Because the class Taxopsida contains only one family, the Taxaceae. Thus the description of the class Taxopsida and family Taxaceae are the same. They are commonly dioecious (but can be monoecious) evergreen trees and shrubs which have no resin canals. The branches tend to spread or droop. The spirally arranged, linear, need-like leaves sometimes appear to be in two ranks. The pollen is produced in small cones whose scales bear 2-8 pollen sacs. The ovules is solitary in a small cone which has 2 pairs of bracts. At maturity, a red aril almost completely surrounds the black seed which can be seen from the distal end. The final result does not appear to be a cone, but appears to be a berry. Differing from the Pinaceae cleavage embryony does not occur in the Taxaceae. The fleshy, red aril is edible, but the black, shiny seed is poisonous to mammals, including Homo sapiens. The hard, durable, attractive wood has been and is still used for making bows.
Taxus brevifolia Nutt. Western or Pacific Yew. These are trees ranging in height from 5 to 10 meters tall. The erect trunks can be either straight or contorted. The outer, purplish scaled bark is thin. The inner bark is reddish purple. The flat , yellow-green leaves remain alive up to 6 years. They are about ½ to 3/4 inches long and up to 1/8 inch wide and end in a small projecting point (mucronate). In northern Idaho they grow in moist forests, especially along streams.