Cell suspension cultures of Taxus canadensis and Taxus cuspidata rapidly produced paclitaxel (Taxol) and other taxoids in response to elicitation with methyl jasmonate. By optimizing the concentration of the elicitor, and the timing of elicitation, we have achieved the most rapid accumulation of paclitaxel in a plant cell culture, yet reported. The greatest accumulation of paclitaxel occurred when methyl jasmonate was added to cultures at a final concentration of 200 μM on day 7 of the culture cycle. The concentration of paclitaxel increased in the extracellular (cell-free) medium to 117 mg/day within 5 days following elicitation, equivalent to a rate of 23.4 mg/L per day. Paclitaxel was only one of many taxoids whose concentrations increased significantly in response to elicitation. Despite the rapid accumulation and high concentration of paclitaxel, its concentration never exceeded 20% of the total taxoids produced in the elicited culture. Two other taxoids, 13-acetyl-9-dihydrobaccatin III and baccatin VI, accounted for 39% to 62% of the total taxoids in elicited cultures. The accumulation of baccatin III did not parallel the pattern of accumulation for paclitaxel. Baccatin III continued to accumulate until the end of the culture cycle, at which point most of the cells in the culture were dead, implying a possible role as a degradation product of taxoid biosynthesis, rather than as a precursor. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Biotechnol Bioeng 62: 97–105, 1999.