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Cephalotaxus harringtonia - (Knight. ex J.Forbes.)K.Koch.                
Common Name Japanese Plum Yew
Family Cephalotaxaceae
Synonyms Taxus harringtonia.
Known Hazards None known
Habitats An understorey shrub in woodlands[109, 200]. In temperate deciduous forests at elevations of 600 - 1000 metres[275].
Range E. Asia - Japan.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Cephalotaxus harringtonia is an evergreen Shrub growing to 5 m (16ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen from Oct to November. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

Cephalotaxus harringtonia Japanese Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonia Japanese Plum Yew
Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade; Hedge;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Oil;  Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil;  Oil.

Fruit. - raw or cooked. About 2 - 3cm long[200]. The fruit of this plant is said to be astringent and inedible even when fully ripe[200]. However, several of its sub-species produce a very nice sweet fruit - see cultivation details for more information. Seed - raw or cooked[81, 105]. Oily[1] with a slightly resinous flavour[K]. The seed is up to 15mm long.
Medicinal Uses
Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known
Other Uses
Hedge;  Hedge;  Oil;  Oil.

An oil obtained from the seed is used as an illuminant[105]. Very tolerant of pruning, this plant makes a very good hedge in shady positions[200].
Cultivation details                                         
Prefers a moist well-drained sandy soil but succeeds in most soils though it dislikes dry gravelly or chalky soils[1, 200]. Prefers a position in semi-shade but tolerates full shade[11, 81] and it also succeeds but does not usually thrive in full sun[200]. It grows very well in the mild wet coastal region of W. Scotland where it succeeds even in full sun[200]. Requires a humid sheltered site[200], strongly disliking very exposed positions[1]. Although the dormant plant is very cold-hardy, the young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun[K]. The Japanese plum yew is a very slow growing tree[185] with an excellent potential as a food crop in Britain. It generally has a large crop of fruit and seeds, these are often eaten in Japan. In addition, the seeds seem to be immune to the predations of squirrels, the seed on trees growing at Kew Botanical gardens being untouched even though virtually every other nut tree there has its crop destroyed[K]. There has been some confusion in the naming of this species. Some botanists have separated off C. drupacea as a separate species, though most nowadays include it as a subspecies of this plant as C. harringtonia drupacea. (Sieb.&Zucc.)Koidzumi., differing from the species in its shortly pedunculate male catkins[81]. In cultivation it is often known as the variety 'Fastigiata'[81]. Another subspecies, C. harringtonia nana. (Nakai.)Rehd. is a small spreading shrub to 2 metres, spreading by means of suckers[81, 200]. This form is said to have the best fruit of this genus[200], it is a very hardy plant, succeeding as far north as S. Sweden and Nova Scotia[200]. Plants are dioecious, but female plants sometimes produce fruits and infertile seeds in the absence of any male plants[11]. However, at least one male plant for every five females should be grown if you are growing the plants for fruit and seed. Plants have also been known to change sex[81]. Male cones are produced in the axils of the previous year's leaves, whilst female cones are borne at the base of branchlets[200].
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[113], it should then germinate in the following spring[K]. A hard seedcoat can delay germination, especially in if the seed is not sown as soon as it is ripe[81, K]. Stored seed should be cold-stratified and sown in a cold frame in the spring[200]. Germination can take 18 months or more. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on for at least their first winter under cover. Plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Greenwood cuttings of terminal shoots, August/September in a humid cold frame[1, 200]. Difficult[113].
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Expert comment                                         
(Knight. ex J.Forbes.)K.Koch.
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[81]Rushforth. K. Conifers.
Deals with conifers that can be grown outdoors in Britain. Good notes on cultivation and a few bits about plant uses.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[109]Wilson. E. H. Plantae Wilsonae.
Details of the palnts collected by the plant collector E. H. Wilson on his travels in China. Gives some habitats. Not for the casual reader.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[185]Mitchell. A. F. Conifers in the British Isles.
A bit out of date (first published in 1972), but an excellent guide to how well the various species of conifers grow in Britain giving locations of trees.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[275] Flora of Japan
An on-line version of the flora - an excellent resource.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Dorothy Parker Sat Mar 8 2008
If we plant this as a hedge and it is being clipped could the cuttings on the ground be poisonous for chooks?
Elizabeth H.
Dorothy Parker Thu Mar 13 2008
Son is planting 30 Taxus Cephalotaxus Harringtonia for hedges. I am concerned as there are chooks there could it poison the chooks??
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