Common name: Pacific yew, Western yew, Oregon yew
Taxus brevifolia is a Northwest native tree, mainly found in the understory of moist, old-growth forests.
We were lucky when an anti-cancer drug called taxol was isolated from the bark of Pacific yew in the late 1900s, but the tree wasn’t so fortunate. When the taxol was extracted from its bark, the Pacific yew died. There was heavy exploitation of this species throughout much of its range, which led to an IUCN Red List status of 'Near Threatened'. The Pacific yew was already vulnerable to habitat destruction from logging practices because of its slow growth rate and susceptibility to fire. The good news for the Pacific yew is that a method to derive taxol from other, more abundant yew species has since been developed, easing the pressure on it. And even better - taxol is being produced through cell culture.
One Pacific yew was planted in 1993 in bed 24E right near the bridge by the front entrance, and another specimen is in the Heritage Garden bed 135C.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones