Taxus floridana - Nutt. ex Chapman
Florida Yew
Other Common Names: Florida yew
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Taxus floridana Nutt. ex Chapman (TSN 194887)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.155628
Element Code: PGTXA01030
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Conifers and relatives
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Coniferophyta Pinopsida Taxales Taxaceae Taxus
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Taxus floridana
Taxonomic Comments: Distinct species. 1 of 3 U.S. species in an oligotypic family. Nearest North America relative (T. canadensis) found in northeast (southernmost occurrence several hundred miles away); T. brevifolia is in the Pacific Northwest.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G2
Global Status Last Reviewed: 24Dec1997
Global Status Last Changed: 23May1991
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Narrowly endemic to the Apalachicola River region of northern Florida. The Florida Natural Areas Inventory's database currently contains seventeen occurrence records from Gadsden and Liberty Counties, Florida. The species' habitat is threatened by intensive logging and development activities.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Florida (S2)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: The Florida Yew is known from several small populations all occurring in a small area of the Florida panhandle along the eastern escarpment of the Apalachicola River and from just north of Bristol to just north of Torreya State Park. Of the 17 populations known to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, 16 are in Liberty Co., the other is in Gadsden Co. The population in a white cedar swamp south of Bristol has not been observed since its report by Kurz (1927).

Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20
Number of Occurrences Comments: Seventeen occurrences recorded in 9/90.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: The major threats to this species are twofold. Habitat destruction due to development and especially logging has traditionally been the major threat given the high quality timber that this species co-occurs with and its small range (Kral 1983, Godfrey 1979). The white cedar swamp population reported by Kurz (1927) (for which we find no specimen) has almost certainly been cut over since that time (A. Gholson, pers. comm.). The other threat comes from exploitation for the new anti-cancer drug taxol (Hanson 1992, Fackelmann 1992). Recent discoveries can increase yield by exploiting more of the plant and compounds within it (K. Rao, pers. comm.). The discovery of a taxol producing fungus Taxomyces andreanae on Taxus brevifolia that can be reared in culture (Stierle et al. 1993) can also relieve stress on the species for drug production. However, only prelimenary characterization of the compounds in this species has been completed (K. Rao, pers. comm.) and a pressure for exploitation that is quite significant in relation to the total number of individuals of T. floridana still exists.

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Requires shade.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: The Florida Yew is known from several small populations all occurring in a small area of the Florida panhandle along the eastern escarpment of the Apalachicola River and from just north of Bristol to just north of Torreya State Park. Of the 17 populations known to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, 16 are in Liberty Co., the other is in Gadsden Co. The population in a white cedar swamp south of Bristol has not been observed since its report by Kurz (1927).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States FL

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
FL Gadsden (12039), Liberty (12077)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Lower Ochlockonee (03120003)+, Apalachicola (03130011)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: An evergreen, bushy shrub or small tree, reaching 8 m in height. Leaves are needle-like, 1-2.5 cm long, dark green above and lighter green below, flexible, and aromatic when crushed. The branchlets are slender and often spreading. (Based on Ward 1979, Kral 1983.)
Technical Description: Shrub or small tree, evergreen, the bark dark reddish-brown, exfoliating in thin somewhat rectangular flakes, the smallest twigs green and quite flexible. Leaves (0.6)1.1-2.5 cm long, 1.5-2 mm wide, dark green above, light green below with a prominent midvein, linear, decurrent but with a petiolate constriction at the base of the lamina, the base of each leaf covering the point of attachment of the one above it on the smaller twigs, spirally inserted but the laminas all in a single horizontal plane, flat although drying with the margins inrolled, straight to slightly falcate, relatively soft when in the living condition, the sides parallel nearly to the tip, the tip abruptly pointed but not indurate. Plants dioecious. Male strobili pendulus, axillary, single within an axil but several per twig, the microstrobilus consisting of a short spherical involucre of sterile microsporophylls 1.9-3.2 mm in dia. exceeded by a group of ca. 6-8 peltate, sporangium bearing microsporophylls clustered into a capitate cluster on a short stalk, the entire strobilus ca. 5-6 mm long. Female strobili greatly reduced, consisting of a short involucre of sterile scales ca. 3-6 mm long subtending a single ovoid ovule ca. 5-7 mm long with a slightly wrinkled surface, its tip exposed, nearly enclosed in a red, translucent, fleshy cupulate aril, the entire structure ca. 1 cm in dia., ca. 2-3 cm long. (Megastrobilis data from Angus Gholson pers. comm., Small 1933 and Krüssmann 1985, Godfrey 1988 and Clewell 1985. There may be a conflict among authors regarding the size of the megastrobilis, further data is needed.)
Diagnostic Characteristics: This species is quite easily recognized in the wild, the only native resembling it being the now extremely rare Torreya taxifolia which has somewhat longer leaves that are indurate and hence quite sharp to the touch. The megastrobili of Torreya are also larger, hard, and dark green rather than small, fleshy and red. In cultivated situations in Florida Taxus floridana can be confused with the the two species of Cephalotaxus cultivated within its range. These are easily differentiated from T. floridana by their much longer, slightly wider leaves on branches that are opposite rather than alternate as in Taxus. Although T. floridana is segregated by natural range from all other Taxus species, cultivation of several other species within its range along with its own spread by cultivation, produces situations of sympatry (e.g. on the University of Florida Campus in Gainesville). The Europeaen T. baccata is widely cultivated and more than 40 cultivars of it exist (Bailey et al. 1976). The one apparently consistent difference between T. baccata and T. floridana is that the leaves in T. baccata gradually taper to a point while those of T. floridana are abruptly pointed from sides that are parallel nearly to the tip of the leaf. In T. cuspidata, a widely cultivated Japanese species, the leaves point up to form a V shaped trough rather than lying in a single plane. Taxus canadensis and T. brevifolia are the two native North American species that are also cultivated. Taxus canadensis is low growing and monoecious rather than erect and dioecious. Taxus brevifolia has yellow-green rather than dark green leaves and is a rather large, erect tree rather than a shrub or small tree as is T. floridana.
Ecology Comments: This species occurs in a restricted habitat and probably relies on the specific soil and canopy requirements of that habitat. The plants perennial, dioecious and wind pollinated so there must be both male and female plants in close proximity for reproduction to occur but individuals will persist for several years in isolation. However, the actual sex ratios, expression, and affecting factors have not been studied in T. floridana but have been found to be very complex in its more northern relative, T. canadensis (Allison 1990a, 1990b, 1991). According to Godfrey (1988) birds eat the ovulate cones of T. floridana but the seeds pass through and are dispersed in their droppings.
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cliff, Forest - Hardwood, Forest/Woodland
Habitat Comments: This species, with one notable exception in a white cedar swamp (Kurz 1927), is found in the rich forests of Liberty and rarely Gadsden Cos. It often occurs in slope forests and sometimes on bluffs in only slightly acidic to neutral soils. This is the habitat of Torreya taxifolia, Veratrum woodii, Staphylea trifolia and several other rare species. Quercus laurifolia, Fagus grandifolia, Ilex glabra(in the white cedar swamp) Symplocos tinctoria, Vaccinium corymbosum were reported to co-occur with T. floridana by Kurz (1927). Arundinaria gigantea, Carya glabra, Cercis canadensis, Hydrangea quercifolia, H. arborescens, Juniperus salicicola, Liquidambar styraciflua, Mitchella repens, Oxydendron arboreum Sanguinaria canadensis, and Tilia caroliniana have also been observed co-occuring with Taxus floridana (pers. obs. 1991). Trillium underwoodii, Halesia carolina and Sebestena fruticosa have also been observed with T. floridana by Angus Gholson. Magnolia pyramidata, M. grandiflora, M. ashei, Fagus grandifolia and Ostrya virginiana were recorded as associates by R.K. Godfrey (Col. #84080). Angus Gholson also believes that the species probably requires the calcerous influence found in its habitat.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: Although many of the extant individuals of T. floridana are on at least semi-protected land, the number of extant individuals is so small that an effort to protect more of them is needed. Exploitation for taxol is a great threat that should be addressed. Several researchers are currently interested in obtaining material for characterization. Propagation programs (such as the one underway by Dr. Hochmuth at the University of Florida) appear to be a likely way to alleviate this threat.
Restoration Potential: There have been no specific restoration programs to date but these appear to be feasible and are strongly encouraged. Propagation and storage of other species of Taxus by several methods using various levels of technology have been successful (Snyder and Hess 1956, Eccher 1988, Gouveia 1984, Mcguire et al. 1991). Research is currently being done at the University of Florida by Dr. George Hochmuth who has several hundred healthy plants of Taxus floridana growing in a variety of commercial greenhouse production systems, including hydroponics. A small number are also growing outdoors in landscape situations on the campus of the University of Florida.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: It appears that because this species is restricted to only a small portion of the total mesic forest landscape in which it occurs (bluffs and ravines), the total effective area rather than actual total area of a preserve is an important consideration. The dioecy of the species must also be taken into account by including both male and female gamete sources.
Management Requirements: Although some extant populations have probably endured infrequent fires in the past, this does not appear to be a requirement. Maintenance of canopy cover with a relatively open understory is probably the most pressing need. Erosion from logging and other disturbance in the upland areas surrounding the habitat of T. floridana must also be considered.

Management Programs: The North Florida office of The Nature Conservancy has initiated a long term "macroplot sampling" program. Circular plots of 25 m radius are mapped, defined and marked. Records of each individual in the plot as well as an estimate of seedling and sprout density will be recorded every 3-5 years after the initial setup. Twelve plots, six in each of two steephead systems, were established and monitored in 1992 at the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Six more plots will be established in 1993 in an additional ravine.
Management Research Programs: Charles Kwit and William J. Platt (LSU) initiated reserach on the natural history and ecology of the Florida yew at the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravine Preserve in June, 1993. This research will focus on the habitat, seed dispersal, seed predation, and seedling establishment of the yew. Gary Strobel (Montana State, Bozeman) collected tissue samples of Florida yew in 1993 for isolation of endophytic fungi in bark. Branch ends and a 1 cm2 bark sample were collected from 6-10 individuals on the Preserve for microbe isolation and taxol production experiments. The relationship between fungal species found and those associated with the western T. brevifolia will be examined.
Additional topics: Taxol inhibits both cell division and cell migration in cancer tumors (Schiff and Horowitz 1980). Taxol also holds promise as a pesticide (Daub and Hauser 1988). Pacific yew, Taxus brevifolia, has recently been found to contain taxol and other taxanes in its leaves and especially its bark (Murray 1991, Balza et al. 1991, Richardson 1991) and major populations of that and other species have already been severely damaged by collectors (McCabe 1991). Taxol precursors and other taxanes have also been found in other species of Taxus (Khan and Perveen 1986, Lian et al. 1988, Zhang and Jia 1990, 1991). It has also now been found in T. floridana in amounts comparable to those in T. brevifolia and researchers are eager to further investigate this species (K. Rao, pers. comm.). A process has already been developed to synthesize Taxol from precursors found in T. floridana, thereby making fuller use of any material used (K. Rao, pers. comm.). Other methods of making better use of material (see Pennisi 1992, Edgington 1991) and methods of growing Taxus species in culture (Shannon 1992) also show promise for relieving collecting pressure on T. floridana (Edgington 1991). Collection of yew tissue for taxol may now be unnecessary since the isolation of Taxomyces andreanae, an endophytic fungus of Pacific yew that manufactures the compound (Stierle et al. 1993). As discussed above, similar fungi are being investigated in Taxus floridana by Dr. Strobel.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 11Jun1991
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hardin, E.D., rev. D. White (1991)
Management Information Edition Author: STINGER GUALA
Management Information Acknowledgments:

Angus Gholson, P.O. Box 385, Chattahoochee, FL 32324. (904) 663-4417

George Hochmuth, Dept. of Horticulure Science, 1143 Fifield Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. (904) 392-7912

Koppaka Rao, Dept. of Medicinal Chemistry, J485, J. Hillis Miller Health Center, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. (904) 392-5900.

Greg Seamon, The Nature Conservancy, North Florida Office, 625 N. Adams St. Tallahassee, FL 32301 (904) 222-0199.

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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  • Eccher, T. 1988. Response of cuttings of 16 Taxus cultivars to rooting treatments. Acta Hortic. 227: 251-253.

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  • Godfrey, R.K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Univ. Georgia Press, Athens. 734 pp.

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  • McGuire, J., W. Johnson and C. Dawson 1991. Cold storage of rooted Taxus cuttings on subsequent summer regrowth. J. Environ. Hortic. 9(1): 36-37.

  • Murray, M.D. 1991. The tree that fights cancer. Am. For. 97(7/8): 52-54.

  • Pennisi, E. 1992. Beyond yew: chemists boost taxol yield. Science News 141(16): 244.


  • Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles, and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 1183 pp.

  • Richardson, S. 1991. Pacific yew: a miracle cancer cure. For. Res. West. USDA For. Serv. Fort Collins, Colo. Apr 1991. p. 11-15.

  • Schmitt, J. 1980. Pollinator foraging and gene dispersal in Senecio (Compositae). Evolution 34(5): 934-943.

  • Shannon, C. 1992. Chemists fight cancer without felling trees. New Sci. 134: 19.

  • Snyder, W.E. and C.E. Hess 1956. Low temperature storage of rooted cuttings of nursery crops. Proc. Am. Soc. Hortic. Sci. 67: 545-548.

  • Stierle, A., G. Strobel and D. Stierle. 1993. Taxol and taxane production by Taxomyces andreanae, an endophytic fungus of of Pacific Yew. Science 260(5105): 214-216.



  • Ward, D.B., ed. 1979. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. 5: Plants. Univ. Presses of Florida, Gainesville.

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