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Taxus baccata (common yew / European yew / English yew / Persian yew)
Taxus brevifolia (Oregon yew / Pacific yew / western yew)
Taxus cuspidata (Japanese yew)
Taxus canadensis (American yew, Florida yew)
Taxus celebica (Chinese yew)
Taxus floridana (Florida yew)
Taxus globosa (Mexican yew)
Taxus sumatrana (Chinese yew)
Taxus wallichianayew (mountain yew [in the philippines])

Tasux spp. of the family Taxaceae

NOTE: Asian yew, English yew, and Pacific yew all have their own pages on this site

This attractive, golden-tan colored, intricately-grained softwood is quite hard and easily worked but the trees are small and large sizes of lumber are not available. It is fine textured but rarely uniform, being more often interspersed with "pips" and streaks and flaws. In addition to Europe and the Americas, there are yew varieties that grow in Asia as well. I'm not clear on what the distinctions are, if any, as far as craftsmen are concerned.

I have it anecdotally that the famous English longbow, long a staple of medieval warfare, was originally made of English (European) yew (Taxus baccata), but Spanish yew (also Taxus baccata but with somewhat different growing conditions) became more prevalent since it is actually better for bows (it grows straighter).

Yews are known to have reached 2000 years of age but older trees tend to become hollow inside. Depending on growing conditions and pruning tecniques, yews of the same species can be grown as either trees or bushes. For example, many of the shaped shrubs in the USA are Pacific yew bushes (Taxus baccat) but that species can also be grown as a multi-trunk tree or even as a single-trunk tree.

The only wood that I am aware of that could be confused with yew is some types of juniper which have very similar color and grain (but most types of juniper do not look like yew). Cypress sometimes looks a bit like yew but I don't think they would be readily confused.

my samples:
NOTE: these pics were all taken in very bright incandescent lighting ("soft white" at 2700K)
colors will vary under other lighting conditions

none (see Asian yew, English yew, and Pacific yew)

web pics:

log sections

yew log and branch end grain

yew planks, no species designation --- it is likely that most of these are Pacific yew and the rest are English yew but I have no knowledge of which is which

turning stock

veneer --- some of this is clearly pippy but none of the sheets were listed that way. Also, it is likely that most of these are Pacific yew and the rest are English yew but I have no record of which is which

burl veneer and closeup

burl veneer

veneer with a very unlikely yellow color

bookmatched veneer with unlikely color --- this is clearly pippy even though it wasn't listed as such. Interestingly enough, I found a second picture at a different vendor's site that is clearly the same picture rotated 90 degrees and with the color radically changed. This is the kind of Internet nonsense that got me started on this site in the first place.

yew burls --- the second one is a bookmatched pair

listed as a pippy bookmatched pair, this illustrates somewhat the difference between "burl" and "pippy" as designation for this wood. "Burl" mean a LOT of pips and "pippy" means scattered pips

burl veneer

listed as cluster burl veneer

listed as a cluster burl veneer, but it seems to be sort of a cross between pippy and a burl

pippy yew plank

yew clock

yew turning/sculpture

yew comb

bowls just listed as yew

bowl listed as Amherst yew, which if correctly identified is Taxus media


4 views of a yew vase that nicely shows the heartwood/sapwood contrast

hollow forms

flowery natural edge goblet and normal style goblet

9" bowl by Steve Earis (with big enlargements that REALLY show the grain) and the blank from which it was turned --- most likely English yew

gear shift knob by Steve Earis and the little bakelite knob it replaced. Thanks to Steve's excellent photography, very large enlargements are present --- most likely English yew