Taxus sumatrana / Taiwan yew

Taxus sumatrana, as described in 1978 by (Miquel) David John de Laubenfels (1925 - 2016), in Kalikasan, Philippine Journal of Biology, 7th edition is commonly known as Taiwan or Chinese yew; as well as Tampinur batu in Malay; and as Hong dou shan in Chinese. The species name classifies this conifer as a Sumatran endemic.

Some botanical authors, notably Aljos Farjon in A Handbook of the World's Conifers (2010) synonymize T. sumatrana with T. wallichiana. Others like Chris Earle at treat it as a distinct species on primarily biogeographical grounds; its distribution is disjunct from the other Asian species of Taxus and it is the only species in the genus to occupy fully tropical habitats. The ACS agrees with Earle's logic here.


Description. Taiwan yew is a shrubby, evergreen coniferous species of tree that grows to mature heights of 45 feet (14 m) tall, growing wide and bushy in cultivation. Crown is dome-shaped with dense, upwardly angled to horizontal branches.

  • Trunk bark is grayish red in color, with flimsy longitudinal commissure-like chinks, exfoliating in irregular flakes and leaving scars with dachytogram-like streaks on the trunk, flakes about 1.5 mm. thick; lenticels inconspicuous; outer bark is membranous or fibrous, measuring about 0.016 to 0.064 inch (0.4 - 1.6 mm) thick, with a reddish brown to orange-yellow cross-section. The phelloderm is more or less conspicuous. Inner bark measures 0.2 to 0.32 inch (0.5 - 0.8 cm) thick, with pink color and finely fibrous texture. Freshly cut cambium and newly formed phloem is colorless and transparent, becoming pale orange-yellow after cutting. Freshly cut sapwood is pale apricot-yellow in color. Wood rays are inconspicuous.
  • Leaves have a linear-lanceolate outline, falcate (sickle) shaped, and spirally arranged, spreading in two ranks; each measuring about 0.48 to 1.1 inches (1.2 - 2.7 cm) long and 0.08 to 0.1 inch (2 - 2.5 mm) broad, with an abruptly pointed apex, and decurrent base. Needle color is yellowish green above, pale green beneath.
  • Pollen cones measure 0.16 to 0.24 inch (4 - 6 mm) long.
  • Seeds are drupe-like. The fleshy arillate coat is reddish colored at maturity, ripening in the first season (November).
natural range of <em>Taxus sumatrana <em>courtesy of</em></em>
natural range of Taxus sumatrana courtesy of

Distribution. This species is native to Sumatra, Philippines, and Celebes growing at elevations of 4,600 to 7,500 feet (1,400 - 2,300 m) above sea level in moist subtropical forests, tropical highland ridges and moss forests in the subcanopy, where it is locally dominant. In the Philippines it occurs on high ridges and mountain summits in mossy forest, or sometimes in rocky grass and scrubland. In Sumatera and Sulawesi it is usually a mid-montane species.

Presumed hardy to UDSA Zone 8 — cold hardiness limit between 10° and 20°F (-12.1° and -6.7°C), as specimens are known to exist in cultivation both in Seattle and San Francisco.

Attribution from: Chris J. Earle, The Gymnosperm Database;

Taxus sumatrana — a closeup of seed cone detail.
Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz via Wikipedia, CC by SA 4.0