Taxus × media / Foundation yew

Taxus × media, as described in 1906 by by Alfred Rehder (1863–1949), in Hort. Boston is commonly known as hybrid yew, foundation yew or Wellesley yew. It is a synthetic hybrid of English yew (Taxus baccata) and Japanese yew (T. cuspidata), originally crossed around 1900 by T.D. Hartfield at the Hunnewell Estate Pinetum, Wellesley, Massachusetts. Hartfield originally collected the seed from Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata' and there have been numerous other crosses made since then.

At nearly the same time, the same cross was made at the Henry Hicks Nursery in Westbury, Long Island, New York. In this case, T. cuspidata was the seed parent. One seedling from this research was to become the ubiquitous T. × media 'Hicksii,' one of the world's most-planted hedge yew.

Description. Foundation yew is an extremely variable conifer, growing intermediate between its two parents. It tends to be stronger-growing than T. baccata and much hardier.

  • Shoots are olive-green or reddish in color when grown in a sunnier exposure. Plants hold this shoot color for 2 years rather than just 1.
  • Needles are similar to those in T. cuspidata, but distinctly 2-ranked and mostly flat, not in the expected v-formation seen in the Japanese yew.
  • Bud scales are less keeled than those seen in T. cuspidata.
Taxus × media is the most widely cultivated yew in North America for foundation plantings, hedges and specimen shrubs (Eckenwalder, 2009). It is much hardier than English yew and has resulted in a much wider array of cultivars than has Japanese yew. Interestingly, an equal number of unique, interesting seedlings result from either species as seed parent.

Hardy to USDA Zone 5 — cold hardiness limit between -20° and -10°F (-28.8°C and -23.3°C).

Attribution from: James E. Eckenwalder; Conifers of the World; ©2009, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Taxus × media — photo courtesy of Sandra McLean Cutler, author of "Dwarf & Unusual Conifers Coming of Age."
Photo by USNA
Taxus ×media — a closeup of foliage and aril detail.
Photo by University of Connecticut Plant Database, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT
The ever-popular 'Hicksii' hedge.
Photo by University of Connecticut Plant Database, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT

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