City Cast

Why Boise Banned Yew Plants

Adrian González
Adrian González
Posted on August 3
A bright red berry hangs off a yew tree.

A bright red berry hangs off a yew tree. (Jim Cook / Getty)

Boise is saying “ew” to yew. The new zoning code approved by the City Council last month included the ban on several varieties of yew, an ornamental shrub that’s been commonly used for landscaping Boise.

Why is it being banned?

In short, it’s very toxic. The needles, seeds, and most of the berries it produces contain taxine alkaloids that can slow the heart until death. It only takes two ounces to kill a human adult, but the main problem is that an alarming number of Idaho wildlife has died after consuming yew, including in the Treasure Valley. The ban is an effort to keep humans and wildlife safe.

What if you have an existing yew plant?

Don’t worry, the city is not going to punish you. They simply want to help Boiseans replace existing yew with a safer option. There is currently no plan for how the city will do that, so here are a few options if you want to start replacing a yew plant in your yard.

  • Not sure what yew looks like? Here’s a helpful video from the Idaho Statesman about how to identify and remove toxic yew.
  • Note that touching the plant is safe, just be sure not to ingest any parts.
  • To remove, start by pruning big branches so it’s easier to access the main trunk. You can then dig it out with a shovel or by wrapping it with a rope and pulling at the base of the plant. Yew can re-sprout from the roots, so make sure you remove them.
  • The dead branches of a yew are still toxic, so throw them into the garbage.

If you’re a dog owner, there are many other things around Boise that can be toxic to dogs, so we put together a helpful guide.

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