Evergreen trees or (prostrate) shrubs. Bark thin, smooth, purple-red, peeling in large thin flakes. Leaves spirally placed (but usually twisted into a single plane), linear to linear-lanceolate, acute, distinctly constricted at the base where the leaf twists into a horizontal position and then widening again in the decur-rent part, penetrated by a single vascular strand marked on the lower surface by a blunt ridge which separates two bands of stomata and on the upper stoma-ta-free surface by a sharp narrow ridge.
Seven species on the northern hemisphere middle latitudes and some tropical highlands, almost completely allopatric, but possibly some overlap between two species in the eastern Himalayas; one species in Malesia, and that one more common in subtropical parts of China. The genus has a predominantly northern hemisphere distribution, Central America and S. Celebes being the stations at lowest latitude. .
All seven species are closely related and some, at least, hybridize readily. As a result some authors such as PILGER prefer to recognize but one species with several subspecies. I would need to know more about the relationships between the taxa before I could take a strong position in this case.
The tough, dense wood has excellent qualities and has been in demand for many uses. Best known is its service for bows and decorative woodwork such as chests and coffins. It is also desirable for fence posts, flooring, and mallots. The well-marked reddish brown heartwood contrasts pleasingly with the pale yellowish sapwood.
Taxus, Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 462. 1754