Caryotaxus taxifolia (Arn.) Henkel & W.Hochst.
Foetataxus montana J.Nelson
Foetataxus taxifolia (Arn.) K.Koch
Taxus montana Nutt.
Tumion taxifolium (Arn.) Greene
Common Name: Florida Nutmeg Tree
Torreya taxifolia is an evergreen tree wth a rather open-conical crown; it usually grows up to 13 metres tall, occasionally reaching 18 metres. The bole can be up to 80cm in diameter[
This species was at one time extensively harvested for its good quality, very attractive wood, but it has become so rare that it cannot be harvested at the present time (2017).
The estimated 98% decline in mature individuals within the last three generations means that Torreya taxifolia meets the criteria for Critically Endangered under Criterion A2. The actual causes of the decline (the death of individuals and the reproductive failure associated with infection from a range of pathogens) is not well understood: recent surveys indicate it is continuing. The decline may be reversible in the future if those causes can be identified and controlled. The plant is classified as 'Critically Endangered' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
Southeastern N. America - southwestern Georgia, northwestern Florida
Mainly found on steep, deeply shaded limestone slopes, bluffs, and wooded ravines, but not confined to them. It also occurs in forest hammocks and on slopes of ravines cutting through sandhills; at elevations from 15 - 30 metres[
|Conservation Status||Critically Endangered
|Other Uses Rating||
Torreya taxifolia is somewhat cold-hardy when dormant, tolerating temperatures down to between -6.6Â°c and -1.1Â°c[
] - although there is also a report that trees at the Biltmore estate in North Carolina have survived temperatures as low as -31Â°c[
]. The plant grows wild in an area with a subtropical climate with wet summers and mild, dry winters. Mean annual precipitation is 1,420mm[
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil, tolerating some lime[
]. Requires a sheltered position and either high humidity or a moist riverside soil[
]. Found in the wild on well-drained soils with a pH in the range 4 - 8[
]. Dislikes wind exposure[
]. Tolerates woodland shade very well[
]. Requires hot, very humid summers for best growth[
Species in this genus are generally adapted to growing in primary woodland. The seedlings are very shade tolerant, establishing well in the deeper shade of a woodland and then growing up to the light. They can sometimes be found growing in secondary vegetation, but they do not usually persist, being outcompeted by other, more light-tolerant species[
The leaves emit a foetid odour when crushed[
The tree produces new sprouts from the roots, bole, and root crown following damage to above-ground portions of the tree. Numerous sprouts are produced at the base of the parent tree, although only one sprout usually survives after several years of growth[
Populations of Torreya taxifolia were thriving until the 1950's, but since then they have been decimated by fungal disease. Only nonreproductive stump sprouts remain in the wild. The plant was listed as federally endangered in 1984 under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and efforts are underway to reestablish this once thriving species in its native habitat[
Plants are dioecious - both male and female forms must usually be grown if fruit and seed are required[
The yellow wood is fine-grained, light in weight, hard, strong and highly durable. A highly attractive wood of good quality, it was historically used for cabinet making, furniture and fence posts. Fences made 60 years ago are still sound[
In the 20th century Florida torreya was extensively harvested for construction material, river boat fuel and for use as Christmas trees. After 1950, it became too rare to be utilised[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Some of the seed should germinate in the following spring though much of it might take another 12 months. Stored seed requires a period of cold stratification and can take 18 months or more to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as growth is observed and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least the next couple of winters, making sure to pot them on into larger pots as and when required. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer when the plants are at least 20cm tall.
Cuttings of half-ripe shoots in late summer[
]. Cuttings do not grow well[