Taxaceae - yew family
Sole species that grows without cultivation on Mount Desert Island

compiled by the
Champlain Project - P. O. Box 55 - Bass Harbor, Maine  04653

(updated 10 April 2017)

Taxaceae - yew family
Taxaceae is a small family, with only 4 or 5 genera and fewer than two dozen species worldwide. Only two genera (Taxus and Torreya) grow in the United States and Canada, and New England is home to only Taxus. Although a few species of Taxus have occasionally escaped from cultivation in New England, they are not widespread, and only Taxus canadensis will be found growing away from landscaped areas.

Mount Desert Island is home to 1 species in 1 genus that grows without cultivation. Click on a link below or scroll down for more information.
   Taxus (1 species)
      Taxus canadensis - American yew (rare [see note 1 at bottom of page])

Taxus (yew)
The word taxus (with a lower case "t") was the name used by the ancient Romans for the yew tree (Taxus baccata) of their area, which can grow to tree size. Pliny referred to the smoke derived from its burning as being used to kill mice [Natural History 24:116], and Julius Caesar told of Cativolcus, one of two kings of the Eburones, committing suicide by drinking its juice [De Bello Gallico, VI 31:5].

Taxus canadensis (American yew) has leaves that appear to be two-ranked. However, if you look closely, you will see that they are attached at various points all around the stem, similar to the attachment of leaves of Abies balsamea (balsam fir) and Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock). The difference is that most Taxus canadensis leaves twist at the point that they diverge from the stem. American yew has been reported from only two sites on Mount Desert Island.
   The specific epithet, canadensis, is the genitive singular of canadensis—yes, the nominative and genitive are the same for this word—and means "of Canada".
(click on an image to enlarge)

   1. This frequency designation is from the paper “Vascular flora of the Acadia National Park region, Maine” by Craig W. Greene, Linda L. Gregory, Glen H. Mittelhauser, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber, published in the spring 2005 issue (vol. 107, No. 930) of Rhodora: Journal of the New England Botanical Club.