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(Yew family)


20 species in five genera are found in the northern hemisphere south to Celebes and Mexico, one species in New Caledonia.

[Summary yet to be added]

Taxus baccata L.
Common Yew, English Yew

Großmann (1920) had experienced mild headache and discomfort while working with yew, as had other workers with him. Schulmann & Détouillon (1932) noted that they had observed dermatitis attributable to "if" — yew, probably this species — in two wood-workers. The wood was said to irritate the respiratory passages and the skin (Moll 1950).

Senear (1933) reported dermatitis in a man who scraped his archery bow made of yew wood imported from England. Attacks followed several exposures to the dust of the wood, which produced a positive patch test reaction. Tests in controls were not recorded. The patient applied the patch test on his own initiative and therefore deserves a place in the history of patch testing. Irritant effects of yew wood have been ascribed to oil of yew and formic acid (Long 1938). Hausen (1970) cites Powetz (1949) for an injurious effect of the wood.

Miliary eruptions were reported from sleeping under the tree (Piffard 1881).

Most parts of the tree contain poisonous alkaloids, taxines and also an irritant volatile oil (Forsyth 1968). Wine from hip-flasks made of yew wood was said by Pliny to poison travellers (Woods and Calnan 1976).

Taxus cuspidata Siebold & Zucc.
Japanese Yew

The wood is said to be irritant (Schwartz et al. 1957).


  • Forsyth, A.A. (1968) British Poisonous Plants. 2nd edn. Bull. 161. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. London. HMSO.
  • Großmann J (1920) Gesundheitsschädliche Holzarten. Der Holzkäufer 17(100,101,102,103): 529-530, 535-536, 540-541, 545-546
  • Hausen BM (1970) Untersuchungen über Gesundheitsschädigende Hölzer [Studies on Harmful Woods]. Doctoral Dissertation. Universität Hamburg, Germany [url] [url-2]
  • Long, H.C. (1938) Poisonous Plants on the Farm. Bull. Ministry Agriculture London 75.
  • Moll, F. (1950) Giftiges Holz und Gewerbekrankheiten. Holz (Munchen) 4: 76
  • Piffard HG (1881) A Treatise on the Materia Medica and Therapeutics of the Skin. New York: William Wood & Company [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Powetz, J. (1949) Vergiftungen durch die Eibe. Allgemeine Forst- und Holzwirtschaftliche Zeitung 60: 59.
  • Schulmann E, Détouillon P (1932) L'eczéma du bois et la sensibilisation sylvestre. [Wood-induced eczema and forest-associated sensitisation]. Paris Médical (83): 55-61 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Schwartz L, Tulipan L, Birmingham DJ (1957) Irritant plants and woods. In: Occupational Diseases of the Skin. 3rd edn, pp. 636-672. London: Henry Kimpton [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Senear FE (1933) Dermatitis due to woods. Journal of the American Medical Association 101(20): 1527-1532 & unpubl. table accompanying reprints [doi] [url]
  • Woods B, Calnan CD (1976) Toxic woods. British Journal of Dermatology 95(Suppl 13): 1-97 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]

Richard J. Schmidt

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