Asia-Tropical: Holarctic: present New Caledonia: present southern hemisphere: present tropical highlands: present
Of the five genera recognized for the Taxaceae, only Taxus reaches Malesia. Four are distinctly Holarctic in distribution, including Taxus, which is much the most widespread and reaches into tropical highlands The fifth, monotypic Austrotaxus, appears on the other side of Malesia in New Caledonia, a distinct fragment of Gondwanaland, obviously a most curious relict on the southern hemisphere ().
The affinity of Taxaceae has been much debated, with many authors favouring a separate order, Taxales, for it, a position with which I tend to agree. Further questions are raised concerning the grouping of other families with Taxaceae, as against the other conifer families, based on the lack of seed cones, fleshiness of the mature fruit, or lack of a fertile seed scale. Cephalotaxaceae (not in Malesia) has a reduced seed cone structurally organized quite differently from other conifers and vegetatively strongly resembling Taxaceae, so I would group these two together. All other conifer families show seed structures easily derivable from a compound cone with ovules produced on the upper face of a fertile scale which grows in the axil of a bract. Although Taxaceae, perhaps joined by Cephalotaxaceae, can be set apart from the conifers proper, all can agree that taxads and conifers are more closely related to one another than to any other recognized group.