PPDL Picture of the Week

January 11, 2016

Distinguishing Hemlock from Yew


Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist, Purdue University

It is easy to confuse Hemlock (Tsuga spp.) and Yew (Taxus spp.) unless you can see the overall plant habit or have them both side by side.  Further confusing them is that both species may be pruned into hedges or other shapes that obscure the natural plant habits.  


Hemlock has short needles, 1/4 - 3/4" long, green above and distinctly whitish silver below due to prominent white stomatal bands.  Cones are 1/2 - 1" long, ovoid, and pendulous.  


Yew has a slightly longer and wider needle -about 1/2 - 1 1/4" long, dark green above and light green below, overall coarser texture compared to hemlock. Cones look like berries,  the brown seeds are covered by a fleshy red aril (seedcoat).  

​Click image to enlarge


View of above side. Top: Yew. Bottom: Hemlock
Photo Credit: Rosie Lerner, HLA


View of Underside. Top: Yew. Bottom: Hemlock 

Photo Credit: Rosie Lerner, HLA


Hemlock Cones 

Photo Credit: Purdue Arboretum


Yew Cones 

Photo Credit: Purdue Arboretum