Taxus brevifolia - Pacific or Western yew

The Pacific yew is native to the Pacific coast of North America, as the name implies. It is a slow-growing shrub or small tree of rather irregular habit. Like the other yews, it is long-lived and can live 400 years. However, it gradually rots and becomes hollow, and the exact age of old specimens is impossible to estimate accurately.

Pacific yew is rare in Finland and is not very common in European nursery catalogues, either. At Mustila there is only a single old shrub, which is low, hardly more than a metre, but seems to thrive. It can be distinguished quite easily from the other yews by its shorter, broader needles.

Taxol, a drug effective in treating cancer, has been extracted from the bark of the Pacific yew but is nowadays produced semi-synthetically, saving the species from near extinction. The native peoples of North America used the hard wood for harpoons and bows, for example.