Japanese Plum Yew Cephalotaxus harringtonia var. drupacea

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
cow's tail pine


Commonly known as the Japanese plum yew, this is an evergreen plant with a lush, dense form that presents a rich, dark green color throughout the year. The leaves are needle-like, arranged in a spiral fashion along the stems, offering a soft texture to the touch. The foliage is glossy and has a slight curve to it, creating an elegant and graceful look. On mature plants, you can observe small, plum-like fruits that start green and ripen to a purple or brown hue. These fruits often have a single seed within. Their overall appearance provides a striking contrast against the foliage and can attract wildlife. The plant's growth habit tends to be low and spreading, producing branches that can create a mounded or slightly arching shape as they mature. This characteristic gives this yew a very sculptural aspect, suiting various landscaping needs while providing year-round interest. It's particularly noted for its tolerance to shade and its ability to bring a textured, coniferous element to gardens with less light.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Japanese Plum Yew, Cow's Tail Pine, Korean Plum Yew, Harrington's Plum Yew, Japanese Cowtail Pine

    • Common names

      Cephalotaxus drupacea, Cephalotaxus harringtonii var. drupacea, Cephalotaxus harringtonia var. drupacea, Cephalotaxus nana, Cephalotaxus fortunei var. drupacea, Taxus harringtonia.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The plant commonly referred to as Japanese plum yew contains certain alkaloids that can be toxic to humans if ingested. The level of toxicity can vary based on the quantity consumed and the individual sensitivity. Symptoms of Japanese plum yew poisoning may include vomiting, abdominal pain, and potentially more severe effects such as low blood pressure or respiratory depression in extreme cases. Care should be taken to avoid ingesting any part of the plant.

    • To pets

      Japanese plum yew is also toxic to pets, including dogs and cats, due to the presence of alkaloids. If pets consume parts of this plant, they could experience symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and in severe instances, there could be risks of more serious effects like changes in heart rate or blood pressure. It is important to prevent pets from ingesting any part of the plant to avoid the risk of poisoning.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Height

      10-20 feet [3-6 meters]

    • Spread

      6-12 feet [2-4 meters]

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      Japan Korea


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Value: Cephalotaxus harringtonia var. drupacea, commonly known as the Japanese Plum Yew, is prized for its beautiful, dark green, needle-like foliage and compact, conical shape, making it an attractive addition to gardens and landscapes.
    • Drought Resistance: The Japanese Plum Yew is known for its ability to withstand periods of drought once established, reducing the need for frequent watering and making it suitable for xeriscaping.
    • Shade Tolerance: This plant thrives in shaded environments where other plants may struggle to grow, providing a lush, green presence in darker areas of a garden.
    • Deer Resistance: The Japanese Plum Yew is relatively resistant to browsing by deer, making it a good choice for areas where deer are a common problem for gardeners and landscapers.
    • Low Maintenance: It requires minimal upkeep beyond occasional pruning to maintain its shape, making it a convenient option for both novice and experienced gardeners.
    • Erosion Control: With its dense growth habit and strong root system, the Japanese Plum Yew can help prevent soil erosion in sloped areas.
    • Year-Round Interest: As an evergreen plant, it provides year-round color and texture in the garden, even in the dreary winter months.
    • Wildlife Habitat: It can serve as a habitat for wildlife, offering shelter and protection for small animals and birds in the landscape.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Antitumor activity: Cephalotaxus harringtonia var. drupacea, commonly known as Japanese plum yew, contains alkaloids such as harringtonine which have been studied for their potential to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
    • Antifungal properties: Extracts from the plant have shown activity against certain fungal pathogens, indicating potential use in treating fungal infections.
    • Antiviral properties: Some studies suggest that compounds in Japanese plum yew may have activity against certain viruses.
    • Immunosuppressive effects: The alkaloids, including harringtonine, might possess immunosuppressive properties, which could be potentially useful in conditions where suppression of the immune system is required.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • The wood of Cephalotaxus harringtonia, commonly known as the Japanese plum yew, can be utilized in woodworking and carpentry for its fine texture and workability.
    • Its slow growth habit and tolerance to shade make it a suitable plant for bonsai cultivation.
    • Due to its evergreen nature and dense foliage, Japanese plum yew can be used as a privacy screen in landscaping.
    • The tree's resistance to deer browsing makes it an excellent choice for gardens in areas with a high deer population.
    • Japanese plum yew is sometimes used in topiary, as it can be pruned into various shapes and maintains its form well.
    • With a tolerance for urban pollution, this plant can be used for urban greening projects and street plantings.
    • Its seed cones and attractive foliage are sometimes used in floral arrangements and decorations.
    • In certain regions, the tree is planted in large groupings to form a windbreak hedge, especially in rural landscapes.
    • Its dense habit provides habitat and shelter for small wildlife, such as birds and beneficial insects.
    • Although not commonly used for this purpose, the seeds, which resemble small plums, can be fermented to produce alcoholic beverages in some traditional cultures.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Japanese Plum Yew is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Japanese Plum Yew is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Endurance and Resilience: Cephalotaxus harringtonia var. drupacea, commonly known as the Japanese plum yew, possesses a robust nature that allows it to survive in various conditions. Its capacity to endure symbolizes the human traits of resilience and perseverance.
    • Longevity: The Japanese plum yew can live for many years, making it a symbol of longevity and the ability to withstand the test of time.
    • Protection: With its dense foliage, the Japanese plum yew is often used in hedges and landscaping to provide privacy and protection, symbolizing shelter and safety.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring to early summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The Japanese plum yew should be watered deeply, allowing soil to slightly dry between watering sessions. It typically requires watering once a week, but may need more frequent watering during hot, dry periods. The ideal amount is about 1 to 1.5 gallons for smaller shrubs and up to 5 gallons for larger specimens, evenly applied around the root zone. During the winter months, reduce watering frequency as the plant's growth slows and it requires less moisture.

  • sunLight

    The Japanese plum yew thrives best in partial shade to full shade, making it an excellent plant for shaded understorey conditions or north-facing gardens. Bright, indirect light will help ensure healthy growth without the risks associated with direct sunlight. Avoid placing it in locations where it would receive harsh afternoon sun, which can scorch the foliage.

  • thermometerTemperature

    The Japanese plum yew is hardy and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures but prefers a consistent range between 60°F and 80°F. It can survive minimum temperatures down to about 0°F and should be protected from extreme cold snaps. The plant does well in the moderate climates without extreme heat or cold.

  • scissorsPruning

    The Japanese plum yew benefits from pruning to maintain shape and encourage dense growth. Pruning is best done in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove any dead or diseased branches and thin out as needed to allow light into the center of the plant.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Japanese Plum Yew prefers well-drained, acidic to neutral soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. A mixture of pine bark, peat moss, and sand or perlite in equal parts is ideal to ensure good drainage and aeration.

  • plantRepotting

    Japanese Plum Yew should be repotted every 3 to 4 years, or when it has outgrown its current container, to prevent root crowding and maintain soil health.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Japanese Plum Yew does well in moderate humidity levels but is tolerant of a wide range of conditions; aim for humidity levels between 40-60%.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place in bright, indirect light; water when topsoil is dry.

    • Outdoor

      Partial shade to full sun; protect from harsh winds.

    • Hardiness zone

      6-9 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Cephalotaxus harringtonia var. drupacea, also known as Japanese plum yew, begins its life cycle with seed germination after stratification, which is often slow and may take several years. Once germinated, the seedling grows gradually, developing into a young plant with a deep green, needle-like foliage. This dioecious species reaches maturity in several years and begins to produce either male cones that release pollen or female cones that develop into fleshy, plum-like drupes. The drupes fall to the ground or are dispersed by animals, which assists in the propagation of the species. Over many years, the Japanese plum yew evolves into a slow-growing, evergreen shrub or small tree, exhibiting a remarkable tolerance to shade and deer resistance. As an adult plant, it can survive for numerous years, with some specimens live over a century, completing the cycle by producing seeds of their own.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to early summer

    • The most popular method for propagating the Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia var. drupacea) is through semi-hardwood cuttings. This form of vegetative propagation is typically done in late summer. Suitable cuttings are taken from the current year’s growth, with a stem section of four to six inches, ensuring several sets of healthy leaves are present. The lower end of the cutting is dipped in rooting hormone to encourage root development and then inserted into a prepared pot with well-draining potting mix. The pot is then placed in a humid, shaded area and kept moist but not waterlogged. Roots usually develop within several weeks to a few months, after which the new plants can be gradually acclimated to more light before transplanting.