Clinton and Mt. Olive NC
Torreya taxifolia trees
in eastern NC


• Directly below is Clinton, NC.

   01: Helping Plants Move North in Anthropocene Climate: Torreya Guardians 2013 Report

In this first video of the Torreya series, Connie Barlow shows photos and talks about the initial SEED-HARVESTING VISIT to seed-bearing horticultural plantings of Florida Torreya at two sites in North Carolina: CLINTON and MOUNT OLIVE.

Click timecode 25:36 to go directly to the section of this 75-minute video where the Clinton and Mt Olive section begins.

published November 7, 2013

Florida Torreya in Clinton, NC



Site Visit and Report by CONNIE BARLOW

CONNIE BARLOW COLLECTED 102 SEEDS AND 4 SEEDLINGS during this site visit on 31 October 2013 (with the permission of the landowner, Mrs. Kennedy).

ABOVE LEFT: The multi-stemmed Torreya taxifolia is near the center of the photo. The photographer, Connie Barlow, is standing NE of the tree. At the far left is a basswood tree, with large yellow leaves adorning its basal sprouts. Next inward is the trunk of an evergreen Southern Magnolia, whose location directly south of the Torreya protects the tree from summer heat and drought, but reduces its opportunities for photosynthesis during clement times. At the right edge of the photo is the very big trunk of a Chestnut Oak, whose western location protects the Torreya from late afternoon summer heat, but whose deciduous character enhances the passage of sunlight during the winter months. (Immediately to the left of the oak is the slender trunk of a healthy Dogwood tree.)

ABOVE RIGHT: The main stem of Torreya with 2 mature basal stems that support a great deal of foliage but very few male or female "cones". Notice the fresh young basal growth, which is almost always present even in fully healthy Torreya specimens.

   View of the seed-producing torreya looking out to College Street.

Basswood to its left, and the lower trunk of a Southern Magnolia to the right.

HISTORY OF THIS TORREYA: Only one tree (composed of one main stem and two mature basal stems) still lives on the property of Mrs. Kennedy at 613 College St. in Clinton, North Carolina. Until a hurricane in 1998, an even larger specimen grew nearby, but was knocked over when a big pine toppled onto it. (pers. comm. A.J. Bullard; click to read Connie Barlow's notes of a 2009 phone interview with Mr. Bullard on the full history of the Clinton Torreya trees.) Also, a 1999 online list of NC plant exploration trips by Tony Avent includes notes about a field trip Bullard led to the Clinton torreya trees:

Heading back to the west, we headed to Clinton, NC, where in the historic part of town on College Street, we met up with AJ Bullard and his cousin Bob Melvin. It seems that during a class at Sampson County Community College, they had discovered two trees that turned out to be the Federally endangered Torreya taxifolia (Florida stinking cedar) in the Mayor's yard. These were not quite as large as the national champion torreya in Norlina, NC, but they are far more healthy and regularly produce fruit, which the cousins have sent to nurseries around the country. Through research, the cousins had determined that the trees were purchased from a South Carolina Nursery, probably in the 1840's.

ABOVE LEFT: Standing in front of Mrs. Kennedy's house, looking toward College St. The man in the background left is standing just left of the Torreya tree. The big tree foreground right is another Chestnut Oak.

ABOVE RIGHT: Michael Dowd uses a walking stick to dislodge some ripe Torreya "fruits" (technically, cones covered by a fleshy sarcotesta) still hanging from the branches of the main Torreya stem. The large Chestnut Oak featured in the previous photograph is visible at the far right of this photo.

ABOVE: Some of the ripe "fruits" (orange to purplish in color) are still hanging from their branchlets. The photo left shows the main stem of the Torreya at far right (which is bearing these fruiting branches). Connie observed that, as with the Torreyas she observed in shady Redwood forests in California, only the branches well exposed to sunlight bear prolific fruit. South-facing branches shaded by the evergreen Southern Magnolia had no visible fruit on the branches nor directly beneath them on the ground.

ABOVE: Three whole fallen "fruits" visible in photo left and 2 in photo right. Both photos show remnant casings from which squirrels have removed and buried the seeds. The fleshy casing around the ripe fruit tends to crack apart, even when moist, and thus make seed removal easy. A chestnut oak leaf is visible in photo right; basswood seeds at top of photo left. Connie Barlow estimates, based on the ratio of whole seeds on the ground to seed casings, that the squirrels had peeled (and then eaten or buried) 70 to 90 percent of the fallen "fruit".

ABOVE LEFT: Connie could not reach high enough to touch any of the branches emanating from the main Torreya stem (where she photographed "fruits" growing). But she could reach a few branches of the two mature basal stems. Here she sees the typical series of buds placed laterally along a stem, which she surmises as the buds of the male cones for next year. The smaller three-pointed bud at the tip of the branchlet is the bud for next year's vegetative growth. It is conceivable that one or both of the "mature basal stems" actually began as distinct seedlings — not as true clones of the parent stem. But the far more likely possibility is that a single Torreya tree (whether "male" or "female") will produce both sexes of reproductive organs on distinct branches, especially if it is isolated from other individuals and thus needs to self-fertilize. Note: See this topic explored below in the Mt. Olive photo-essay.

ABOVE RIGHT: A seedling Torreya grows where a squirrel planted a seed: 10 to 20 feet beyond the southern, crimped canopy of the parent tree, in the deep shade of an evergreen Southern Magnolia (slightly overtopped by a Chestnut Oak). Notice both the smooth-edged magnolia leaves and the wavy Chestnut oak margins. A magnolia fruit (with one red seed still protruding) is visible at right. At least 20 seedlings were easily visible in this region — none taller than 8 inches. This area never needs to be mowed, so the absence of taller seedlings suggests either that they have been harvested by collectors or the more likely prospect that, once the large seed has used up all its food stores while producing early roots and above-ground growth, the seedlings simply die from lack of sunlight. Crucially, the fact that there are any seedlings at all confirms that at least some of the seeds produced by this lone individual have been self-fertilized and are thus capable of developing into trees.

ABOVE: Two more examples of seedlings growing beneath the dense Southern Magnolia and Chestnut Oak canopies.

• Read a detailed report of the history of the Clinton Torreya trees, written by Connie Barlow, based on her notes of a 2009 phone interview with A.J. Bullard.)

   A month after Connie collected the above seedlings and gave them to Jeff Morris to tend and propagate in North Carolina, Jeff made this crucial observation:
"When I was transplanting the six seedlings that Connie gave me in November 2013 [dug up from beneath the parent tree in Clinton NC], I made an observation of the Torreya taxifolia that I had not paid attention to before: mycorrhizal root nodules, similar to those I have seen on Cephalotaxus and Podocarpus seedlings in the past. Mycorrhizal root nodules work to facilitate a plant-fungal symbiotic interaction that is vital to the health of the tree. It could also be useful in assisted migration of T. taxifolia, as we seek answers to the 'ideal' place to plant the seedlings." For more information, visit the section on symbiotic fungi we have since posted on the propagation page.

PHOTO ABOVE: Jeff Morris and Connie Barlow exchange seeds and seedlings in North Carolina, 2013, for expanding genetic diversity of a variety of plantings.



500+ SEEDS HARVESTED NOVEMBER 2014: Torreya Guardians was thrilled to harvest more than 500 seeds on 11 November 2014. We were happy that by delaying our harvest until well into November, more of the seeds had already dropped than remained in the tree. (The tree is too tall to be able to harvest seeds that have not yet fallen.) Squirrels in Ms. Kennedy's yard preferred the Chestnut Oak acorns and the pecans, at least this early in the season, so we did not have to worry about the squirrels hiding many Torreya seeds before we got there. As well, because Torreya grows its seeds near the prickly branchlet tips, squirrels are precluded from plucking seeds still hanging on the tree.


NOVEMBER 2014 OBSERVATIONS: There were once two trees on this property in Clinton NC. It appears that a larger tree used to grow about 70 feet from the remaining 'fruiting' Torreya taxifolia. Fortunately, this remaining tall tree is not alone:

(1) There is a tree about 6 feet in height that appears to have sprouted from the root system of the Torreya that was downed in the hurricane. That could explain its sexual maturity (if male or monoecious) and the prolific seed production of its "mate".

(2) There are two 4-ft-tall volunteers that the late Mr. Kennedy moved from under the now-gone tree, and planted in the backyard some years back. It is possible that they provide pollen to the 'fruiting' Torreya.

(3) There is at least one additional volunteer about 3-ft-tall along the driveway, bordering a neighbor's property.

(4) Finally, we learned that there used to be two additional mature Torreya taxifolia trees, larger than either of the Kennedy's pair, about a block away. They produced fruit for a number of years until the property last changed hands (within the past six years or so). The new owner didn't know what they were, and had them cut down before even occupying the residence. But, they likely produced volunteers, even within only a hundred or so feet, in shaded areas. On our next visit, we need to look carefully at prospects in the neighborhood.

OVERALL 2014: It is exciting to know that assisted migration may already be underway, even if on a small scale (squirrels dispersing seeds which then germinate), in Clinton, North Carolina. And it is possible that seeds we collected from the tall tree in 2013 and 2014 might not be as genetically isolated (inbred) as we had feared. Another speculation: Since the tall tree appears rather old, perhaps it was planted from seeds collected in the wild in Florida (not from the recently dead Norlina tree, which we know is the ancestor of seedlings dispersed by certain nurseries). Only genetic testing would confirm this possibility, but the existence of more than one isolated tree is a very encouraging bit of new knowledge.


• On 2 November 2019, JOE FACENDOLA (who lives less than an hour away from the Clinton tree) gathered 208 seeds that had already fallen from the tree — and not yet been gathered by squirrels. He reports that at least that many were still left hanging on the tree. Ten days later, however, another seed-collecting team (existing Torreya planters Nelson Stover and Clint Bancroft) found only 18 intact seeds on the ground to collect and one still hanging on the tree. It is possible that squirrels took a toll during that intervening time. Joe wrote:

"Most of the seed on the ground and observed hanging on the tree was on the south side (the mowed lawn side). This is where I focused my collection efforts. While I was walking away I did see seeds on the ground under the magnolia and the oak. I probably left at least a dozen seeds on the ground on that side of the tree amongst the leaf litter. I also left many 'old' seeds that had the outer covering either already removed and or dried out under the tree in the litter. Some seemed to be there from previous year? If the 'old' seeds that seemed to survive a year on the ground from the squirrels were gone perhaps there was some sort of yard clean up or another unknown seed collector? There was evidence of squirrels peeling and cracking the seeds around the tree. I didn't quantify empty seeds. There were many acorns on the ground and sidewalk when I was there."
• CLINT BANCROFT reported by email on November 12:
"Mrs. Kennedy allowed us to dig any seedlings we found. There was a total of 10 seedlings, all but one of which appeared to be first year seedlings (photo below). Mrs. Kennedy pointed out a single Torreya that had come up inches from the trunk of a camellia and said I could take it if I could get it out. It was a difficult extraction, but my efforts yielded a 35-inch plant which is at least 8 years old (photo below). It is already in Intensive care. My own oldest tree is about the same height and age. I will plant them close to each other and hope we have a breeding pair. Both should reach reproductive maturity in a few years. None of my other trees will reach this in a decade!
     There were only 4 suitable cuttings to be had off the main tree but I collected about 16 (hopefully vertical growth) cuttings off 3 of the 4 trees that had come up in the backyard. These are old enough that they might be progeny of the larger tree which was destroyed some years ago.
     Two of the backyard trees are of a very full, compact growth habit with branches all the way to the ground exactly like AJ Bullard's trees in Mount Olive, NC. They look like Fred Bess's seed-bearing tree: short, thick, and very full.


CLINT BANCROFT was given permission by the homeowner, Mrs. Kennedy, to dig up any seedlings he found on the lawn near or under the single mature Torreya tree. He dug up 10 (photo left), which he reports as being first-year seedlings.

One older tree (middle photo) had been saved from lawn-mowing over the years because it grew right next to the trunk of a Camellia.

• NELSON STOVER reports by email:

(Nov 2) "I talked to the Real Estate agent this morning; she had talked to Ms. Kennedy. The Realtor was not aware of the Florida Torreya; Ms. Kennedy was very aware. Ms. Kennedy is happy to have us pick up seeds. I confirmed that I will go there on Nov. 11. Ms. Kennedy told the Realtor that some students from Campbell University had come there a few years ago to collect seeds. They gave her some seedlings, one of which died. Ms. Kennedy also reported that there had been two other trees on another lot, but a young couple bought the lot and cut them down."

I collected 18 seeds and Clint gave me 2 of the seedlings that he dug up. Mrs. Kennedy said we could dig as many as we wanted.
     I took photos of the main tree and also three others that are growing around her house — each about 4 feet tall. Clint also collected seeds, basal sprouts, and other seedlings. Clint gave me four seedlings from his collection [different genetics from the Clinton tree]. I stopped for lunch at a nice local place on NC-421 headed north. The owner was friendly, I gave her one of the seedlings. She said she would take care of it."

Note: Visit the TORREYA webpages of these two existing planters:
Clint Bancroft, TN (Ocoee watershed) and Nelson Stover, NC (Greensboro).

• CLINT BANCROFT reports by email July 2:


Clint writes,

Here is a close-up of a portion of the larger Torreya I had dug from under the evergreen domestic camellia at Mrs. Kennedy's in Clinton, NC (during site visit of November 2019; see photo directly above).

I guesstimated the tree to be about 8 years old. The taproot took a severe beating from its extraction, and there was no soil left on any of its roots.

After looking very stressed since I got it into intensive care, and after its losing several small branches since collection, it appears to finally be exercising its option to live. I suppose it sacrificed some small branches to help it muster the energy to recover from its trauma.

EVIDENCE OF RECOVERY: It had apical and lateral buds when collected, but they shrank, got brownish, and did not burst this spring. Just a few days ago one of the laterals has come to life (photo left).

It looks like this tough Torreya is going to make it. I will not even entertain the notion of outplanting it until fall of 2021.


• JOE FACENDOLA collected 1,383 seeds at the Clinton NC torreya 31 October 2020.



• JOE FACENDOLA over the course of two weekends in early November, collected not only 670 seeds but 13 seedlings scattered hither and yon in unmowed sections of the yard. He needed to use a long pole to whack the seeds off the tall tree (and he estimates that 1/3 of the total seeds were too high for his pole to reach).

The plastic bag of torreya cuttings (below right) are all tips and lower segments of basal sprouts, as we have learned that only the basal sprout cuttings will produce the tree-form when rooted.



The lone potted seedling in the bottom of the photo was dug up in Mount Olive in 2020.

The remainder on the left were almost all dug up autumn 2021 at the Mt. Olive and Clinton sites, with only 1 or 2 dug up autumn 2020 at Mt Olive.

All of those seedlings put on quite a bit of growth since they were collected.

The two tiny seedlings in the cone pots on the right are from the 2020 harvest (at Mt Olive, I think).

No above-ground growth from any of the 2021 seed harvest had yet occurred.


• CONNIE BARLOW queried Torreya Guardians who had visited the Clinton seed-bearing tree in past years as to whether they observed other Torreya specimens nearby that might be contributing pollen to the seed-bearing tree, such that the genetic perils of inbreeding/selfing may be diminished. Responses she collected:

JOE FACENDOLA wrote and sent photos (17 November 2021) of his seed-collecting at the Clinton Tree this year. "I have attached a couple quickly drawn-on photos."

ABOVE: Here you can see two smaller torreyas at the back of the house: Tree 1 and Tree 2. Notice in the aerial photo that the big seed-bearing tree is in the front yard, close to the road. The corner of the roof is visible at the upper right edge of the landscape photo, and the shadow of the house reaches Tree 2. So the tall seed-bearing tree was a good distance behind Joe while he was taking the above left photo.


ABOVE: CLOSE-UPS OF THE TWO TREES. Tree 1 is left (neighbor's house is visible in background). Tree 2 is right (notice the shadow correlation). No seeds were beneath them, and Joe did not closely look for reproductive buds. (But Connie's experience is that full-sun torreyas of this height will produce at least male buds.) Joe writes, "Both of these smaller trees seemed to be multiple regenerated stems from having been cut down one or more times. Maybe originally there were some other type of ornamental shrubs in these spots, which became unruly with torreya and other trees growing from them? When cut down, the torreya would have resprouted with multiple basal stems. That was my impression from looking underneath and in the rest of the yard."

JEFF MORRIS wrote (18 November 2021) of his seed-collecting there autumn 2014, "At the Clinton property on College street, there was a tree that had been either hit by lightning or downed by a hurricane, and it was growing back from the stump. Also, along the driveway, both sides, there were 'volunteer' seedlings (too big to transplant) apparently dispersed by squirrels. I do not recall seeing seedlings in the back yard, but I recall reading somewhere that other properties behind the home may have young saplings."

CLINT BANCROFT WROTE 12 November of the previous year (2020), when he went on a seed-collecting visit with Nelson Stover: "Two of the backyard trees are of a very full, compact growth habit with branches all the way to the ground exactly like AJ Bullard's trees in Mount Olive, NC. They look like Fred Bess's seed-bearing tree: short, thick, and very full."

CONNIE BARLOW wrote 26 November 2021. I just read again the pdf I linked near the top of this page (and again HERE that entails notes I captured from a December 2009 phone call I had with A.J. Bullard — who planted his own torreya trees at his home in Mt. Olive NC from seeds he gathered at the Clinton tree. I wrote, "The broader, full-sun tree was knocked down by a Longleaf pine that fell in the hurricane of 1998, but the more columnar tree shaded on one side by a big American Linden and the other by a Swamp Chestnut Oak is still there, and producing seeds."
    "... Squirrels made it possible for A. J. and his cousin to collect 75 seedlings. The seedlings were growing in flower beds and hedges and in vacant lots. The Bed and Breakfast next door was planning on ripping them out, so the duo dug them up and potted them immediately. He said they potted well, no problem. Connie was curious as to how far away the squirrels would plant seeds and he said the farthest seedlings were about 200 to 250 feet distant from either tree. He observed that they survive the kind of off-year mowing that happens in vacant lots because one of the seedlings dug up from a vacant lot (this one was 4 feet tall) that was soon going to be mowed again showed clear evidence of having resprouted from a previous mowing."

BOTTOM LINE CONCLUSION BY CONNIE BARLOW NOV 2021: If we have any opportunity to influence landscape interventions at the CLINTON home, we should ask that the remaining largest torreya trees near the back of the house should never again be cut back in order to retain a POLLEN SOURCE for the tall seed-bearing tree in the front yard. This is the best strategy to support viable genetics of seeds we collect there.



• JOE FACENDOLA wrote this quick report of collecting seeds 31 October:

~1250 seeds collected from Clinton (estimated by counting a sub-sample). Nearly all of the seeds had fallen and all were collected from the lawn area.  Many more seeds were hidden under the tree, but the owner had recently leaf-blown all of the large oak leaves to under the big torreya tree.  It would have been an effort to get any more, and I was trying to be quick and non-invasive.  Also my 5 gallon bucket was about filled to the brim.

   PHOTO LEFT: Many seeds from Clinton this year show evidence of being stepped on / mowed over. It looks like the new owners are doing much more frequent yard maintenance than Mrs Kennedy. With that said, many of the seeds I collected are slightly cracked open and have the kernel exposed. I may keep some of the extremely damaged ones to see how they germinate.

Many acorns this year — and not much evidence of the squirrels bothering with torreya seeds this year. The acorns were all even mixed in with the seeds in the lawn.

One of the two small Torreyas in the back had numerous branchlets with male pollen buds. I looked over the second one, and only saw a small cluster of 3 buds. Might be female? or just a weak showing of pollen buds. I have photos.

With that said, I don't have many photos, as I was trying to hurry out of there. I intercepted Rueben, the new owner, as he was obviously trying to go somewhere. Once he got into his truck to leave, I packed up and left as well.

The main trunk of the large Torreya in the front is becoming hollow.  There are holes on the side away from the street that show the exposed interior of the tree. Much of the exposed heartwood of the tree is severely rotted or completely gone at this point. I don't think I noticed it this bad last time?  However, it has obviously been going on for quite some time. TBD how long the main trunk of the tree remains structurally sound.

   I collected 5 seedlings under the magnolia and in an area where the oak leaves were not recently blown into.

Florida Torreya in Mount Olive, NC


• 31 OCTOBER 2013 - MT. OLIVE, NC

Site Visit and Report by CONNIE BARLOW

CONNIE BARLOW COLLECTED 41 SEEDS during this site visit on 31 October 2013.

ABOVE LEFT: A.J. Bullard, one of the most knowledgeable self-taught botanists and horticulturalists in North Carolina, stands in front of the tallest of his same-age Torreya taxifolia trees. This tree produced relatively few "fruit" this year. The more squat tree at right edge of photo produced a lot of "fruit". (Technically, conifer trees bear cones, not fruit — but the female cones of Torreya look like figs, though they contain but a single big seed. The fleshy covering over the single seed is a sarcotesta.) The tree branches at the top of photo are of the large Darlington Oak (an upland variety/species of Laurel Oak), which he planted there in 1967.

ABOVE RIGHT: Bullard labels his specimens. These two trees growing at his home in Mt. Olive are identified by where he collected them as seedlings: offspring of the two Torreyas then-standing on the Kennedy property in the nearby town of Clinton NC (see photo-essay above).

Background information on the two trees: In a 6 December 2013 phone conversation with A.J. Bullard, Connie collected details on the history of the two specimens. In approx. 1995 A.J. and his cousin dug up (with the permission of the owner) 75 seedlings that were growing in the unmowed areas of the Kennedy property on which the trees stood. The seedlings were primarily found along the hedgerows and in the flower garden. Of the 75 seedlings, he gave away (or traded for other plants to conserve on his property) 73 seedlings. He planted only two on his own land: the two seen in these photos. The two seedlings he kept and planted were each about 3 feet tall, so he estimates that they probably sprouted from a seed crop approx. 1988 - 1990. It is impossible to know whether these two specimens contain significant genes from the tallest Torreya on the Clinton NC property, but because A.J. estimates from his 1995 visit that the tallest tree produced about 2/3 of the entire seed crop (of perhaps more than 5,000 seeds from the two trees combined) there is strong likelihood that these two specimens contain genes no longer found in the seedlings and seeds that I (Connie Barlow) collected beneath the one remaining (smaller) Clinton Torreya in October 2013.

ABOVE: Both photos are of a fruit-bearing section of the squat Torreya tree. Notice that the fleshy covering of some of the very ripe seeds is beginning to split on its own, exposing the seed for easy removal by squirrels. Notice, too, the agricultural land in the background. Thus, these Torreya specimens are helpful for (a) species preservation, (b) generation of seeds, and (c) studying the growth patterns and ecology of this species. But this is not a site contributing to the study of this species' performance in wild forests ("rewilding"), nor can squirrels be expected to assist the local population in expanding — at least so long as humans manage the surroundings as lawns and farm fields.

Maturation takes 18 to 20 years: The seeds photographed here in 2013 were only the sixth year that seeds were evident, as one of the trees began bearing seeds in 2008. (Read more details from the 2009 phone conversation between Bullard and Barlow.)

Calculating future squirrel-assisted range expansion rates: Because Bullard did not artificially nurture the trees beyond initial watering after planting, and because the trees experience partial shade (from the tall oak south of them) during the summer, a 20 year time span between generations would be a reasonable estimate for partial shade (Torreyas do not produce female cones in deep shade). Bullard estimates 250 feet as the most distant squirrel-planted seedling that he spied at and near the Clinton site.
    The most rapid squirrel-assisted migration for this endangered conifer to respond to a northward movement of plant zones (assuming suitable soil and habitat is never a barrier for both Torreya and squirrel) would thus be about a quarter-mile per century.

ABOVE LEFT: Although thick growths of green-leaved branches extend all the way to the ground in both specimens, each rises from a single stem.

ABOVE RIGHT: Notice the drying, fallen fruits in the foreground of the right photo (with Torreya trunk behind). A.J. says there are 2 or 3 local fox squirrels, and that the nearby Darlington Oak produced only a few acorns this year. Experience elsewhere is that Torreya seeds are highly prized by squirrels, and so we need to protect out-planted seeds that we try to germinate. And yet, there was little evidence that squirrels were hastily taking and burying the seeds for the winter.

ABOVE LEFT: Torreya vegetative buds always grow at the apex or tips of the branchlets. The male and female cones grow farther back up the stem. A.J.'s left hand holds a pair of vegetative buds; his right hand holds a set of 3 female cone-buds. Notice the pair of light-colored lines of air-exchanging pores, stomates, on the underside of all the Torreya leaves (very similar to what appears on the underside of Hemlock leaves).

ABOVE RIGHT: Here A.J. compares 3 branchlets, all growing on the squat specimen. From top to bottom: female cone-buds, a series of male cone-buds along a branchlet, and a pair of vegetative buds at the branchlet's tip. Notice that the female buds are the largest and most angular; the male buds are most numerous in a series; and the vegetative buds are the scaliest (least smooth).


Note added September 2014: For those who may be skeptical that Torreya sp. can possibly produce male and female cones on the same individual (as the bulk of the literature refutes this), please google the terms "facultatively dioecious" and "geitonogamous selfing". The latter will get you to a pdf overview: "The Role of Geitonogamy in the Gradual Evolution towards Dioecy in Cosexual Plants", 2001, Jong and Geritz.

On p. 127 of "Conifer Reproductive Biology" by Claire G. Williams, one finds: "Selfing, only possible for monoecious conifers, can only be geitonogamous because conifers are monosporangiate. Geitonogamy refers to the case where male and female strobili occur on the same plant but not in a single strobilus. Conifers do not have autogamy."

ABOVE LEFT: Superb vegetative growth on all sides of both individual trees.

ABOVE RIGHT: A.J. Bullard with Torreya seeds and branches in foreground.

ABOVE LEFT: Seeds dropped in place beneath the tree show no evidence of harvesting by squirrels (in contrast to the intense squirrel activity evident at the Clinton Torreya site the same day). Note the abundance of fallen leaves from the nearby Darlington (aka Laurel) Oak.

ABOVE RIGHT: The drying fleshy covering of the Torreya seed cracks on its own, making the seed easy for a squirrel to remove and carry away.

  • 2009 TORREYA INFO FROM A.J. BULLARD: A 2009 issue of the magazine Wildlife in North Carolina contained an editorial correction by Greg Jenkins titled "More N.C. Torreyas." It reads:
    "Mount Olive botanist A. J. Bullard called to inform us that some information was missing from our story "Rewilding a Native" by Sidney Cruze in the Aug 2009 issue. When we asked what was missing, Bullard blew our minds by revealing that there is another living Torreya taxifolia tree in North Carolina that is well over a century old. This tree was one of the two that were planted in Clinton in the 1850s, around the same time that it is estimated the state champion tree in Norlina was planted. A storm in the late 1990s knocked down one of the Clinton Torreyas, but the other survives today. Bullard also explained that the researchers had traced the Norlina and Clinton trees to a single source. Pomaria Nurseries, an antebellum outfit near Columbia, SC, sold a tremendous variety of native and exotic fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers during that era. Scientists made the connection because Osage orange trees were planted near both Torreya sites, and Pomaria sold both types of trees. Bullard and his late cousin, Bob Melvin, verified the identity of the Clinton trees in 1995 and collected 5,000 seeds from the trees, which they distributed to botanists across the state for attempted propagation. Seeds were planted at sites from Meredith College in Raleigh to Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. Perhaps the most surprising fact Bullard provided was that, contrary to botany textbooks, Torreya is not dioecious — that is, having male and female reproductive structures on separate plants. Rather, it is monoecious, because both the Norlina and Clinton trees are producing viable seeds with no other Torreya around. Bullard knows this firsthand because he ha two Torreya trees on his own property — both bearing fruit."
    Access Clinton NC Torreya essay by Connie Barlow of her December 2009 phone interview of A.J. Bullard on the Clinton Torreyas and the whereabouts of their offspring.

    Click above image for the Clinton / Mt. Olive section in the VIDEO
    made by Connie Barlow in 2013 on Torreya Guardians actions.

    1999 blogpost on meeting A.J. Bullard collecting Clinton seeds, by Tony Avent:
    Excerpt: "Heading back to the west, we headed to Clinton, NC, where in the historic part of town on College Street, we met up with AJ Bullard and his cousin Bob Melvin. It seems that during a class at Sampson County Community College, they had discovered two trees that turned out to be the Federally endangered Torreya taxifolia (Florida stinking cedar) in the Mayor's yard. These were not quite as large as the national champion torreya in Norlina, NC, but they are far more healthy and regularly produce fruit, which the cousins have sent to nurseries around the country. Through research, the cousins had determined that the trees were purchased from a South Carolina Nursery, probably in the 1840's."

    UPDATE 2020: AJ Bullard, born in 1939, dies. Notice of his death published by: North Carolina Botanical Garden.


    OCTOBER 2020: One (or both) of the trees is now growing so vibrantly that its south-facing branches are beginning to encroach on the paved driveway. Below are two photos to show the problem, 2013 on the left and 2019 on the right. Connie Barlow reports that she just talked with Mrs. Bullard via phone, who is receptive to having the tree(s) greatly pruned back from the pavement every year, as an alternative to the other solution: cutting them down. We hope a favorable report will follow here, if a pruner can be located October or November 2020.


    LEFT: Autumn 2013    •    RIGHT: Autumn 2019

    JOE FACENDOLA collected 1,060 seeds at the pair of Mt Olive NC torreyas on 31 October 2020.

    Access the full PHOTO ESSAY OF 2020 SEED COLLECTION at Mt. Olive. Photo-rich excerpts directly below:

       Three seedlings were found growing directly beneath the Mt. Olive trees, but they were not collected and are still onsite. UPDATE: See November 2021 report following, as Joe collected those three seedlings then.

    One seedling is in the lower left of the adjacent photo.

    The seedling has darker and longer leaves whorling around a single vertical stem. This indicates the first above-ground growth flush, as a second growth flush would then produce from 1 to 4 lateral branchlets.

    Given the mowed lawn and the paved driveway, there was no opportunity for any seed that might have been carried away and buried by a squirrel to produce a seedling that could continue to grow.

        After seeds were collected, Mrs. Bullard guided Joe in pruning the driveway side of both torreyas.

    Photos here show before and after pruning.

    Mrs. Bullard also directed a "shape-up" with hedge trimmers of the sunnier side of the shorter, sprawling torreya.


    • JOE FACENDOLA collected 1,480 seeds at the pair of Mt Olive NC torreyas on 7 November 2021. Joe reports that Mrs. Bullard authorized his collection of 3 small seedlings this year, as well.



    • Connie Barlow grabbed this aerial photo off of GOOGLE MAPS, using the "satellite" layer, for the address of the Bullard home. She then added the YELLOW SQUARE with the center being the MALE TORREYA and the Darlington Oak shading the smaller female Torreya. The image is labelled 2022 on Google maps. Good news is that a large forested area surrounds the agricultural lands, so Torreya will be able to launch a next-generation — with just a little bit of help from a human if seeds are intentionally carried to and planted amid the trees.


    Our collector wrote:

    TOTAL: 253 seeds collected from the Bullard trees. The smaller, leaderless tree (which is somewhat shaded by the neighborying oak) again provided the majority of the seeds. However, both trees did have seed still hanging in the branches. A small amount of seed was on the ground under both trees, but significantly less than last year.

    Minimal sign of squirrels peeling and cracking the seeds under the trees, but they may have carried them all away? I saw ~15 squirrels while driving up the long driveway. Not much sign of acorns under the Darlington Oak, but they should have dropped a couple of weeks earlier (at least the one in my yard has).

    Interestingly, the smaller, leaderless "female" tree that has provided the majority of the seed had many branchlets lined with pollen buds. I specifically took note of this. The other larger tree had very little sign of any future reproductive buds anywhere that I could easily see.

    Both trees responded with vigorous growth on the driveway side, where they were heavily pruned last year.

    Did the trees just not produce seed this year, or was it taken by the squirrel army? Perhaps the trimming last year removed many of the reproductive buds, or the tree just put more energy into re-growing than reproduction? Her yard-work guy did use a hedge trimmer on them last year....

    This year I did remove some of the new growth that was on the driveway side, as well as did a half-hearted shape-up of the trees around the bottom. I really really struggled to trim as little as possible, while keeping Mrs. Bullard happy. Very little was removed from the side of the trees not facing the driveway. I just snipped a handful of errant branch tips that stuck out at the bottom. I would say I only removed about 1/10th of what was trimmed last year. We then turned our trimming attention to various other trees around the yard that were "too big".

    I spent a lot of time chopping on various things around the yard, so did not take very many photos while there. She did give me a full tour of the arboretum, and she has so many various trees and shrubs [all planted by her late husband].  Truly a tree zoo! Another 5 seedlings were collected from this site at Mt. Olive.

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