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Distinguishing Hemlock from Yew

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 resemble berries, the brown seeds are covered by a fleshy red aril (seedcoat).

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