Name: Pacific Yew Tree (Taxus brevifolia)
Found in: Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains
Taxoids protect trees from being eaten by animals. In humans they can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, pain, muscle weakness, heart failure, and even death. One taxoid, called paclitaxel, prevents cells from dividing and multiplying. It is made into a drug called Taxol®, whichis used to limit the spread of fast-multiplying cancer cells. It takes more than one ton of yew bark to extract just 10 grams of the cancer-treating medication. In the 1900s several species of the yew tree were threatened from over harvesting; now paclitaxel is made in industrial-scale fermentation tanks.
Poison Plus: Different species of yew trees have traditionally been grown in cemeteries in Europe. In the Harry Potter series, the evil Lord Voldemort’s wand is made of yew.
Learn more in The Power of Poison.