Comments on/about Rewilding Torreya taxifolia
and Reports by Torreya Volunteers
Listed chronologically from most recent
January 2020 / news clip / Shock at Giant Sequoia deaths may help assisted migration for Torreya
• "This is not how sequoias die; it's supposed to stand for another 500 years"
SUMMARY by Connie Barlow: This lengthy, illustrated article in the January 18 online issue of The Guardian is a tear-jerker. I already knew this past fall of the shocking losses of Giant Sequoias in the Sierras, as I communicated with one of the coauthors of the in-press paper because I had come upon a newly fallen branch of a Coast Redwood that also showed bark beetle tunnels, despite the "knowledge" that bark beetles cannot attack redwoods. What I see now is that, yes, bark beetles cannot penetrate the thick trunk bark, but the bark on even the most massive branches (of a Coast Redwood) is no thicker than that of a yew. So the beetles kill redwoods slowly, out of sight in the high canopy, branch by branch. In contrast, pines and firs and spruce wiped out in the western USA are killed by bark beetles whose tunneling and fungal follow-up girdle the main trunk. The damage is readily apparent even at ground level.
PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Christy Brigham, who is responsible for the welfare of the ecosystems in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, stands in front of a suddenly dead Giant Sequoia.
IMPORTANCE FOR TORREYA: Crucially, because the scientists in charge are shocked by the deaths and because Giant Sequoia is a beloved tree that happens to be the most massive tree species in the world, this occurrence may finally prod the establishment to realize that our own climate-endangered Torreya deserves official approval of poleward assisted migration.
January 2020 / multiple sources / Wollemia survives the Australian fires, thanks to humans
PHOTO LEFT: No, that is not a seedling Torreya. It is Australia's endangered Wollemia nobilis, of the Araucariaceae family of conifers (Torreya is of the Taxaceae family). When, in 1995, it was discovered in a single deep gorge within Wollemia National Park, Wollemia was judged by some to knock Florida torreya out of its presumed status as the most globally endangered conifer tree.
PHOTO LEFT BOTTOM: Several Torreya Guardians have been corresponding about the tremendous success of the fire-fighting effort that saved the Wollemia from likely extinction in the wild this month. Not all the greenery in the photo is Wollemia, but all of the brown is where the fire burned and would have burned into the depth of this gorge, were it not for make-shift irrigation, spraying, and chemical retardant.
• Torreya Guardian Connie Barlow says, "What is remarkable is that no mention is made in media reports of the possibility of assisting the migration of this ancient genus to more suitable climates. Clearly it is a "left-behind" species, whose final redoubt is the coolest, wettest depth of a canyon system."
January 2020 / multiple sources / Photos of mature Torreya at Kalmia Gardens SC
Beginning in 2018, Paul Camire and Connie Barlow attempted to fully document (with photos, where possible) all mature plantings of Florida Torreya, especially in states northward of Florida. As new information comes our way, Paul keeps updating the lengthy pdf, titled Ex-situ specimens of Torreya taxifolia.
Where photos and important information on long-term survival and reproductive results are available, Connie adds the new information to the Historic Groves webpage.
The PHOTOS here pertain to the newest entry on the Historic Groves webpage, pertaining to Kalmia Gardens in eastern South Carolina.
December 2019 / Clint Bancroft (TN) / Discovery of Torreyas free-planted by a mystery rodent
PHOTO LEFT, OCTOBER 12: "I was carrying water to a dwarf mountain laurel I had planted. I saw with amazement this new seedling. I have free-planted only a single seed and that was 3+ years ago by the creek."
PHOTO MIDDLE, DECEMBER 29: "Behold a SECOND strange and wondrous mystery: a second germination I did not plant. This one is about 12 feet from the first. Both are easily 200 feet from my propagation area, which is the only place seeds could have come from.
These have to be Medford OR seeds I had planted in an outdoor propagation pot February 2017. The pot was wire-mesh covered and should've been safe from squirrels. However something dislodged the wire mesh cover and squirrels got into the pot. All but one of the seeds were pillaged from that pot. If so, this means it has taken them three summers to germinate." FULL REPORT
December 2019 / Chris Anderson (TN) and Fred Bess (OH) / Photos of torreya for holiday cheer
Report Summary by Connie Barlow: December is not a usual time for torreya activity, but two planters sent in photos for posting this month.
PHOTO LEFT: A beautiful, herbivory-free torreya free-planted from seed by Chris Anderson directly into his forested property, east side of Cumberland Plateau, TN.
PHOTO RIGHT: Fred Bess (torreya grower in Cleveland, who is our northern-most seed producer) revisited the lone Florida Torreya in a cemetery near Cincinnati. The neighboring conifers make it difficult to assess the height in this photo, but as Fred reports, "The Cinci tree is still looking good as ever."
November 2019 / Mike Heim / Two Florida Torreyas winter in Wisconsin
Mike Heim writes, "Thought you might like an update on the Florida torreyas way up here in northern Wisconsin. It's all good news."PHOTO TOP (Nov 24): This past summer one of the seeds germinated that I planted in situ two years ago in the woods. I find it interesting that the only one to germinate so far did so next to a wild ginger (Asarum shuttleworthii) division that I transplanted from the western North Carolina mountains a couple of years earlier. Just speculating, but perhaps something in that soil triggered germination, whether it be soil fungi/microbes or exudates from the ginger roots. Only time will tell if there's any merit to this idea, when and if the others germinate.The full report (with reports and photos from previous years) are on the Hayward, Wisconsin Torreya webpage.
PHOTO BOTTOM (Nov. 24): This one is from the native Georgia population that has been growing here without injury for several years. Last winter it survived under only a couple of inches of snow at -36F. This fall both of these plants were exposed to -6F on November 12th, which is exceptionally early for such cold. There was no snow whatsoever. As you can see, the torreyas were not fazed by this.
November 2019 / Joe Facendola, Clint Bancroft, Nelson Stover / 200+ seeds and 10 seedlings collected at Clinton NC Torreya tree
Report Summary by Connie Barlow, using emails submitted by the three collectors.
The single old horticultural planting remaining in Clinton NC seems to still be bearing close to 500 seeds annually. Joe Facendola visited the site first, collecting 208 seeds that had already fallen to the ground. Clint Bancroft and Nelson Stover made a joint expedition there 10 days later. Few seeds remained at that time (squirrels noticeably harvest them, removing the fallen seeds and leaving the hulls right where they found them).
Fortunately, the owner (Mrs. Kennedy) encouraged the duo to dig up (and thus rescue from the lawnmower) any seedlings that they found. So Clint dug up 10 first-year seedlings and also a much larger one that had escaped mowing by having been buried by a squirrel right next to the trunk of a Camellia. He also collected some cuttings for rooting. Nelson photographed the saplings in the backyard too big to dig up.
Direct link to the 2019 UPDATE on the CLINTON NC torreya webpage.
November 2019 / Connie Barlow / AUDIO PODCAST on Torreya portrays Fusarium torreyae as present in all tissues but harmless until [environmentally] triggered
An hour-long AUDIO featuring Florida Torreya was posted 3 November 2019 in the podcast series titled "In Defense of Plants." The episode was hosted by Matt Candeais and titled "The Fall of the Torreya and What Is Being Done To Save It". The interviewee was Jennifer Ceska, who co-founded the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance from her base as conservation coordinator of the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia.
This interview offers significant new information on how the Fusarium torreyae is being interpreted. Because is is found "in all tissues" but is usually not pathogenically expressing, this evidence supports arguments in favor of northward assisted migration (to escape environmental triggers that are pathogenic in too-warm climates, including the tree's native range). However, neither Ceska nor the podcast host ever mentions that Florida Torreya is a well-known glacial relict. Absent that understanding, the environmental trigger of disease expression seems to remain a mystery. Indeed, absent a paleoecological understanding that Torreya was already suffering from interglacial warming within its peak glacial reserve when seed-production stopped 60 or 70 years ago, Ceska now fears that her institution's ex situ plantings in north Georgia may actually be threatening nearby native conifers with the disease and thus may warrant removal and burning (!). Overall, the institutional interpretation of how best to manage Florida Torreya is the exact opposite of what is supported by the strong and growing compilation of evidence gathered over 15 years by Torreya Guardians. The case we make in favor of northward assisted migration is now very strong, as evidenced on our Historic Groves webpage and the lengthy causes of endangerment webpage.
KEY QUOTATIONS BY JENNIFER CESKA (in pdf) with audio timecodes:
28:31 JC: [Recent debates about whether "commercialization of endangered plants" was helpful for the plants] ... Torreya was the godchild; you could grow an endangered tree in your garden and it's a beautiful horticulture tree ... that document never saw the light because we learned from Jason Smith at the University of Florida [what the pathogen was]
30:03 JC: ... We thought we were taking the torreya away from the disease; we thought this was in the soil. We thought it could be introduced or always been there. Well, no. It's in the torreya; it is part of torreya. He named it; it's a fusarium named for torreya. It's in all of its tissues; it's passed from mother to child. And if the tree is healthy, everything's fine; they live together. But if the tree is weak in some way horticulturally, then this fusarium can express and it can spread. And in the lab Jason Smith has learned, he's done inoculations in the lab, that it can jump in the lab to different plant families.
ACCESS THE COMPLETE TIMECODED EXCERPTS OF J. CESKA'S STATEMENTS, as selected and transcribed by Connie Barlow in pdf. Connie selected excerpts that (a) convey what the official institutional implementers of the Torreya recovery plan have learned about how best to nurture this endangered species in northward ex situ plantings, (b) convey the lack of attention to Torreya's undisputed glacial-relict status as the most scientifically reliable explanation for what triggers the embedded fusarium to become pathogenic, and (c) reveal the degree to which a non-peer-reviewed master's thesis (lab based only, with no testing of the pathogen's ability to survive winter freezes and other ecological limiting factors) is being used to consider destroying ex situ torreya collections on the off-chance that Fusarium torreyae might be able to infect other native conifers of Georgia and points north. Key excerpts on the latter:31:44 JC: We've gone back to our partners [like in Gainesville GA] ... and I said, 'You know that collection you planted 18 years ago as a partner and we were so grateful that you planted that grove of torreya, and it is in a cultivated area, but it is next to your woods: you need to know. And so now their board is. They still have them. But they had to go have a conversation about that. And if they decided that they needed to remove those trees, I would have respected that and understood. Because they have a responsibility to the natural areas that they are restoring and protecting as well.For the long history of acceptance of Florida torreya as a glacial relict, consult the excerpts on torreya as glacial relict posted from the 1984 ESA listing, the 1986 original recovery plan, and the 2010 federal plan update.
32:21 JC: So, yes, the story changed. And, thank goodness that we did track them everywhere that we planted ... that we know whose who and where, that we know the health of those trees, and if we do see a problem we would remove and burn that material.
October 2019 / Connie Barlow / NEW VIDEO by Tallahassee Public TV station on Hurricane Michael Damage
Six-minute video titled Torreya State Park After Hurricane Michael: One Year Later was produced by WFSU, the public TV station affiliated with Florida State University in Tallahassee. The video begins with a look at the two unlikely survivors of the hurricane where the entrance road ends in a parking lot. Both Gregory House and a planted little grove of torreya trees at the lawn edge survived, the tall trees fallen all around them.
For viewers and readers familiar with the paleoecological foundation undergirding the drive for "assisted migration" poleward of the glacial relict Torreya tree, the video offers a few hints of the steephead ravine ecosystem similarities in the park to habitats now found in the southern Appalachians. The actions of Torreya Guardians are of course not mentioned. But the accompanying essay does say this:"In the 1950s, a fungal blight wiped out a population of about 600,000 Torreya taxifolia in the region. The Florida Park Service, Nature Conservancy, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden have been working to revive the Florida torreya, a species whose future may lie in its likely ancestral home of North Carolina, where planted trees have thrived disease free."
October 2019 / Connie Barlow / TESING HYPOTHESIS THAT VERTICAL BRANCHLET TIPS MIGHT BE BEST
Recent rooting of cut basal tips confirms that vertically oriented basals can turn into actual trees, rather than multi-stemmed shrubs (which is the fate of tips cut and rooted from lateral branches. But if a tree produces some radial-structure, vertically oriented branchlet tips, might cutting these produce real tree structures?
October 3, 2019, CONNIE BARLOW clips the most vertically oriented branch tips she can find on the two seed-grown trees FRANK CALLAHAN (standing behind) had planted at his mother's home in Medford, OREGON.
Connie notes that the most vertically oriented branchlet tips she could find were not quite as leader-like in structure as the ones she had clipped from the shrubby, rooted-branchlet "trees" at Hawthorne Park earlier that day. Visit the Oregon Torreya webpage on this website to access photos of the vertically oriented branchlets on the other set of trees in Medford.
As to BASALS, Connie was at first surprised that there were no really good-looking basal sprouts at the base of either of the two trees (See photos). But then she realized that because both were planted in full sun, the low shrubby branches precluded basals from contributing any sunlight-derived photosynthates, so the trees probably wouldn't bother creating good basals unless they felt stressed and possibly facing death.
that I submitted last month (September) offers the agency any new information worth considering. However, it appears that the earlier 21-page report I submitted to DOI August 2019 (see below) did not offer any new information worth considering. My sense is that because LAST YEAR (6 August 2018) the service announced initiation of an official "5-year Status Review", consideration of my current petition to downlist will be subsumed within that process already underway, and thus no additional decision as to whether my petition merits substantive attention need be given. Overall, we can all expect an opportunity to COMMENT ON THE PENDING 5-YEAR STATUS REVIEW whenever that is offered for public review in the future. In the meanwhile, the official letter itself reveals some important insights into the current official thinking of the Fish & Wildlife Service, notably these EXCERPTS (bold as emphasis added by Barlow):
OCTOBER 2019 / Connie Barlow / F&WS Acknowledges receipt of "Petition to Downlist"
I received via mail an official 3-page letter dated 23 October 2019, signed by Leopoldo Miranda, Director of the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I scanned the letter and have posted it on this website as a 3-page PDF. From what I can discern, no decision has yet been made on whether the 26-page formal "petition to downlist Torreya to threatened"• "... The Endangered Species Act (ESA) compels us to return all listed species to being viable and self-sustaining in their ecosystems. We recognize the critical role of stakeholders and how important their participation is to help achieve this goal. Recovery is not a fast process. It takes decades in some cases to see progress or to reverse long-standing threats...."BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - Official policy is thus more encompassing than some past communications to Barlow that actions underway were limited to "preventing extinction" and undertaking "genetic safeguarding." (Full recovery was not mentioned as a goal of the ongoing official actions.)• "... Florida torreya is a critically endangered tree endemic to habitats along the Apalachicola River in Florida and extreme southwest Georgia. Populations once had about 650,000 individuals but crashed in the 1950s due to a fungal pathogen (Fusarium torreyae). Now we have 750 individuals (i.e., re-sprouts from stumps) that fail to reach maturity in the wild. In addition, these re-sprouts from stumps display different degrees of decline such as root necrosis and stem cankers...."BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - This is the first time I have seen the newly isolated and named Fusarium torreyae definitively presented as having been the cause of the 1950s population crash (as well as being now the apparently most debilitating cause of ongoing stem dieback, among the multiple disease agents long specified as afflicting Florida Torreya in its peak glacial refuge). To my mind this suggests that, despite more than half a century of disease presence, and despite presumably lax antiseptic practices by official institutions in moving plant materials from the disease-ridden historic range and/or cleansing boots worn in the collecting area (as well as botanic gardens and citizen practices in moving plant materials around well outside of its historic range), there have been no documented lethal consequences of Fusarium torreyae in the Appalachian mountain region and points north. This is highly suggestive that helping this glacial relict species finally be able to "migrate" hundreds of miles north of its peak-glacial historic range is both a practical and a proven method for restoring this species to health.• "... The Torreya Guardians' work conducted under the concept of assisted migration has been acknowledged by the Service in the 2010 5-year review, and will be noted also in the 5-year review currently underway...."
• "... The Service does not have an official policy on assisted migration of threatened or endangered animals or plants, and assesses the needs of species on a case-by-case basis...."
• "... we urge considerable caution in your efforts to translocate the Florida Torreya outside its native range. We remain concerned that transporting Florida Torreya seedlings, cuttings and seeds outside its native range may carry the fungal pathogen to new areas.... Therefore, we suggest all potential Florida Torreya outplantings undergo health screenings, and the results documented."
• "... This species needs help from passionate partners such as yourself and the Torreya Guardians, and I encourage further efforts to secure the Torreya within its native range.... If you have any questions regarding the ongoing 5-year review process, or wish to discuss opportunities to engage with the Service in securing the Florida Torreya within its native range please contact Dr. Sean Blomquist, Acting Field Supervisor, Panama City, Florida Ecological Services Office ..."BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - It appears that although "the Service does not have an official policy on assisted migration", the closing of this email response strongly implies that with respect to this particular species a decision is already in place to continue the sole focus on recovery taking place "within the historic range." If even this undisputed "glacial relict" (by definition, having been unable to migrate poleward after the ice retreated) is not given an opportunity to excel in a more suitable climate today and into the future, how then could any other listed species be given assistance in migrating to cooler realms in the coming decades of climate disruptions already underway?
September 2019 / Connie Barlow / PETITION TO DOWNLIST Florida Torreya submitted
September 9 I (Connie Barlow), as an individual and citizen, submitted a 26-page formal petition to downlist Florida Torreya from "endangered" to "threatened" status based entirely on the actions accomplished by various citizen volunteers with Torreya Guardians over our 15 year history.
In accordance with F&WS policy, I submitted a copy to both of the states (FL and GA) in which the historically native range occurs. The Georgia recipient redirected my petition to Timothy Merritt, Chief, Branch of Conservation and Classification for Endangered Species of the Southeast Region of F&WS. [October 9 Barlow submitted this petition to the Department of Interior, per regulations.]
In my Sept 9 cover letter to Mr. Merritt, I wrote: "The timing of this petition was inspired by the new ESA regulation clarifying "threatened" status as distinct from "endangered." In this particular case, downlisting to threatened could substantially help an endangered plant move toward full recovery, by making it possible for we citizens to play an even greater role than we have been playing in past years." Access documents:• Petition to Downlist (26 pages pdf)
• Cover letter to Mr. Merritt (2 pages pdf)>
• Cover letter to Mr. Bernhardt (2 pages pdf)
Sept 2019 Barlow also filed a 2-page, "Formal request to document Torreya seed production ex situ 2018 and 2019", available here in PDF.
August 2019 / Connie Barlow / Report to DOI: Volunteer Actions of Torreya Guardians Support New Endangered Species Administrative Policies
August 25 I (Connie Barlow), as an individual and citizen, submitted a 21-page "Report to Secretary of the Department of Interior and Director of Fish & Wildlife Service: Volunteer Actions of Torreya Guardians Support New Endangered Species Administrative Policies"
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Suggestions for Florida Torreya Plan Update: Part A - Translocations (p. 2)
2. Suggestions for Florida Torreya Plan Update: Part B - Actions for DOWNLISTING (p. 4)
3. Details for updating key sections of the 2010 Recovery Plan for Florida Torreya (p.6)
4. Details for reinstating sections of the 1986 Recovery Plan for Florida Torreya
5. Torreya Guardians Citizen Actions Empower Joshua Tree Citizen Advocates (to undertake conservation actions without endangerment listing)
August 2019 / Connie Barlow and Clint Bancroft / NEW VIDEO: "Florida Torreya loves Tennessee"
Mid March 2019 Clint Bancroft took me (Connie Barlow) on a tour of his rewilded Torreya plantings in Ocoee Watershed southeast TN. I just posted the new video, to which I added sections of the March 2015 video for showing how much growth the original plantings achieved in four years. This new VIDEO 33 (50 minutes) offers two key findings, beyond the obvious excellent, disease-free growth.
(1) No herbivory; the plants are in perfect condition.
(2) With the help of Jack Johnston, Clint has established a "Torreya Bowl", intended for seed production in a wild setting. Maximizing genetic diversity there is a priority.
August 2019 / Connie Barlow / Genus Torreya is both rare and ancient
Kevin M. Potter, Dept. Forestry and Environmental Resources of North Carolina State University, published a paper in the May 2018 online issue of the journal Biological Conservation:
Connie Barlow added red type and arrows to the original figure, left.
Notice that the sister species in Florida and California of genus Torreya are among the rarest of 352 tree species native to North America.
These two Torreya species also are among the most ancient tree lineages.
Together, rarity and age of origin call out for the highest levels of conservation attention.
August 2019 / Connie Barlow / Seed-producing Torreya in Louisiana survives tornado
May 2019 an EF 1 TORNADO swept through the portion of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve (aka Briarwood Preserve) in which a mature, seed-producing Torreya resided under a deciduous canopy.
I (Connie Barlow) donated to the restoration fundraiser, and was thrilled to learn in an August 1 email from the preserve steward, Rick Johnson, that:"... The Torreya you show here is in fine shape and has produced more seeds this year. Those large trees that were shading it were blown down. Wondering if it will be happier now that it's getting more sun...."Full details on the Louisiana page of our Torreya Guardians website.
July 2019 / Paul Camire and Connie Barlow / Two-part VIDEO filmed s. Michigan June 2019 and September 2018
30-minute video 28-minute video Two-part video of Paul Camire's Torreya in-forest plantings of potted seedlings and also seeds from the 2016 fall harvest in Medford Oregon. Florida Torreya has been documented surviving (with little or no damage) subzero temperatures before in other states. But this is the coldest: -45 degrees F windchill during Winter 2019. Yet the exposed Torreya branches showed no damage! The biggest problem is deer herbivory: they even push over wire cages.
July 2019 / Clint Bancroft / Precious apical cutting of a Highlands NC basal recovers from herbivory
CLINT BANCROFT writes:
Regarding my accidental experiment in which a rooted apical cutting had put up a new 6 inch vertical and then all but a few inches of the whole pant was eaten. In just 2 months or so, the eaten-down stump is putting up what appears to be a new vertical leader.
Note by Connie Barlow: I am reading about Coast Redwood basal growth and propagation now. Genus Sequoia and Torreya, ancient members of Cupressaceae Family, have probably survived this long thanks to their ability to produce new stems from basal growth if the original stem fails (or is logged). The term for what we see in photo left is an axillary bud doing what it evolved to do produce a new vertical leader.
Apparently all single leaves produced on the vertical main stem each carry on their upper side a suppressed axillary bud. For redwoods, each of those buds can become either a vertical leader or a root, depending on whether it senses air or soil when hormones direct it to wake up. Apparently Torreya can do the same, so we can actually obtain more than one vertical clone from each basal sprout we cut from.
July 2019 / Connie Barlow / Photo of new champion California Torreya shows what Florida might achieve in North Carolina mountains
LEFT: In 2005 I took a field trip to a half dozen sites of California Torreya growing in the wild. The then-champion tree (at Scott's Creek Watershed north of Santa Cruz) was in decline. Photo left is of me with that tree.
MIDDLE: In 2012 a new champion was declared just a bit north in Big Basin State Park. Three photos were recently posted, including the photo in middle here. Notice the human for scale. This new champion is 105 feet tall, circumference is 133 inches, average crown spread is 60 feet.
This compares with the late champion, whose stats when nominated by Frank Callahan in 1993 were 96 feet tall, circumference 251 inches, average crown spread 68 feet. Access lots of photos of California Torreya I took in the field in 2005, via the California Torreya page on this website.
June 2019 / Frank Callahan / Update on Florida Torreya seed-producing pair in Medford Oregon
May 31, 2019 FRANK CALLAHAN wrote: "I was just over to my mother's place for her 95th birthday. The Torreyas are doing well; however there has been little seed production since your visit. Speaking of seeds, how was the germination rates on all the seeds that were sent out?" [from the Fall 2016 harvest of seeds from the two Florida Torreya trees, shown at left with white stars]
June 12, 2019 FRANK CALLAHAN wrote: "Here are some images of Torreya taxifolia trees at my late mother's property in Medford. Mickey just had her 95th birthday and passed away 6 days later, and her house and property are now up for sale. (I trust we can make a deal to care for the trees with a new owner.) The two trees are doing quite well as you can see. (Connie added the white stars). That is a bluish Douglas fir in the background. The tree on the right is an arborvitae. There is no crop to report for this year."
Editor's note: Visit the Medford OREGON Torreya page for the full history of seed production and a video of the trees several months after seeds were harvested in fall 2016.
June 2019 / Connie Barlow / Article indicates Atlanta Botanical Garden still not considering assisted migration
A 9 June 2019 online article titled "Atlanta Botanical Garden opens Southeastern Center for Conservation this summer", announces a new multi-million-dollar conservation center at Atlanta Botanical Garden. Both mentions of Torreya, however, fail to indicate that the conservation strategy will yet expand to include assisted migration poleward.EXCERPTS PERTAINING TO FLORIDA TORREYA: ... This summer the garden opens its Southeastern Center for Conservation, a $7 million two-story building adjacent to the Fuqua Orchid Center. It was funded through the successful $53 million Nourish and Flourish fundraising campaign, which included $40 million for capital improvements and $13 million for the endowment. The new center will serve as a home for the garden's conservation, education, and experimentation. The building includes a 3,800-square-foot research facility with a molecular lab that lets scientists examine genetic material at the nucleotide level. The cold-storage seed bank is augmented by cryogenic coolers that can preserve the embryos of the Torreya trees as they try to determine why the trees die in the wild before they can become adults.
... They also feel the pain when a natural disaster spoils plans. The garden had transplanted 700 Torreya trees to Torreya State Park in Florida, with noted Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, 88, as a guest of honor. Then, Hurricane Michael destroyed the entire stand, dumping hardwoods on top of little saplings. "It can be really discouraging," said Carter. But even if they're not successful now, they retain hope for future prospects, she said. "One thing we're doing is keeping individual genetic material alive," said Carter. "In the future, we hope there is something to be learned from holding on to these plants."
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / New paper useful for understanding male/female flexibility in Torreya
During our site visit to the mature Florida Torreya trees in Louisiana, our guides recounted their experience with the largest specimen beginning as male and then starting to produce some female buds on various branches culminating in seeds that fell and germinated beneath the parent tree. A 2019 paper on Striped Maple of eastern North America (a subcanopy species, just as is Torreya) can help us understand how to observe and possibly predict an individual's ability and propensity to begin producing seeds. Access full text.
EXCERPTS: ... Male-dominated sex ratios occurred consistently across study sites and the 4 years that sex expression was monitored. Approximately one-third of trees [studied as single branches cut and grown in a lab conditions] changed during any 2-year period. The five most common transitions were, in descending order of frequency: from non-reproductive to male, male to full or partial female flowering, female to dead, and from partial to full female flowering....
... We have shown that in the sexually plastic tree Acer pensylvanicum a variety of factors influence expressed sex. Chief among them are previous sex and the health of an individual. Although the general theory regarding ESD in dioecious plants has indicated that females are often found in relatively better condition and at larger sizes, we find the opposite pattern in this species.... We show that mortality is disproportionately high in females....
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Paper by Alabama professor details Torreya grandis cultivation in China
Alabama A & M University's Professor Xiongwen Chen has published several papers on the ecology, economics, and social aspects of the more than thousand-years of cultivation of the endemic Torreya grandis. Because of his expertise, it would be ideal for USF&WS to invite him onto the ADVISORY BOARD for the recovery plan update of Florida Torreya, now underway. Several helpful aspects of this 2019 paper:
1. All Torreya species in the wild (including Florida) bear a bitter seed, except for this thousand-year-old-cultivar of Chinese Torreya which is reproduced mostly by grafting the tasty-fruited genotype onto wild rootstock in mountain villages.
2. Planters of the cultivar as a profitable food crop are advised to start the young grafted tree in shade and among diverse trees or crops, not as a monoculture.
3. The species is also grown as an ornamental in China, owing to its beautiful form. Specimens can live (and continue to produce nuts) for more than a thousand years.
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Photos of March Site Visit to Tennessee Torreyas
March 18 I visited the home of Clint Bancroft (left) Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee. I captured a lot of video which I have yet to edit and upload to youtube.
Because his plantings are astonishingly vigorous, I decided to grab some stills from the video and post those on Clint's torreya webpage.
Key observations include evidence that Clint's 18 acres of sloped deciduous forest in southeastern-most Tennessee encourage not just 2 but 3 growth spurts annually.
As well, the oldest specimen is still heading upward as well as outward and with perfect vertical and radial symmetry. (See photo left.)
May 2019 / Clint Bancroft / First germination from Fall 2017 seed harvest at Harbison House, NC
May 6 email from Clint Bancroft (Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee) to Connie Barlow:"Highlands germination! It is being kept in extreme protective custody."Note by Connie: October 2017 Clint Bancroft and Jack Johnston ventured to the private grove of century-old Florida Torreyas at Harbison House, near Highlands NC.
Clint has his seed beds and rooted branchlets outdoors in with a deer-proof exclosure. But a woodchuck apparently had a feast there in the past, so now he puts wire mesh over the tops of the exclosures too.
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Our northernmost Torreya planter reports on harsh winter
As of 2019, the MAP below depicts all the NORTHERN-MOST successful plantings of Florida Torreya made by Torreya Guardians during the past 15 years.
Mike Heim is a horticulturalist and science teacher in Hayward, Wisconsin. His location is marked by the orange conifer symbol. He nurtures Florida Yew in his forest as well as Florida Torreya. Heim reports, "I'm waiting for the snow to finally melt off of the T. taxifolia seedling and cuttings. The Taxus floridana all are in perfect condition after a -36F winter with not a whole lot of snow covering them."
• Mike Heim's webpage on Torreya Guardians site includes photos and reports beginning in 2010.
Editor's note: Torreya Guardians "assisted migration" plantings center on or near the southern Appalachians. However, experimental plantings in northward states help us ascertain just how far north this ancient genus can be planted in advance of expected climate warming this century.
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Two photos show Torreya victorious over fire and composting
This week I received 2 sets of photos that feature survival skills of genus Torreya:
1. ZACH ST. GEORGE (below) admires lush basal growth in a burned-over grove of California Torreya in the coast range north of Napa Valley. April 29 he was hiking in Stevenson State Park. The basal growth followed the 2017 Tubbs Fire.
2. A. A. CALLISON sent this unusual photo of Florida Torreya germination in Tennessee. He wrote:
"... None of the seeds came up, so after a couple of years I discarded the contents of the pots in a meadow and made a compost pile there. I was clearing out clover there to plant corn ... and saw a T. tax seedling growing there. This small miracle of life has begun my month of May in a very good mood."
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / When plantings decline or fail: Sharing photos and ideas
SPRING 2019 this arboretum contacted Torreya Guardians for advice on vegetative dieback that suddenly appeared on some of specimens of Florida Torreya within this arboretum in Asheville, NC.
Michigan Torreya Guardian Paul Camire led the effort in collecting views from the key planters among us. The result led not only to a new page on this website but to a realization that it would be useful to aggregate photos/interpretations of physical problems in this species so as to aid others in the future to interpret the cause(s) and possible techniques to lessen such problems on existing specimens and, more importantly, toward encouraging BEST PRACTICES in future siting and planting choices.
April 2019 / Connie Barlow / Article points to lagging climate adaptation for endangered species
Note: This article does not mention Florida Torreya, but it does show that other endangered species managed by USF&WS are being considered for assisted migration.
An April 25 New York Times article features climate adaptation projects in forests of northeastern USA including assisted migration of native tree species (or populations) northward. Projects include reforestation efforts of city watershed forests in Rhode Island that have been devastated by insect pests moving up from the south. Also featured are two forestry projects in Minnesota. One climate adaptation project is on private land. The other is in the Chippewa National Forest.
Assisted migration northward of plants supportive of an insect endangered in Michigan (Karner Blue Butterfly) is reported, too.
The article begins with the FORESTRY projects:EXCERPT: ... Foresters in Rhode Island and elsewhere have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt, something that might take decades to occur naturally. One controversial idea, known as assisted migration, involves deliberately moving trees northward. But trees can live centuries, and environments are changing so fast in some places that species planted today may be ill-suited to conditions in 50 years, let alone 100. No one knows the best way to make forests more resilient to climatic upheaval. These great uncertainties can prompt "analysis paralysis," said Maria Janowiak, deputy director of the Forest Service's Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, or N.I.A.C.S. But, she added, "We can't keep waiting until we know everything."The article ends with the implication that life forms regulated by the Endangered Species Act are receiving far less climate adaptation assistance than do the common, unregulated species of trees:EXCERPT: ... Jason McLachlan, an ecologist at the University of Notre Dame, once spurned the idea of assisted migration, but his views have evolved as the current predicament has sunk in. He concedes Dr. Ricciardi's point about the unknowable risks of moving things around, but counters that doing nothing is also "extremely risky." His broader critique is that classic conservation science risks failure today because it assumes the world is static and if the world ever was static, it clearly isn't anymore. Consider the Endangered Species Act, he said, a bedrock of modern conservation. It aims to return species to their original habitat. But what if they're now ill-suited to those areas? To deal with the coming upheavals, our very concept of nature and the meaning of conservation needs to become more fluid, Mr. McLachlan said. "We don't have a philosophy of conservation that's consistent with the changes that are afoot." END OF ARTICLE.
April 2019 / Clint Bancroft / Proof that cutting of basal leader tip yields tree-form Torreya clone
April 24 email from Clint Bancroft (Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee) to Connie Barlow:"Look at the new growth on this cutting from Highlands, NC! The cutting is the apical tip from a basal of one of the mature trees."
PHOTO ABOVE LEFT by Clint Bancroft is April 2019 of a rooted cutting (collected October 2017 at Harbison House near Highlands NC) that displays superb vertical growth. PHOTO RIGHT is by Connie Barlow 2006, during a Torreya Guardians site visit to the near-century old Highlands NC Torreya grove. Notice the prolific basal sprouting, of various ages.
Editor's note: The original cuttings of wild specimens in the Florida panhandle were collected three decades ago (by scientists working for institutions implementing the official recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act) from lateral branches rather than basal tips. Lateral branch cuttings notoriously assume shrubby growth forms. Wild stock was so weak that cutting of basal terminals would not have been appropriate. However, thanks to this report by Clint Bancroft, we now know that when collecting vegetative growth from healthy horticultural plantings in northward states, apical growth of basals are essential for ultimately producing tree forms.
April 2019 / Connie Barlow / USF&WS article highlights contrasting management aims for Torreya
On April 22 Earth Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted an article on their southeast region website, "Saving the Florida Torreya: One goal, two schools of thought on preserving the rare, endangered tree". The theme for this year's Earth Day was endangered species.
The USF&WS journalist, Dan Chapman, had several phone conversations and many email exchanges with me back in January. He asked very good questions and obviously had read a lot of what we have on our website.
I am disappointed that our success with seed production in Cleveland Ohio and our multi-state documentation of thrival and non-invasiveness within long-ago horticultural plantings (Historic Groves) were not mentioned. But because the USF&WS depends upon the goodwill of institutional partners (who are not fully compensated by federal funds for their efforts in behalf of endangered species), it is far more important for the agency to accommodate the conservation values and choices made by their official partners, rather than by non-institutional volunteers such as Torreya Guardians.
Thus, you will see that Atlanta Botanical Garden staff priorities and actions are well represented in this article. The fact that Torreya Guardians is mentioned at all (and that the subtitle presents our work as an alternative "school of thought") is something I am grateful to see gain approval within the agency. Readers will easily grasp that this species is a left-behind glacial relict and that my personal goal of "rewilding" Torreya goes far beyond the official goals of (a) preventing extinction, (b) safeguarding genotypes, and (c) limiting the long-term goal to revitalizing Torreya within its peak-glacial refuge despite ongoing climate warming.
April 2019 / Connie Barlow / Article features Atlanta Botanical Garden perspective on Torreya
This month, Earther published a lengthy online article by Brian Kahn: "The Race to Save the Most Endangered Conifer in America. The article is very useful for everyone involved in Torreya actions.
However, Torreya Guardians is mentioned in only one paragraph (and in a derogatory way). My contact information is easily found on this website, yet I was not contacted. Indeed, nothing in this article suggests that the journalist even glanced at the Torreya Guardians website.
I immediately emailed "corrections" to the author (none were implemented). I first mentioned aspects of the article that are indeed valuable for the record (see below).
EXCERPTS OF BARLOW'S "CORRECTIONS" EMAIL TO THE AUTHOR: "... Two crucial things you accomplished in that article, for which I thank you:
1. You documented that Atlanta Botanical Garden does not concur with U Florida fast-tracking of genetic engineering. I have been hoping that is the case, and you are the first to document it.
2. Your descriptions and your photos of your site visit to the Apalachicola powerfully document what I had only surmised: that Hurricane Michael destroyed the ravine canopy without which even the beleaguered resprouts of old rootstocks of Torreya cannot survive. Accordingly, I have added 3 of your paras to a crucial webpage on the Torreya Guardians website, where I attempt to link and annotate all important developments in the complex and increasingly politically charged saga of (a) how this endangered tree is officially managed, and (b) how we Torreya Guardians have been utilizing an "exception" for plants that was intentionally written into the Endangered Species Act (which almost was written for protection only of animals). You will find my excerpt of your piece as SECTION 1F of this webpage: http://www.torreyaguardians.org/extinction.html".
You also did a great job in making it easy for readers to understand what we in paleoecology well understand: that Florida Torreya is a left-behind glacial relict, attempting to maintain itself in an ever-warming climate in a locale that served it well in peak glacial. That, of course, is not a fact that Emily Coffey [spokesperson for Atlanta Botanical Garden] would use as supportive of ABG work, but it is good that you found that out yourself and added it. If you would like to access reputable links on its glacial relict status, go to the above url and scroll down to SECTION 3A: "Apalachicola as glacial refugium and Torreya as glacial relict are undisputed."
Because those above accomplishments are so important to finally have documented in an online accessible form, I would like to suggest some "corrections" you could make elsewhere in your article which are either factually wrong or could lead the reader to an unnecessarily restricted (rather than appropriately nuanced, ideally open and questioning) perspective. So here are my suggestions for FACTUAL CORRECTIONS...."
Access Connie's full list of suggestions (including a proposed factual correction in the single paragraph in which Torreya Guardians is mentioned) in PDF.
April 2019 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians mentioned in long-form essay
"Send in the Clones" is a long-form essay, personal style, by a journalist describing a site visit he made to a privately owned grove of Giant Sequoia trees in the southern Sierras. Because the topic is a branchlet harvesting visit by Archangel Ancient Tree Project, Torreya Guardians is mentioned as another well documented example of citizens stepping out ahead of the officials in charge in order to help native trees migrate to cooler realms.
EXCERPTS: ... Activists called the Torreya Guardians, for example, are working to save the Florida torreya one of the most critically endangered conifers in the world by planting it far outside of its tiny north Florida range, where the tree has been afflicted by a mysterious fungal blight. The US Forest Service's recovery plan for the tree is restricted to its native but damaged habitat.
... I have not felt, these last few years, that there is much hope left for the South Sierra, for my childhood forest in Ohio, or for this world. But if we could make a political project where large numbers of people felt true intimacy with their local landscape where everyone felt native on this deep level it seems at least possible to build an environmental movement where people feel less disempowered and hopeless than at least I have these past few years, where it feels possible to actually do something....
March 2019 / Connie Barlow / "Endangered (causes of)" webpage is updated and expanded
Two events in 2018 indicated a reconfiguration was in order: In March 2018, genetic engineering of the Torreya genome was advocated by a University of Florida forest pathologist. And in August of 2018 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that the 2010 recovery plan would be updated in 2019.
The "Endangered (causes of)" webpage has been online (and periodically updated) for more than a dozen years. However, in 2019 it seemed time to reconfigure the text for ease of use and to distinguish the background, objective summaries (with key links) from my own advocacy sections.
Annotated access to key documents is sectioned into six parts (image left).
February 2019 / Connie Barlow / 2-part VIDEO of January 2019 free-planting success in n. Florida
31a: Freeplanting Torreya Seeds - Shoal Sanctuary FL pt 1 of 2
Site visit to Shoal Sanctuary, due west of Torreya's peak glacial refuge in northern Florida. Documentation of 9 seedlings thriving (and remarkably free of herbivory) four years after a total of 40 seeds were placed directly into the coolest, moistest habitats. Distinctions among the sites portend excellent learnings of site preferences in the years ahead.
24 minutes - filmed January 30, 2019
31b: Freeplanting Torreya Seeds - Shoal Sanctuary FL pt 2 of 2
This last half of the video set summarizes the documentation and offers topics for further study notably, why herbivory was absent at all planting sites. Native Christmas Ferns are pointed out as ideal neighbors for (1) camouflage, (2) its "endo" mycorrhizal network, and (3) as an "indicator species" for identifying best microsites for Torreya.
31 minutes - filmed January 30, 2019
February 2019 / Connie Barlow / 2-part VIDEO of November 2018 Torreya site visit in Louisiana
30a: Florida Torreya in Louisiana (Pt 1) - Mature Grove with Seedlings
Site visit to Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve. Of the four long-ago horticultural plantings outside of Florida that produce seeds that have germinated into seedlings nearby (with no human help), this mature grove of Florida Torreya in Louisiana is the first one in which knowledgeable local guides could provide the complete oral history and answer questions posed by Torreya Guardians. This is thus a superb example of why "natural history" observations and inquiry can help the development of best practices for "assisted migration" recovery actions to ensure that this climate-endangered tree does not slide into extinction.
30b: Florida Torreya in Louisiana (Pt 2) - Mature Grove with Seedlings
This last half of the video set covers the largest of the three mature trees the only one that is producing any seeds. Nearby seedlings naturally established are featured, as is the 30-foot-long twin ground-trending branches that achieve photosynthesis by way of horizontal extension, well beyond what the 50-60 foot high canopy can provide.
January 2019 / Connie Barlow / Sierra Magazine and National Park Service mainstream assisted migration
"Can We Help Our Forests Prepare for Climate Change?" - by Madeline Ostrander, December 2018, Sierra Magazine.
Summary by Barlow: This article focuses on the research and questions happening at Acadia National Park as to whether, when, and which more southerly tree species should be given assisted migration into the park.
That this lengthy article appears in the national magazine of the Sierra Club and that the author goes onsite to a national park wrestling with the assisted migration question means that, finally, this climate adaptation practice may go mainstream.
Notably, the author distinguishes between the early focus on single species needing help moving poleward and the new focus on a land management agency wanting to ensure that a forest canopy remains. Joshua Tree and Sequoia Kings Canyon national parks have previously been the epicenter of national park resistance to assisted migration of climate-injured tree species. But those two parks are brand-named for trees; hence they are the last places to be willing to let go of their famous trees and wish them well northward.
LEFT: Our work as Torreya Guardians is mentioned in the article twice: The graphic left and a sentence in the text. "A group of grassroots activists stirred controversy a decade ago when they moved endangered Florida torreya trees to locations in North Carolina and as far away as Ohio."
Note: Also read the short introduction to this climate theme issue by the editor of Sierra Magazine, Jason Mark. Excerpts:... The terrible fate we sought to avoid is upon us: Even if humans stopped all emissions today, Earth would keep warming for generations. Which means that even as we stay focused on transitioning away from fossil fuels, halting deforestation, and reforming our agriculture systems, we must also begin preparing for life on a planet transformed. This dual task managing the unavoidable while working to avoid the unmanageable poses a huge challenge to the environmental movement. It's not an overstatement to say that it may represent the greatest challenge in human history. As the IPCC report put it, the scale and scope of the changes we need to make have "no documented historic precedent."
That's why Sierra is publishing this special issue on climate change adaptation. As our reporting reveals, adaptations will have to take a number of forms. In "On the Move", Madeline Ostrander reports that we will likely have to begin some kinds of assisted migration helping flora and fauna relocate in order to survive.... Action, especially collective action, is the most effective antidote to despair....
December 2018 / Connie Barlow / Learnings webpage updated at year-end
Noting that the 2010 Recovery Plan for Torreya will be updated in 2019, I have made a special effort in 2018 to update and create new webpages that fully document our learnings to date. These are featured as the newest entries on the chronologically organized Torreya Guardians Learnings webpage.
Entries for 2018 include:
Historic Groves of Torreya Trees: Long-Term Experiments in Assisted Migration
Summary of Academic Papers Trending Toward Assisted Migration
Documentation: Free-Planting Torreya Seeds directly into forest habitats
Documentation of Adaptive Growth Forms (10 year results)
December 2018 / Connie Barlow / New video shows tenth anniversary results of our 2008 NC planting
29: Florida Torreya to Lake Junaluska NC - 10th Anniversary, 2018
Ten years after the 2008 planting of ten potted seedlings as a first "assisted migration" project (reported on by Audubon Magazine), Connie Barlow returns to document ongoing results. The challenges, the successes, and the learnings are all topics covered here and also on the Lake Junaluska webpage. A key learning is how Torreya is capable of adapting its growth form to conditions of shade (horizontal, yew-like form) or abundant sunlight (standard conifer form).
31 minutes - filmed October 7, 2018
December 2018 / Connie Barlow / Site Visit to Mature Torreya Grove in Louisiana
Two Torreya Guardians, Clint Bancroft and Connie Barlow (along with Connie's husband, Michael Dowd) were guided by the preserve stewards: Rick Johnson and his son David (November 15, 2018). The group visited the 3 mature Florida Torreya trees that had been planted by botanist Caroline Dormon some 70 or 80 years ago. Visit the LOUISIANA TORREYA WEBPAGE to access the new photo-essay of their site visit. (Connie will edit and post video of the site visit soon.)
Importance of the site visit:
1. This is the fourth instance documented by Torreya Guardians of torreyas planted before mid-20th-century that are not only thriving outside of Florida but reproducing. As well, some of the seeds are establishing on their own.
2. This is confirmation, again, that a male genotype Torreya specimen can produce female cones and viable seeds.
3. Stewards of the preserve donated all 4 seeds produced this year to Torreya Guardians.
December 2018 / Connie Barlow / New webpage to provide summary results for 2019 recovery plan update
Although Florida Torreya was listed as endangered 34 years ago, not much more than "genetic safeguarding" has been attained by the institutions implementing the official recovery plan (last updated 2010). Meanwhile, Torreya Guardians has been conducting "assisted migration" experiments in northward states, documenting historic groves, and experimenting with how best to plant seeds directly into regrowth forest habitats (while minimizing losses). Because the official plan will be updated in 2019, I created a new PHOTO-RICH webpage of summary results to assist the decisionmakers:
NEW WEBPAGE: Free-Planting Torreya Seeds:
• Risks and Advantages of Free-Planting
• Learnings 1: Seed Harvesting, Storage, Germination
• Learnings 2: Techniques To Deter Seed Predators
• Learnings 3: Torreya Recovers from Herbivory
• Learnings 4: Siting to Minimize Above-Ground Herbivory
• Learnings 5: Siting to Minimize Antler Rubbing
• Learnings 6: Siting for Myccorrhizal Connections
• Learnings 7: Natural Seedlings in Historic Groves
VIDEO 28: Free-Planting Climate-Endangered Florida Torreya - 2018 Update is the 37-minute field documentation that supports the new webpage.
November 2018 / Connie Barlow / Free-planting success: 6 of 15 seeds, Franklin NC
November 7 I made a site visit to the remote mountain home of Russell Regnery, west slope of Blackrock Mountain (3,800 feet elevation), whose forested property slopes up to the Nantahala National Forest. This free-planting success story is so exciting for me personally that I decided to post a detailed photo-essay showingcasing the "baby pictures" I took onsite (with my preliminary interpretations).
Because 6 of the original 15 seeds had produced seedlings, this site visit demonstrates that putting seeds directly into forest soil, and with no rodent protection (other than depth), seed losses from natural causes (notably, herbivore predation) need not be exorbitant. (Connie had 1,600 seeds to distribute from the 2014 harvest; it is a lot easier recruiting volunteers to accept large numbers of seeds if potting and wire protection are not required.) LEARNINGS include:
• As many as 3 summers may pass before the germinating (and root-establishing) seed will show any above-ground growth.
• This species exhibits remarkable capacities to recover from early stem and leaf herbivory.
November 2018 / Connie Barlow /