Plant Profile: Taxus floridana, Florida Yew


La’Ena Schmick and Elizabeth Ramirez

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Botany students at Jacksonville University.

Figure 1. Taxus floridana, Florida Yew
Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Coniferophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Taxales
Family: Taxaceae
Genus: Taxus
Specific epithet: floridana

Description
Taxus floridana, or Florida Yew, is a member of the Coniferophyta family and one of two species in the family Taxaceae recorded in Florida. It is an endemic and endangered species found only on the Apalachicola River between Chattahoochee and Bristol in Gadsden and Liberty County. Torreya taxifolia, another endangered species in the same family, is also found in the same counties as T. floridana, in addition to Jackson County.

Figure 2. Linear leaves surround this seed,
itself enclosed in a red aril.
This evergreen shrub or small tree can be recognized by its spreading, horizontal branches and soft and linear leaves (Fig. 1). Taxus floridana is usually less than 15 ft. tall with the tallest Florida yew recorded at 25 ft. tall! Female plants produce seeds enclosed in red, fleshy aril (Fig. 2) around October each year.

It is drought-tolerant and grows well in acidic soils and shady conditions. Although it is endangered, you can still purchase and grow a plant for your yard. A word of caution, however - the leaves and seeds are toxic!

Fun Facts
  • Yew bark contains a high concentration of taxol, a compound used to fight both breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Scientists at F.S.U. developed the first method for synthesizing taxol in the laboratory, whereby saving the tree from potential over-harvesting.
  • Yew wood is rather springy, and was historically used in the construction of bows.

References
  • "Welcome to Floridata." Welcome to Floridata. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. http://www.floridata.com/.
  • "Explore Plants." Native Plant Information Network. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. http://www.wildflower.org/explore/.
  • Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants (http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/). [S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Image sources
Posted by Laurie Sheldon

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