genus austrotaxus


Austrotaxus spicata, the New Caledonia Yew or Southern Yew, is a species of yew, the sole species in the genus Austrotaxus. Its classification has been disputed in the past, with some suggestions that it may be best placed in its own family the Austrotaxaceae or be related to the Podocarpaceae, but recent genetic evidence places it firmly in the Taxaceae, related to the other yews in the genera Taxus and Pseudotaxus.

It is endemic to New Caledonia, occurring in the central and northern parts of the island on serpentine soils at 300-1,350 m altitude.

It is a coniferous shrub or small tree, reaching 5-20 m (rarely 25 m) tall with reddish bark. The leaves are lanceolate, flat, 8-12 cm long (up to 17 cm on young plants) and 4 mm broad, dark green above, with two paler green stomatal bands below; they are arranged spirally on the stem.

The seed cones are drupe-like, 20-25 mm long, with a fleshy aril almost completely surrounding the single seed, but with the tip of the seed exposed. The male (pollen) cones are 10-15 mm long, slender.

The markedly longer leaves and large seeds readily distinguish it from the yews in the genus Taxus.

References and external links

  • Price, R. A. (2003). Generic and familial relationships of the Taxaceae from rbcL and matK sequence comparisons. Acta Hort. 615: 235-237.
  • Gymnosperm Database: Austrotaxus

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