Taxus Populations and Clippings Yields at Commercial Nurseries

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  • 1 Research Associate, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center/The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH 44691.
  • 2 Department Head, Secrest Arboretum, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center/The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH 44691.
  • 3 Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center/The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH 44691.
  • 4 Research Associate Professor, The Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Associate Professor of Pharmacognosy, Health Sciences Research Division, School of Pharmacy, The University of Mississippi, University, MS 38577.

A natural product known as taxol has been approved by the FDA for treatment of ovarian and breast cancers. In addition, preliminary clinical studies have shown encouraging results when using taxol to treat melanomas, lung, head, and neck cancers. Ornamental yews have been identified as a potential renewable source of taxol and related taxanes. Commercial nurseries were surveyed during Summer and Fall 1991 as a basis for estimating populations of Taxus cultivars currently growing in the United States. Clippings of selected cultivars were sampled from nursery fields in Ohio and Michigan to estimate expected clippings yields as a function of cultivar and cultivar age. More than 30 million Taxus plants were reported to be grown by the 19 major nurseries that responded to the survey. About 88% of all Taxus plants reported in the survey were grown in the three-state area of Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Taxus × media `Densiformis', `Hicksii', and `Brownii' were found to be grown by nearly all nurseries in the survey; more than half grew T. × media `Wardii' and T. cuspidata `Capitata', while other well-known cultivars seem to have been specialties of one or two nurseries. Annual clippings yields on a dry-weight basis (db) ranged from ≈20 g/plant to 140 g/plant. Expected yields were found to be very dependent upon plant age and cultivar. Taxus × media `Hicksii' appeared to be the most ideal ornamental yew that could provide a renewable source of taxol because of immediate availability and potential for mechanical harvesting of upright clippings. An estimated 3000 to 4000 ovarian cancer patients could be treated annually with the taxol currently available for extraction from T. × media `Hicksii' clippings.

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