January, 2020: Hicks Yew
Longmont Colorado area landscapes – plant of the month
Hicks Yew or Taxus x media is a hybridization of yew species Taxus baccata and Taxus cuspidate. All Yew are a broadleaf evergreens, as opposed to coniferous evergreens (think trees with cones, like Spruce, Pine and Fir), that is well suited to our Longmont Colorado landscapes. Yew is a common name given to various species of trees, but the two most likely found in Colorado landscapes are Taxus media and Taxus cuspidata. The Hicks Yew is the upright variety and is a dark green needled shrub that is perfect for framing an entrance, accenting a corner, or as a hedge for year round privacy. They are easily pruned for a more formal French garden landscape.
Yew require good soil amendments, as do most plants in Colorado, and require moderate water to become established. They are slightly drought tolerant once established, but are not considered xeric (surviving on the natural amount of precipitation in a given area). They do need additional water even when established, though in the right location, they may be ok without additional water. That said, they are very shade tolerant, so shady locations may not require additional irrigation. They can tolerate some sun, but placing them in full sun all day is not ideal and they may not survive. They prefer filtered shade.
The one caveat of Yew is that all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and pets. For millennia, 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. Since yew toxicosis is often a postmortem diagnosis, preventing exposure is paramount. Pet owners must know that yew branches or leaves should not be used as play items for dogs. Children should be taught at an early age not to eat plants, mushrooms or berries that are unknown to them. So, that said, planter beware. If you have the right spot for them, they can be a beautiful plant in the landscape and has been used in North America for over 100 years as an ornamental landscape plant. Consider Yew, with caution, for your landscape.
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