An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Yews Fruiting

10-5-18 yew_U1A0321Unlike many other conifers, Yew does not actually bear its seeds in a cone. Botanically speaking, a modified scale wraps around a single seed and forms a fleshy, red fruit called an aril. Both the seed coat as well as the foliage of Yew contain toxic alkaloids.  Birds’ digestive systems do not break down the seed coats on the seeds so they are unharmed by eating the berries, seed and all, but the human digestive tract begins to break down the seeds and toxins are released.

For hundreds of years, 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. Today paclitaxel, a plant alkaloid derived from Yews, is used as an anti-cancer chemotherapy drug (Taxol is one of its brand names).

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5 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    It’s amazing how many flowers, fruit and plant seeds have toxic parts, but are also used beneficially.

    October 12, 2018 at 8:59 am

  2. Mary, your posts ALWAYS educate and often amaze. Thank you so much.

    October 12, 2018 at 9:13 am

  3. Kim

    This is so interesting. My mom just went through chemo and she was given Taxol.Thanks for enlightening me. 🙏🏻

    October 12, 2018 at 9:59 am

  4. sue j

    I never knew!

    October 12, 2018 at 10:26 am

  5. Susan Burnett-Halling

    Hi Mary,I went

    October 16, 2018 at 7:39 am

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