Taxus cuspidata Sieb. & Zucc.
A tree 40 to 50 ft high in Japan, with a trunk girthing about 6 ft; in cultivation a low tree or spreading shrub; older bark reddish brown. Leaves 1⁄2 to 1 in. long, 1⁄12 to 1⁄8 in. wide, linear, tapered rather abruptly at the apex to a fine point, rounded, and with a distinct stalk at the base 1⁄12 in. long, dark green above, with a broad, tawny yellow strip composed of ten to twelve stomatic lines on each side of the green midrib beneath. The leaves are arranged approximately in two ranks, and stand more or less erect from the twig, often forming a narrow V-shaped trough. Fruits as in T. baccata, but more profusely borne, often clustered.
Native mainly of Japan but also occurring in continental N.E. Asia; introduced by Fortune in 1855 by means of plants which had probably come from Japan, though he sent them from China. Several distinct forms of this yew are grown in the USA, some with a central leader, others many-stemmed from the base. The following seems to be commonest in Britain:
var. nana Rehd. T. cuspidata brevifolia Sieb., nom. nud.; T. c. var. compacta Bean – Dense and shrubby, with spreading branches and radially arranged leaves. Although originally described from plants in the USA this occurs in the wild and is recognised in Ohwi’s Flora of Japan (1965), p. no. It is inappropriately named, plants in the Arnold Arboretum, forty years old, being 15 ft high and 20 ft across (D. Wyman, Shrubs and Vines (1969), pp. 458, 460). This variety was probably introduced to Europe by Siebold.
f. Thayerae (Wils.) Rehd. T. cuspidata var. thayerae Wils. – A group of seedlings raised on the Thayer Estate, Mass., in 1916-7, selected plants of which, growing in the Arnold Arboretum, were named by Wilson in 1925. All are of wide-spreading habit, up to 8 ft high and twice as wide. By some authorities they are referred to T. × media (see below).
T. cuspidata thrives extremely well in the trying New England climate, and is apparently one of the best evergreens introduced there. Whilst the general aspect is the same as that of the English yew, it can be distinguished by the marked yellow tinge of the under-surface of the leaves, and by the longer, more oblong winter buds with looser, more pointed scales.
T. × media Rehd. – A group of hybrids between T. cuspidata and T. baccata, the first of which were raised at the Hunnewell Arboretum, Mass., about 1900. Of the many clones now available the oldest in British gardens is ‘Hicksii’, a free-fruiting variety resembling the Irish yew in habit but with larger, more glossy, spine-tipped leaves. Other columnar forms are now in commerce. Also available is ‘Hatfieldii’ (male), which makes a dense pyramid about 10 ft high and as much across; it is one of the original Hunnewell seedlings and is named after the then superintendent of the estate, T. D. Hatfield.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
There are two examples of this species in the National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, one, in the collection, 28 × 2 ft (1984) and the other, in North Avenue, 33 × 13⁄4 ft (1979).
T. × media – Another cultivar in this group is ‘Parade’, said to be intermediate in habit between the Irish yew and T. × media ‘Hicksii’.