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Just what is a Taxus Baccata "Standishii"

GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 124
I'm having a problem with what is being called a Standishii and what I expect one to actually be.
We recently ordered some Standishii from an online nursery, and whilst they do look quite similar to the picture on their site - I didn't really feel the need to scrutinise that image before purchase - they don't really look like what I have come to expect a Standishii to look like.

Some time ago (15-20 years) I purchased a small (<6in) Taxus which was labelled as a "Taxus Baccata Standishii" and was with other "Standishii".  It was yellow-ish and was pretty thin, but was on the wonk in the pot.  This has been extremely slow growing (now 3ft tall), roots have not grown fast either.  It has clearly lost the yellow, only keeping a thin yellow edge to new leaves.  It was kept in morning sun.  Last spring/summer we added a little liquid feed and regularly watered (though not too much, Taxus don't like it soggy) and it grew a few inches quite rapidly, and filled out some of the lower foliage a little.
I can't but wonder if this was actually grafted, looking at the lower trunk/root area, or if it suffered some kind of trauma as a young plant which is now having an effect on it's growing habit.

Last year we bought a pair of "Taxus Baccata Standishii" from a local small business plant centre.  Stock comes from all over the place, some from Netherlands, who knows.  These were about 15in when bought and are now 17in, so 2 inch growth in a year.  They stay this colour all year round, they do not go more copper/bronze in Winter or limey green in early Spring.
They are in a full all-day sun location, were watered regularly last year and liquid fed.
This is what I expect a Standishii to look like - single centre stem, pompom foliage mounds constantly moving upwards and being less conical and more columnar as time passes, year-round yellow colour, slow growth rate.  

The latest acquisition was "Taxus Baccata Standishii" from an online nursery.  These are 3ft tall, and two of the three plants we ordered have multiple leading stems, the splits being quite low down.  The foliage is rather less than yellow, and in some places it is almost blue-green.  The new growth is showing the leading stems poking right out of the top, which I am not keen on.  Newest foliage looks to have some yellow.
There were thin dry roots all over the top of the soil in the pot, and some roots were wrapped around (going towards being pot bound).  I am wondering if these have been force fed to increase size over quality.

Reading everything I can on the subject of just what makes a Standishii a Standishii, I am coming to the conclusion that it's all a bit blurry.
It seems to originate as a cultivar (cutting) of a Taxus Baccata Fastigiata (Aurea?), which is a taller, wider and faster growing plant.  I have seen mention in an Adrian Bloom book and of a "Taxus Baccata Fastigiata Standishii" which may indicate there are possible 2 types of Standishii?
General advice seems to suggest that the colour changes through the seasons, more copper in Winter, more lime green in early Spring, bright yellow in Summer.  Morning sun being important in keeping the yellow colouration and putting it in the shade will make it go green, which might be irreversible(?).  Good drainage is important.

Fastigiata(?) Standishii - yellow, thin, slow growing, single leading centre stem?
Fastigiata Aurea - yellow, columnar. A taller, wider and faster Standishii, multiple leading stems?
Fastigiata - as above but green.

Left to Right: Oldest; A pair just bought online; Last year's local purchase. 

Left to Right: Oldest; Recent online purchase; Last year local purchase.


  • GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 124
    Well, I just visited my local branch of a region garden centre chain.  Here is what their "Taxus Baccata Standishii" looks like:

    Not really all that yellow, are they?.  Pretty similar to what I was sent from an online store, but of course I paid a lot less for them.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,848
    edited April 2019
    My understanding of T. Standishii is that the new growth is a golden yellow ... the more sun it gets the better the colour ... but as that growth matured it fades to a dark green typical of ordinary yews. 

    Edited to add this description of colour variation

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Buzzy2Buzzy2 Posts: 135
    Yes they are golden, and very slow growing!
  • GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 124
    Thanks for that link.  Well, the small Standishii that we have had for a year have been yellow all year round, but the internal foliage is a fairly dark green.  Judging be the size and prices of Standishii I saw today and the ones I bought online, I wouldn't say that were drastically more mature than the smaller ones I have. 
    So why are they so green?  Lack of sun being cramped up together in their growing plot in the nursery?  Grown extra fast with some kind of synthetic fertiliser?

    This site suggests:
    Standishii: 1 in/year, 4-5ft tall, 1-2ft wide.
    Fastigiata/F. Aurea: 6-12 in/year, 4-10ft tall, 2-3ft wide (10 year growth!)

    Its tightly packed, erect branches are clothed in rich golden-yellow leaves, which hold their brilliant color throughout the year.

    Here are what I guess was left over from last year at my local plant center, where I got the two smaller ones before.
    There is a fair bit of bare stem on display, so the plants aren't at their healthiest, but they are still pretty yellow.

    I have seen mention around the internet of someone having a problem telling their "David" from their "Standishii".  I would have thought that it would be very easy to tell these apart.  We have some "David" and they are green.  New foliage is brighter/limey green with yellow-ish edges.  Indication is that growth rate should be slow, but not as slow as Standishii.
    The above site link suggests: David: 4-6 in/year, 8-10ft tall, 1-2ft wide.

    So I am coming to a conclusion that there is a bit of misinformation and misidentification going on.  It's a cultivar (variation by growing cuttings) right?  Maybe the demand is causing less accurate interpretations to be sold?

  • MarlorenaMarlorena Posts: 8,623
    I've only grown this conifer once, a long time ago, and from memory it was always yellow... with red berries later on..  like all  yellow conifers, that's why you buy them isn't it?  
    East Anglia, England
  • GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 124
    Yes they are golden, and very slow growing!
    We are in agreement.

    like all yellow conifers, that's why you buy them isn't 
    Yes, exactly.
    When a named variety of something is supposed to be yellow and slow growing, it's a bit of shock to see something not fitting quite that description labelled with the same name.

    Red berries have appeared on the two small yellow Taxus and the tall thin older one.  Haven't had the new ones long enough to know, but were advertised to have the berries.  Berries come around end of Summer-Autumn time if I recall correctly, and don't last long with the Black Birds around!
  • GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 124
    Apologies, I didn't edit my original post correctly.
    The two publication I have seen mention of "Taxus Baccata Fastigiata Standishii" in are:

    Manual of Cultivated Conifers:  Gerd Krüssmann
    Columnar form, but very compact and slow growing, shoots upright; needles usually 25mm long on the terminal leader, 3.5-4mm wide, golden-yellow, with a distinctly raised midrib, also yellow beneath.  CCE 438 (= T. baccata fastigiata standishii Dall. 1908). The best of the yellow needled columnar forms.
    Conifers For Your Garden: Adrian Bloom
    Taxus Baccata 'Standishii' - Taxus Baccata 'Fastigiata Standishii'
    Taxus Baccata  'Fastigiata Aurea':
    ...There is a slightly more golden and slower growing form T. b. 'Standishii' which could almost be considered a dawrf cultivar.
    The Tree & Shrub Expert: Dr D.G. Hessayon
    T.baccata 'Fastigiata Aureomarginata'
    The Golden Irish Yew is a colourful version of the well known 'Fastigiata'.  The leaves are edged yellow - the tree is dull gold in Winter.  A smaller version is T. baccata 'Standishii'.

    I think the last one from Tree & Shrub expert is an error.  The Standishii shouldn't have yellow edged leaves, but most-full yellow leaves.  Standishii being a smaller version of Fastigiata Aurea (yellow, not yellow-edged).
  • MarlorenaMarlorena Posts: 8,623
    The one I remember buying was simply called Taxus baccata 'Standishii', and it conformed to what's said above in your quotes...  it was very popular back in the day... when conifer and heather gardens were all the rage.... I planted one..
    East Anglia, England
  • GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 124
    I've just manged to find the 1908 W.Dallimore publication, which is referenced in a University of Bath catalogue and the Krüssmann book.
    T. b. fastigiata aurea, Standish = hibernica aurea, and "Golden Irish Yew". — Like the majority of the golden Yews the colour of the leaves of this variety is best on the under-surface, that on the upper side being intermixed with green. It is a very conspicuous variety, and varies somewhat in colour according to the nursery from which it is procured. 
    T. b. fastigiata grandis. — A selected form of the "Golden Irish Yew", with the golden colouring more prominently developed on the upper surface. 
    T. b. fastigiata Standishii. — As in the case of the foregoing, this is a very richly coloured form of the "Golden Irish Yew". 
    So, that little note there about variation being dependant upon nursery growing it seems like the big answer to all of this.  As these are are grown form cutting, the variations can be quite wild.
    So basically to get the plant we want, we'll just have to see it in person or request images from distant sellers.
  • GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 124
    I'll have to update with some images, but those Taxus that we bought online have indeed gone yellow from the bottom to the top.  They weren't in full sun all day either, mostly just the morning, but that was enough to turn them.  Suspicions are that the nursery had them packed in a bit tight, and shading each other.

    We cut them into single stem plants, and they've not suffered.  In fact they are sprouting at various bare points on the stems and elsewhere.  A few more seasons and they'll really flesh out nicely to thin, upright yellow spectacles.  Taxus is fairly resilient anyway, but still, seemed drastic doing it at the time.

    Another thing to note is that the leaves of the newer foliage are actually smaller in size, width and length.  So, again, larger and greener leaves might be due to lack of sun/cramping.

    We did repot them, using Clover multipurpose compost, a little perlite and some Miracle-Grow slow release balls.  The top of the pot was mulched with some gravel to reduce moisture loss and weed/moss growth.   They've now gone in the ground and looked very healthy, with decently fat roots with white tips.

    So, yeah, maybe.  I guess the definition is a little loose, and sometimes the plant is not at it's best coming from the nursery.
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