Horticulture Highlight: Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Plum yew

March 3, 2020

…you are so little

you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest

and were you very sorry to come away?…

            -e. e. cummings

Although small in stature Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Plum yew exceeds yew in ornamental quality. It has beautiful, glossy, dark green, evergreen needles, one-two-inches long. It is another genus that normally has male and female reproductive flowers on separate plants. The clusters of male strobili (flowers) appear on the underside of branch stems in April and are a yellowish-green color.  When successfully fertilized separate female plants will produce a fruit containing a single seed surrounded by a purplish, flesh, which leads it to resemble a primitive olive.

Generally, insect and pest free Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Plum yews also have a reputation of being resistant to deer browse. There are many anecdotes in areas with heavy deer pressure supporting this reality. Of course, there is the usual admonition of… “it also depends on how severe a winter has eliminated all other browse options.” Fortunately Mount Auburn does not have a deer browsing problem. On a future visit to Mount Auburn, look for some of our Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Plum yews on Central Avenue, Beech Avenue, Willow Avenue, Poplar Avenue, Halcyon Avenue, and Rosebay Path among other locations.

About the Author: Jim Gorman

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  1. Megan Harrington says:

    Thanks for this information. How did the plant get its Latin name? My last name is Harrington, too!

  2. Peg McAdam says:

    Wonderful piece. With the recent upsurge in interesr in native plant materials, I think it would be helpful to know where the yew is native. Many non natives have no insect problems… thank you

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