Are Yew Trees Poisonous?

Yew Hedges and others from the family Taxaceae are frequently found growing in gardens and public spaces throughout the country. While its beautiful foliage and attractive red berries are guaranteed to brighten up any place in which they grow, they can cause substantial harm if accidentally ingested. 

Present in a variety of Yew hedges, taxine alkaloids are a group of toxic chemicals that can cause a range of negative side-effects in both humans and animals if taken in. Some yew species such as the English Yew (Taxus baccata) are substantially more toxic as opposed to other species such as the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia). 

This level of toxicity can also increase and decrease seasonally, with Yew plants recorded as containing higher concentrations of the taxine chemical during the winter months and far lower concentrations during summer. Other substances found in yew trees, however, are used in the development of chemotherapy medication and are classed under the name of taxanes. 

While the entire yew hedge or tree is considered to be poisonous, the berries and more specifically, the seeds of the plant are recorded to contain the highest concentration levels of taxine. 

Initial symptoms of yew poisoning can include: 

  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • confusion
  • abdominal pain
  • irregular heart rate 

If left untreated, more serious side-effects may develop, such as: 

  • loss of consciousness
  • a substantial drop in blood pressure which can cause a circulatory collapse
  • a total respiratory failure, when you can no longer breathe

If you believe that you have ingested yew tree foliage, accidentally eaten yew berries, seeds or even inhaled a part of a yew tree through flying sawdust, please contact a medical expert for professional advice.

Are Yew Berries Poisonous To Dogs?

While many species of poisonous berries to humans may be non-poisonous to other animals it’s always good practice to double-check if you believe your beloved pet has accidentally ingested any unknown matter. 

Unfortunately in this instance, yew plants can be dangerous to dogs. If eaten, the foliage or berry seeds of a yew tree or hedge can induce a number of side effects which can be fatal if left untreated. These side effects are similar to those found in humans and can include: vomiting, dizziness, difficulty breathing, tremors, changes in heart rate and even death in some cases. 

If you believe that your pet has accidentally ingested either the foliage or berries of a yew hedge, please be sure to contact your veterinarian for further advice.