Domain- Eukarya
    Kingdom- Plantae
        Division- Pinophyta
            Class- Pinopsida
                Order- Taxales
                    Family- Taxaceae
                        Genus- Taxus L.
                            Species- Taxus baccata L.


The name "Taxus baccata" is derived from the ancient Greek term "taxis" meaning "order or arrangement" and "baccata" meaning "carrying berries". The words "toxic" and "textile" are derived from the the root "taxus" due to the tree's toxicity and its bark's utility as a weaving material.

The most common names for Taxus baccata are "English Yew," "Common Yew," or "European Yew." As these names suggest, Taxus baccata is found predominantly throughout England and the rest of Europe (See Habitat and Distribution). "Yew" comes from Old English "iw" and can be traced back to Germanic and Gallic origin.

Taxus baccata was first classified in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus, who is credited as "the Father of Taxonomy" for his use of a binomial naming system, which we still use today.

If you're interested in learning more about Carl Linnaeus, click here

Method of Classification:

Domain Euakrya:
English yew is classified as a Eukaryote due to the presence of membrane bound organelles and a true nucleus within its cells. All other plants, animals (us included), protists, and fungi belong to the domain Eukarya. A couple specific examples of this broad group include the microscopic Saccharomyces cerevisiae (bread yeast) and the worlds largest land mammal Giraffa Camelopardalis (Giraffe)

Kingdom Plantae:
As you might have guessed by the name, the kingdom Plantae contains all of the plants of the world. Distinguishing characteristics from other kingdoms are cell walls composed of cellulose, and autotrophy, or the the ability to produce sugar by the process of photosynthesis. Other organisms that are members of kingdom Plantae include the apple tree and licorice fern. For more information on photosynthesis and how the English yew gets its food check out: nutrient acquisition.

Phylum Pinophyta:
Organisms of this division are classified as gymnosperms, meaning "naked seeds." So these plants reproduce via seeds that are not contained in fruits, thus "naked". These naked seeds are usually contained in cones, but this is not always the case, as seen with reproduction in the yew trees. Along with having naked seeds , there are a few other obvious characteristics that define this group. Members of division Pinophyta are typically located in areas with cold winters. They also are the tallest, most massive, and longest living of any plants.

Class Pinospida:
These are all of the same organisms that are included in Pinophyta. So this taxanomic category isn't a smaller group within Pinophyta. Orders within phylum Pinophyta and class Pinospida include the Pinales (conifers) and Taxales (Yews).

Order Taxales:
This is the order of gymnosperms that include includes the yew family only. This is a morphological classification. Genetic similarities between yew trees and other conifers may lead to a combining of Pinales and Taxales.

Family Taxaceae:
This family contains the genus Taxus, to see other organisms within this family see Phylogenetic Trees at the bottom of the page.

Genus Taxus L.:
Taxus refers to the seven or eight species of yew. The taxi are so similar that it is hard to distinguish between the different species. If one species were to be planted in the habitat of any other, the species would likely survive. In addition, these species vary in distribution but there are reproducing hybrids that exists between some species, further proving that some may actually be the same species. One other species of yew is the pacific yew, which can be found along the west coast of North America.

For an even greater amount of info on the genus Taxus, click here

Species Taxus baccata L.: Also called the European yew, English yew, or common yew, this species is the most widely known of all of the yew species. This slow growing and long lived tree is sparsely located across the continent of Europe.

Phylogenetic Trees:

Phylogeny of Land Plants (constructed by Chad Kahles):

Constructed by Chad Kahles

The phylogenetic tree above shows where the conifers (coniferophyta or pinophyta) fit into the overall classification of land plants. The English yew is a conifer (highlighted in green), which means that it is vascular, has seeds, and a member of the gymnosperms. This tree is based on morphological characteristics. See below for a phylogenetic tree for family Taxaceae.

Phylogeny of Taxaceae (constructed by Chad Kahles):

constructed by Chad Kahles

The phylogenetic tree above where Taxus baccata fits within the family Taxaceae and genus Taxus. You can see Taxus baccata along with the other seven species of yew which it is closely related to. These species of yew are so similar that they are often only classified as separate species due to their geographic isolation rather than by morphological or genetic characteristics. There is great debate as to if there are more or less actual species of yew because they are so similar. For instance, all species of yew can flourish in another yew species habitat and yew species can readily form hybrids. Check out one of the English yew's closest relatives: Taxus brevifolia.