Plants: perennial, 3'-6' tall, evergreen low shrub; stems smooth
Leaves: flat individual needles green/yellow beneath, 3/8-1", pointed
Fruits: red, about 1/2" diameter, berry-like
Hazardous: Careful, this plant is hazardous!
Conservation Status: Special Concern
Rich mesic or swampy forests of balsam fir-birch-white cedar, sugar maple-yellow birch, red maple, sugar maple-hemlock, tamarack, sugar maple-basswood-bitternut hickory, white pine, white pine-yellow birch, birch-white cedar-maple, sugar maple-basswood-red oak, white cedar, white pine-hemlock-white spruce-hardwoods, sugar maple-beech-hemlock, white cedar-hemlock-black ash, aspen-birch-balsam fir, mixed conifers; often in ravines or gorges. Also found on wooded dunes of Lake Michigan, shaded rock outcrops and portions of the Niagara Escarpment, cliffs, roadcuts, and talus slopes. Populations in the Driftless Area are restricted to shady cliffs, north-facing wooded bluffs along rivers, pine relicts, and the few remaining relic bogs.
This species has declined severely since European settlement and is now usually found as isolated individuals. The intensive logging of the 1800’s, and subsequent fires, probably caused its initial decline. Since then, the overabundance of white-tailed deer has further impacted yew populations. In many areas, yew just barely hangs on as lone individuals on cliffs and bluffs that are inaccessible to deer, or in areas where snow is deep. Even though these plants act as seed sources, deer immediately eat any seedlings or saplings that develop. Only on some Great Lakes islands where deer are absent, do yew populations thrive. Some of these islands have forest understories with lush yew shrubs, some as tall as 2.4 meters (Judziewicz, 1998)! It seems likely that most populations of yew will be lost in the state once these old, grizzled plants finally die.