Cephalotaxus harringtonia - Japanese plum yew

The Japanese plum yew belongs to the small primitive conifer genus Cephalotaxus from which, according to present knowledge, the yews (Taxus) separated in the Jurassic, i.e. in the time of the dinosaurs. These genera still resemble each other at first glance, though all the plum yews have longer needles than the yews.

In the wild the Japanese yew plum grows, as the name indicates, in Japan, including the northern island of Hokkaido, though it is fairly rare throughout its range. It is a dioecious coniferous shrub (i.e. each plant is either male or female), and the green “plums” form at the branch tips of the female plants. As they ripen they turn brown, giving off a sweet smell. Ripening is slow, sometimes taking 2-3 years.

There have been very few attempts to grow this species in Finland. It is only hardy if the whole shrub is covered by snow in the coldest period. This is exactly what happens at Mustila, where the Japanese plum yew has grown on the Havuterassi (Conifer terrace) for at least 50 years. However, it has remained low, saving it from frost damage thanks to snow cover. In the autumn of 2002 this specimen was joined by a younger companion.