative Extension

Yew Problems from the Missouri Botanical Garden

How to prune a Japanese Yew on YouTube.

Impact of Japanese Yew on Idaho Wildlife on YouTube.

Julie Christensen learned about gardening on her grandfather’s farm and mother’s vegetable garden in southern Idaho. Today, she lives and gardens on the high plains of Colorado. When she’s not digging in the dirt, Julie writes about food, education, parenting and gardening.

This is Bona

We got a dog. Her name is Bona.

She is a very lovely dog. She is also very clever. She does not bite, she does not bark, she does not shed, and she does not jump on you. She is also very obedient.

This is Bona and Max.

This is Bona’s father.

This is her grandmother and mother.

Would you like a dog like Bona?

We Have a Yard

We have a yard. It is fenced in. It’s good to have a fenced in yard when you have a dog. Especially when you have a big dog. When you have a yard you can let the dog out in the yard and it will run and play and it will come inside calm and it will lay down and not bother you.

Bona is a Giant Schnauzer. She’s not big.

Yet.

Do you think it’s good we have a fenced in yard?

We Have Yew Trees in Our Yard

We have four yew trees in our yard. You can make a great longbow out of wood from a yew tree. Yew trees are excellent for shade. Max loves to climb our yew trees. He climbs them all the time. We have a tree house in our yew trees.

Here is a picture of a yew tree.

Aren’t the berries pretty?

Yew trees are extremely poisonous. The leaves are poisonous, the bark is poisonous, the wood is poisonous, and the dry wood is even more poisonous. The berries are not poisonous. The berries have one black seed in them that is the most poisonous part of the tree. If you eat three berries with the seeds you will die.

So will your dog.

Bona and the Yew Tree

Bona is sitting on our doorstep. The yew tree is behind her. It looks innocent.

One day I saw Bona chewing on branches from the yew tree.

Bona peed in the entryway. She peed in the living room. She peed on her bed. Then she had lunch.

Here is a video of Bona peeing.

I looked up Yew trees on the Internet. Do you know what I read?

I read that yew trees are poisonous.

Did you know that I have a PhD?

Bona and the Vet

We took Bona to the vet. He was very helpful. He told us that yew trees are very poisonous. He did blood tests and told us that Bona is poisoned. He said we should not let her chew on yew branches because they are poisonous.

The vet said Bona needs a special diet. She can only eat meat.

He said we should buy a side of beef.

He laughed.

He was not joking.

Do you think that’s funny?

Bona likes the vet. She likes his helpers. She has been to see them many times. She has had two sleep overs with the vet. He calls it “ho-spi-tal-i-za-tion.”

Bona is Better Now

Bona is well now. She can eat dog food. She does not pee in our house. Bona misses the vet. He is nice but I do not miss him.

Bona does not go in the yard by herself. She does not run and play in the yard alone. Someone is always with her.

We like Bona. We spend a lot of time with her. We spend more time with her than we thought we would.

We do not like Yew trees. Yew trees are protected. You cannot cut them down. They will put you in jail.

Do you think that is ironic?

Japanese Yew And Dogs – Info About Japanese Yew Plants

Japanese yew trees (Taxus cuspidata) come in a wide range of sizes, from dwarfs that rarely exceed 2.5 feet to large specimens that can grow more than 50 feet tall. Read on to find out whether this lovely and versatile plant is right for your garden.

Is Japanese Yew Poisonous?

The fact that Japanese yew doesn’t mix with dogs or children is an important limiting factor in the tree’s use. Consider the toxicity of the plant along with the way you and your family will use your garden before deciding to plant Japanese yew.

Japanese yew contains toxins called taxine A and B, which can be fatal if ingested by dogs, cats, horses or people. The primary symptoms are tremors, difficulty breathing and vomiting as well as seizures in dogs. Ingesting the plant can cause sudden death due to heart failure. Any person or animal that has eaten any part of the plant needs immediate medical treatment. Strangely, the plant isn’t

toxic to white-tailed deer, which relish the taste of the foliage.

Because of its toxic properties, Japanese yew shouldn’t be planted in family gardens where children and animals play. The bright green foliage and red berries make festive holiday decorations, but you shouldn’t use them in homes with children or pets, or in homes where children may visit over the holidays.

Are Japanese Yew Berries Edible?

All parts of the Japanese yew are toxic except the flesh of the red berry that surrounds the seed. You can eat the berry, which is called an “aril,” but first strip the flesh away from the toxic seed to eliminate the possibility of swallowing or biting into it.

Japanese yew berries are watery and sweet but have little flavor. In addition, the berries are small. Removing the flesh from the seed so that you can eat it is a lot of work for a small gain. Additionally, the risk associated with ingesting them simply isn’t worth it.

Additional Info About Japanese Yew Plants

Japanese yew looks its best when planted in groups or masses. They make lovely hedges and foundation plantings. These evergreens have dense foliage that forms a solid screen. When sheared, they have a formal appearance, or you can let them grow into their natural shape for an informal look. They tolerate severe pruning, and you can use them as topiary specimens.

Plant Japanese yew in full sun or partial shade. It is best suited for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 7. Care of yews in general is easy as long as the soil is loose and well drained. When planted in compacted soil that doesn’t drain well or in low areas that are constantly wet, the plant has a very short lifespan.

Protect Your Pooch from Poisonous Plants

It’s important to protect your canine best friend from plants that are poisonous to dogs. Whether you’re an avid gardener or have a few potted plants on your front stoop, you should be aware that some plants might not be your dog’s friend. In fact, many shrubs, trees, and flowers commonly found in the garden and in the wild are dangerous if your dog eats them. Some can cause discomfort, some will make your dog miserable, and some can even be fatal if ingested.

Shrubs That Are Poisonous to Dogs

Azalea and Rhododendron: Used in landscaping and found in the wild, the entire genus is extremely dangerous for dogs. Eating even a few leaves can cause serious issues, including vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, paralysis, shock, coma, and death.

Holly: Varieties include American holly, English holly, Japanese holly, and Christmas holly. Although some are less toxic than others, it is best to keep your dog away from any variety. Eating the leaves can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal injury due to the plant’s spiny leaves. Symptoms include lip smacking, drooling, and head shaking.

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Hydrangea: With high concentrations of toxic substances in the flowers and leaves, ingestion, especially of the leaves and flowers, can cause lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal upsets.

Ivy: Although a vine rather than a shrub, ivy is a common part of many landscapes. The foliage of certain types of ivy plants is dangerous to dogs, although not usually lethal. Ingestion can result in excessive salivation and drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, a swollen mouth and tongue, and difficulty breathing.

Oleander: All parts of this popular ornamental shrub are toxic to humans and dogs. If your dog ingests the flowers or leaves, he can experience extreme vomiting, an abnormal heart rate, and even death. Other signs to look for include tremors, drooling, seizures, and weakness.

Peony: These gorgeous flowering plants contain the toxin paeonol in their bark and may cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested in large amounts.

Sago Palm: Often used as an ornamental shrub in temperate zones, it’s considered one of the most toxic plants for dogs. Every part of the plant is toxic, especially the seeds. Ingesting just a few seedpods can result in acute liver failure. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and bloody stools, decreased appetite, and nosebleeds.

Trees That Are Poisonous to Dogs

Black Walnut: The tree itself isn’t dangerous, but the nuts that fall to the ground can be. They start to decay very quickly and produce mold, so when a dog ingests them they cause digestive upset and even seizures.

Chinaberry: The berries, leaves, bark, and flowers of this tree all contain toxins that can result in anything from vomiting and diarrhea to weakness, slow heart rate, seizures, and shock.

Fruit trees: The fruits of trees such as plum, apricot, peach, and even avocado contain pits, and the seeds of cherries and apples contain toxins that can make your dog sick and are choking hazards. Even if they only eat the fruit, eating too much can cause diarrhea

Horse Chestnut (Buckeye): This tree contains saponin, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, dilated pupils, affects the central nervous system, and can also lead to convulsions and coma.

Japanese Yew: All varieties, from the dwarf to the giant trees, contain dangerous toxins that can be fatal to dogs. Symptoms include tremors, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and seizures. Because of their bright green leaves and red berries, they are popular holiday decorations – but they should not be used in homes where dogs live.

Other nut trees: As a general rule, nuts aren’t safe for dogs. Avoid letting your dog eat the nuts from almond, pecan, hickory, walnut, or other nut trees. Ingestion can cause gastrointestinal problems and intestinal blockage.

Flowers and Bulbs Poisonous to Dogs

Autumn Crocus: These fall-blooming plants contain colchicine, which is extremely toxic, causing gastrointestinal bleeding, severe vomiting, kidney and liver damage, and respiratory failure. Symptoms might be delayed for several days, so don’t wait to seek veterinary attention if your dog has ingested any part of this plant.

Begonia: Often used in containers, these tubers can cause mouth irritation and difficulty swallowing when ingested.

Chrysanthemum: These common flowers contain lactones and pyrethrin, which cause intestinal irritation. While not lethal, eating any part of the plant can result in vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, skin rashes, and loss of coordination.

Daffodil: Ingesting any part of the plant, especially the bulb, can cause severe vomiting, drooling, tremors, respiratory distress, convulsions, and heart problems.

Foxglove: All parts of these tall beautiful flowers, from the seeds to the petals, are extremely toxic to dogs. Ingestion can cause cardiac failure and even death.

Geranium: All varieties of this common container plant are poisonous to dogs. The symptoms include lethargy, low blood pressure, skin rashes, and loss of appetite.

Iris: Ingesting any part of the plant can cause skin irritation, drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy.

Lily: With so many different varieties of lilies, it’s hard to remember which are dangerous and which are relatively benign. Some — for example, daylilies — are extremely toxic to cats, but cause only gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Others, such as the calla lily, release a substance that burns and irritates a dog’s mouth and stomach, and symptoms can be mild to severe.

Lily of the Valley: Symptoms of ingestion include diarrhea, vomiting, a drop in heart rate, and cardiac arrhythmia.

Tulip and Hyacinth: The bulb is the most toxic part, but any part of these early-blooming flowers can be harmful to dogs, causing irritation to the mouth and esophagus. Typical symptoms include excessive drooling and vomiting. If many bulbs are eaten, symptoms may include an increased heart rate and irregular breathing. With care from a vet, dogs usually recover with no further ill effects.

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Where to Get Help if You Think Your Dog Ate a Poisonous Plant

The AKC Vetline offers 24/7 access to trained pet care professionals and licensed veterinary staff who offer assistance with questions about poisoning, as well as general healthcare issues concerned with illness, injury, nutrition, and when a dog should be examined by a veterinarian. It’s very important to remember that the hotline is not a substitute for veterinary care.

According to American Kennel Club Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein, the best cure is prevention. He recommends that you survey your yard and identify any plants that may be dangerous. Then restrict your dog’s access to them. And when in doubt, seek professional help. “The most common mistake pet owners make is to wait to see if the dog becomes ill before contacting the veterinarian,” says Dr. Klein.

My Dog Ate a Toxic Plant — What Should I Do?

If you suspect your dog has eaten something toxic, follow these steps:

  1. Contact your vet or AKC Vetline as soon as possible. Or call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) for accurate advice. (You will be charged a fee when you call the helpline.)
  2. Try to identify the plant by taking a sample or a photo or by collecting the dog’s vomit in a plastic bag.
  3. When you reach the vet or helpline, provide as much information as possible, including:
  • The suspected plant and the time of ingestion.
  • Your dog’s weight.
  • Any symptoms your dog is showing.
  1. Under no circumstances should you induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by the vet. Specific plant poisons require specific treatments, and vomiting can make some cases worse.
  2. Don’t fall for the myth that dogs instinctively avoid dangerous plants. While it is sometimes true of animals in the wild, dogs have no ability to distinguish between safe and unsafe plants.

Japanese Yew Stock Photos and Images

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  • Japanische Eibe (Taxus cuspidata f. nana)
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  • London, UK. 19th May, 2014. 2014 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. A Bonsi Tree Display featuring a Japanese Yew. Picture by Julie Edwards/Alamy Live News
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  • Looking West from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, USA
  • Japanese Plum Yew or Cowtail Pine, Cephalotaxus harringtonii, Cephalotaxaceae. Japan.
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  • London, UK. 19th May, 2014. 2014 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. A Bonsi Tree Display featuring a Japanese Cedar (Ceder) in the foreground and Japanese Yew and Pine behind. Picture by Julie Edwards/Alamy Live News
  • Entrance gate to a beautifully peaceful secluded space for contemplation set in the grounds of Willersley Castle silhouetted in the morning sunlight.
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Elk NetworkOver 78 Elk, Antelope and Bear Dead: Japanese Yew And How You Can Identify It

A favored poison from the 15th century that is now a common ornamental tree in western suburban neighborhoods is killing off desperate winter-stressed wildlife in Idaho. In fact, it has taken down antelope and elk so quickly that in certain cases they have been found dead with half chewed twigs still in their mouths. It’s no wonder some have dubbed it the “tree of death.”

Before the wildlife deaths in Idaho this winter, most guides to toxic plant toxicity claimed that deer, moose, antelope and elk were not affected by yew. However, deep snow and limited food sources have brought many desperate and food-stressed ungulates to the edge of towns and subdivisions where enticing—and surprisingly deadly—yew trees adorn the landscape.

Why Is It Deadly?

Japanese yew, a tree-like shrub that can grow 20 feet if protected from pruning shears, contains taxine A and B—deadly to humans, wildlife, horses, cattle, sheep, goats and dogs—even in small quantities. Whitetail deer, though, can consume it and walk away seemingly unscathed. Mule deer aren’t so lucky.

There’s really no warning for elk and other wild game. One minute they are munching on yew, then they wheeze a few times and die of poison-induced cardiac arrhythmia. Humans take a bit more time to succumb to it, taking around 30 minutes before yew poison causes heart failure. Two notoriously cunning women in 15th century Europe—Lucrezia Borgia and Catherine de Medici—used it to dispose of unwanted husbands and political opponents in part because it’s symptoms can be mistaken a heart attack. Ill effects can also include tremors, fever, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils and vomiting.

A number of other yew trees are at least somewhat toxic as well, including European yew (aka common yew), Chinese yew, and even natives such as Pacific, western and Canada yew. Japanese yew, though, contains the highest toxicity, and like its siblings, single plants can live upwards of 600 years.

How Many Animals Has It Affected?

During the winter of 2016-2017, this popular backyard plant took a heavy toll on elk and pronghorn herds that descended out of the high country following heavy snowfall into low-lying neighborhoods across Idaho. Desperate for a meal, seven elk died in the Boise Foothills, eight in North Fork and Challis, and another eight near Idaho Falls. In addition to those 23 elk deaths, 50 pronghorn met the same fate along the Idaho and Oregon border near Payette. Death by Japanese yew has even occurred as far east as Pennsylvania, where a mother black bear and three cubs died after snacking on this lethal shrub.

How Can You Identify Japanese Yew?

Identifying yew trees is relatively simple. Look for an evergreen with flat needles that are a darker green on the top than on the bottom, and are shorter than pine needles, ranging from less than an inch long to about an inch and a quarter. Yew needles grow on both sides of the stem and make a spiral down the branch. Its bark is often scaly and reddish-brown. Another key tell: if the tree in question has wide and round leaves, it’s not a yew. Yews are evergreens rather than deciduous, keeping their needles year-round. See Photos Below.Evergreen – Holds needles year-roundFlat needles – darker green on top than on bottomNeedles are less than an inch, to inch and a quarterNeedles grow on both sides of the stem and spiral down branchScaly, reddish-brown barkAlthough technically classified as a conifer, yews don’t produce cones, but female yews have berries that turn bright red in late summer and early fall. Each harbors a single poisonous seed, but oddly enough, the outside layer of the berry protecting the seed is the least poisonous part of the whole plant. Male yews, on the other hand, produce only flowers, which are also poisonous and look like miniature Brussel sprouts that angle downwards until the pollen is released in March and April and the flowers wither away.

Why Are Japanese Yew Still Legal?

With their gruesome capacity to inflict sudden death on so many species, one might wonder why yew trees are still prevalent today. Simply put: they are darn good looking. Yew’s pleasant aesthetics keep them as hot sellers at home and garden stores, often attracting buyers that don’t realize this popular ornamental shrub can be a such a killer. Yew is also frequently used during the holidays to make wreaths. It’s resilient ability to withstand harsh winters has also compounded its popularity.

How Do You Remove Japanese Yew?

Due to its robust nature, yew trees are hard to remove. Even if they die, their poison is not neutralized until the roots are pulled out. When considering Japanese yew, keep in mind that it is not native to the United States and is best avoided unless the location is absolutely isolated from the hungry mouths of wildlife. If you are removing, take care not to ingest any part of the plant. Burning the plants or wrapping them in burlap sacks will prevent them from being eaten by wildlife.Use the share links below to help spread the word about this dangerous plant.

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