Magazine article American Forests

The Biggest Pacific Yew

Magazine article American Forests

The Biggest Pacific Yew

Article excerpt

Ever since the first century when Pliny said the yew was cursed, "unpleasant and fearful to look upon," and Plutarch warned that its shade was deadly to sleep in, the yew has suffered a bum rap. The old British practice of planting yews in cemeteries did nothing to help its reputation. But in 1897 British physician John Lowe foretold the yew's renaissance: "It is man who has placed it in cemeteries and churchyards. Nature gives the yew a very different abiding place, and perhaps after all it may prove to be a tree that should contribute ideas rather of hope than of mourning."

No greater hope could have been imagined than when taxol, a substance derived from Pacific yew bark, was discovered to be one of the most potent anti-cancer drugs ever found. But for a while some feared that the sparsely distributed and very slow-growing Pacific yew would be wiped out by the escalating need for its bark. Three 100-yearold trees had to be debarked, and thus killed, to produce enough taxol for one cancer patient. One estimate in 1992 translated that into an annual need of 400,000 trees. Since then taxol has been synthesized in the lab and methods for producing it from yew needles have precluded the need for harvesting yew bark. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.