Trees or shrubs evergreen, usually neither resinous nor aromatic (sharp- or foul-odored in Torreya), dioecious or monoecious. Bark scaly or fissured. Lateral branches well developed, similar to leading shoots; twigs terete, not densely clothed by leaves but ± ridged by decurrent leaf bases; longest internodes less than 1 cm; buds ± inconspicuous. Roots fibrous to woody. Leaves (needles) simple, persisting several years, shed singly, alternate [opposite], spirally arranged but often twisted so as to appear 2-ranked, linear to linear-lanceolate, decurrent; resin canals present or absent. Pollen cones maturing and shed annually, solitary or clustered, axillary on year-old branches, globose to ovoid, sporophylls bearing 2–16 microsporangia (pollen sacs); pollen ± spheric, not winged. Seed cones reduced to 1–2 ovules subtended by inconspicuous, decussate bracts, maturing in 1–2 seasons, axillary on year-old branches. Seeds 1 per "cone," erect, not winged, hard seed coat partially or wholly surrounded by a juicy, fleshy or leathery aril; cotyledons 2.
Mainly Northern Hemisphere.
Genera 5, species 17–20 (2 genera, 5 species in the flora).
|1||Leaves flexible, without resin canal, apex mucronate, soft-pointed, not sharp to touch; aril scarlet to orange-scarlet, soft, mucilaginous, thick, cup-shaped, open at apex, exposing hard seed coat.||Taxus|
|1||Leaves rigid, stiff, with central resin canal, apex acute, spine-tipped, sharp to touch; aril green or green with purple streaks, leathery, resinous, thin, completely enclosing hard seed coat.||Torreya|