Pseudotaxus chienii / White-berry yew

Pseudotaxus chienii, as described in 1947 by Wan-chun Cheng in Research Notes, Forestry Institute; National Central University, Nanking, China is commonly known as White-berry or White-cup yew; as well as 白豆杉 (báidòushān [literally "white bean conifer") in the Chinese language. The species name honors Sung Su Chien (born 1885), who collected the type specimens in Zhejiang province, China.

Pseudotaxus liana was described from Guangxi and at the same time recorded from Hunan and Jiangxi. In the protologue (Silba, Phytologia 81: 327. 1996, as "liiana"), it was said to differ from P. chienii in its broadly ovate or ovate-oblong leaves, measuring 0.52 to 1.12 inch (1.3 - 2.8 cm) long and 0.14 to 0.22 inch (3.5 - 5.5 mm) wide, which are thick and leathery; it was also compared with two species in the Podocarpaceae: Podocarpus brassii Pilger, from Indonesia (Irian Jaya) and Papua New Guinea, and Prumnopitys harmsiana (Pilger) de Laubenfels, from South America. Further study is needed to ascertain whether it is distinct from Pseudotaxus chienii and, if so, to settle its generic, and possibly also familial placement. If it is distinct, then some of the records of P. chienii may in fact belong to the new species.

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Description. White-berry yew is an evergreen coniferous species of shrub or small tree that grows to mature heights of 12 feet (4 m) tall, with a trunk up to 12 inches (30 cm) wide, measured at breast height, with a spreading to rounded crown. It is a dioecious conifer with male and female fruiting bodies growing on separate trees.

  • Bark is gray-brown in color in color, peeling in strips.
  • Branchlets are round, colored green or yellow-green in first year, dark green in second year.
  • Leaves are borne at a 40 to 45° angle to axis when young but at 50 to 90° angles on mature trees; petioles are absent or less than 0.04 inch (1 mm). Needle blades are bright-green adaxially in the 1st year, thereafter dark green, linear, straight or slightly falcate. They do not have a leathery texture. Individual needles meaure 0.4 to 1.04 inches (1 - 2.6 cm) long and 0.08 to 0.18 inch (2 - 4.5 mm) wide. Midveins measure 0.016 inch (0.4 mm) wide. Stomatal bands are 0.02 to 0.044 inch (0.5 - 1.1 mm) wide, broader than or about as wide as marginal bands; consisting of 9 rows on young plants, increasing to 13-19 rows on adult plants. Marginal bands measure 0.008 to 0.012 inch (0.2 - 0.3 mm) wide.
  • Pollen cones measure 0.16 to 0.2 inch (4 -5 mm) long, including basal scales, and about 0.12 to 0.16 inch (3 - 4 mm) in diameter, with 6 to 12 pollen scales.
  • Arils (seed cones) are thick and white in color, measuring 0.2 to 0.28 inch (5 - 7 mm) in diameter with a single, ovoid, chestnut-brown seed, measuring 0.2 to 0.32 inch (5 - 8 mm) long and 0.16 to 0.2 inch (4 - 5 mm) wide. Pollination occurs from late March to May, seed maturity in October of the same year.
Distribution. This species is native to China — northern Guangdong, northern Guangxi, northwestern and southern Hunan, southwestern Jiangxi, and southern Zhejiang provinces; cultivated as an ornamental in Zhejiang. Outside of China, this species is virtually unknown. It is a rare understory shrub in cool, humid temperate montane forests dominated by evergreen or deciduous angiosperms at elevations of 1,650 to 4,300 feet (500 - 1,300 m) above sea level, with annual precipitation around 72 to 80 inches (1,800 – 2,000 mm) and frequent cloud cover or fog.

Hardy to UDSA Zone 8 — cold hardiness limit between 10° and 20°F (-12.1° and -6.7°C).

It is a rare species that is threatened more by general habitat destruction than by direct exploitation, mostly because that wood is of too low of volume for construction purposes, rather it is used as a carving material and for making utensils.

Attribution from: Fu Liguo (傅立国), Li Nan (李楠), and Robert R. Mill; Sections on Cephalotaxaceae, Ginkgoaceae and Pinaceae. In Wu Zheng-yi and Peter H. Raven (editors); ©1999, Flora of China, Volume 4. Beijing.

Pseudotaxus chienii — foliage and arils.
Photo by Aljos Farjon, via ConifersGarden.com
Pseudotaxus chienii — foliage (abaxial aspect) and immature arils.
Photo by Aljos Farjon, from the website, Threatened Conifers of The World
Pseudotaxus chienii — foliage detail of a specimen in habitat.
Photo by Aljos Farjon, from the website, Threatened Conifers of The World

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