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We examined differences between summer and winter in xanthophyll cycle-dependent energy dissipation and leaf antioxidant systems in needles of the overwintering evergreen Taxus x media cv. Tauntonii (Taunton yew) growing in both sun and shade environments in Saint Paul, Minnesota. During the winter, both sun and shade plants exhibited increases in the capacity for, and utilization of, xanthophyll cycle-dependent thermal energy dissipation. Winter needles showed decreases (sun needles) or no change (shade needles) in superoxide dismutase activity (EC 1.15.1.1), no change in ascorbate peroxidase activity (EC 1.11.1.11) and no change (sun needles) or increases (shade needles) in reduced ascorbate levels. Both sun and shade needles showed large increases in glutathione reductase activity (EC 1.6.4.2) and total glutathione levels during the winter, in addition to increases in levels of α-tocopherol. These results suggest an important photoprotective role during the winter for xanthophyll cycle-dependent energy dissipation and for the antioxidants glutathione and α-tocopherol. They suggest a less important photoprotective function of the enzyme-based water–water cycle in winter acclimation in the seasonally very cold environment of Minnesota.