A species of Himalayan yew tree used to produce the cancer medication Taxol is almost extinct, reports the Guardian's Hanna Gersmann and Jessica Aldred. The tree has been over-harvested for medicinal use and for use as fuel, experts say. It has now been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's "red list" of endangered species," Gersmann and Aldred add. "Taxol was discovered by a US National Cancer Institute program in the late 1960s, isolated in the bark of the Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifolia," Gersmann and Aldred say. "All 11 species of yew have since been found to contain Taxol." Harvesting the bark is what kills the trees, but conservationists say careful harvesting of clippings from the yews can yield Taxol and spare the trees.
Nov 11, 2011