Taxus x media "Densiformis" is a female evergreen cultivar of the Anglojap yew. T.D. Hatfield, a researcher from the Hunnewell Pinetum at Wellesley, Massachusetts, developed the Taxus x media hybrid during the early 1900s by crossing the Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) and the English yew (Taxus baccata). Homeowners plant Densiformis shrubs as hedges, specimens and foundation plants.
Densiformis grows about 4 feet tall with an approximate 8-foot spread. This cultivar has a rounded or mounding form. Its coarse, brown bark is usually hidden by dense, heavy foliage. The glossy bright-green needles develop a bronze cast during the winter. Densiformis blooms during March and April, but the flowers are ornamentally unimportant. Rather than yielding cones, female yews produce attractive, single-seeded, 1/3-inch red fruits.
This cultivar grows best in light, sandy, well-drained, moist soil with a slightly acidic or near-neutral pH range. It prefers either full sunlight or partial shade. It does not thrive in soil with inadequate drainage and may die if planted in heavy soil. It is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 4. Densiformis requires protection from harsh wind; severe winter weather or sudden changes in temperature can result in twig dieback. Its foliage tends to discolor during the winter.
Benefits and Liabilities
The Densiformis yew transplants easily and is tolerant of shearing or pruning. It rarely experiences severe diseases or insect problems and has a long life span. In addition, it has low-maintenance requirements. On the other hand, this species tends to be overused in home landscapes. Black vine weevils and scale insects occasionally feed on Densiformis shrubs. Other diseases include sooty mold, root rot, needle and twig blight and phytophthora canker.
Like other yews, Densiformis is highly poisonous and potentially fatal to humans and animals if consumed. The leaves and seeds contain an alkaloid toxin called taxine that affects the heart. As little as a mouthful can kill a cow or horse, and death may occur in as little as five minutes. The symptoms of poisoning include upset stomach, shaking, loss of energy, difficulty breathing and an irregular heartbeat, but death may occur without any symptoms.