Comments on/about Rewilding Torreya taxifolia
and Reports by Torreya Volunteers
Listed chronologically from most recent
April 2018 / Connie Barlow / Video-documentation of large-scale FREE-PLANTING / REWILDING experiment on Cumberland PlateauVideo-documentation in November 2017 of 38 newly sprouted seedlings among the 400 seeds "free-planted" two years earlier. This is the most expansive experiment in "rewilding" Torreya taxifolia northward of its peak-glacial endemic refuge in Florida. Filmed and edited by Connie Barlow. Published on youtube April 2018.
VIDEO REPORT November 2017
"Florida Torreya to Cumberland Plateau"
Rewilding an Endangered Tree
See also the Torreya Guardians webpage dedicated to cataloging continuing reports of this Cumberland Plateau project.
March 2018 / Connie Barlow / Scientists choose genetic manipulation for Torreya; ignore assisted migration
Note by Connie Barlow: Four entries down this list (January 2018) you will see a post for a March 1-2 "Torreya Symposium" to be held onsite in n. Florida in the glacial pocket refuge of Torreya taxifolia. The subtitle for the event was "Building a Team to Save North America's Most Endangered Tree Before It's Gone."
I found the subtitle odd, in that we Torreya Guardians are widely recognized in science journals and news media for our success in growing the species northward hence turning around 34 years of the official recovery plan's lack of success in attempting to return it to a healthy state by exclusively focusing on reintroduction into its historic range in Florida.
By the time I learned about this "invitation only" event, the speaker roster was set. When I queried the organizer, forest pathologist Jason Smith at U Florida, he did welcome Torreya Guardians to attend. One of our planters was able to do so and registered for the event and then a bomb fell.
I had reached out by email to several of the scheduled speakers, and one responded with such hostility that both I and our planter volunteer decided not to attend. True, we citizens do create our own Torreya plans and actions beyond the reach and limits of the official plan, and we do so legally. But disagreement between our approaches had never before escalated to outright hostility. This is a sad situation; perhaps in a future entry I will be able to report some level of repair in relations. Even so, outlying institutions beyond FL/GA have been happy to collaborate with us, as we have distributed seeds to a half-dozen botanical gardens as well as many private planters in northward states (see our map two entries down).
Fortunately, an award-winning botanical journalist (Janet Marinelli) attended the event and wrote a 2,300 word report on what happened at the symposium. Click on the title or read excerpts below.
If the work of Torreya Guardians was mentioned at all during the formal sessions of the symposium, it was apparently not enough for Ms. Marinelli to report on. As well, there is only one brief mention of "assisted migration" as a management option. And there is no mention of how the threat of future climate change 36 years after the species was declared "endangered" might call for rethinking where this species should be reintroduced.
IMPORTANT: Ms. Marinelli did reach out to me, asking if I would like to provide a quotable statement for the article. Given that none of us attended the symposium and thus knew nothing of what transpired, I chose to decline the invitation, and simply wait to read her article. Thus the report is necessarily focused on the symposium itself, and cannot provide a bigger context as to why the highly interventionist techniques driving the official team members might generate controversy and be at odds with what is generally known about Torreya taxifolia assisted migration actions, via our group.
Nonetheless, I highly recommend this informative and detailed article for understanding how the official stance of "safeguarding" this species via cryo-preservation of embryos and genetic engineering for disease resistance vastly differs from my own approach as Torreya Guardian founder. Since 2004, I have advocated that we need do little more than simply help this glacial relict find a way back to preferred northward habitats as climate warms and that we do so with the aim of re-establishing ("rewilding") this subcanopy tree as a modest component of our eastern USA deciduous forest fully capable of maintaining on its own and far enough north to escape the lethal effects of its Florida pathogens. Exactly how far north may be necessary for this species to escape pathogens today (and ever onward as climate warms) is something that our existing experiments should be able to help answer. Oh for the day when the USF&WS recovery plan designees would join us in this straightforward, inexpensive, and fruitful effort!• "For Endangered Florida Tree, How Far to Go to Save a Species?", by Janet Marinelli, 27 March 2018, Yale Environment 360 (2,300 words)
EXCERPTS: ... The growing forest health crisis is forcing scientists, conservationists, and the public to answer some of conservation biology's thorniest questions. Will we be able to use biotechnologies on the frontier of plant science to rescue imperiled species? Should we? And when so many species are at risk, does it make sense to go to extraordinary lengths to save a tree like the Florida torreya that has a tiny historical range and no commercial value?...
... Safeguarding the torreya has been staggeringly complex. Unlike most plants, the tree has so-called recalcitrant seeds, which cannot be preserved in conventional seed banks because they can't survive drying. This necessitated the development of a tissue-culture system for the species called somatic embryogenesis....
Note by Connie Barlow of Torreya Guardians: A press release was issued by the University of Florida, reporting the symposium results, and it was published in a Tallahassee newspaper. No mention is made of the experimental approach underway by Torreya Guardians that is, planting the species into northward states to test Torreya's ability to (a) thrive and (b) better resist pathogens in cooler realms. Access "Scientists outline novel approach to save endangered torreya tree", by Samantha Grenrock, 5 April 2018. As well, a Tallahassee TV station conducted a 4-minute VIDEO interview with Jason Smith. Again, no mention is made of long-established groves in North Carolina (Biltmore and Highlands), nor of the assisted migration efforts by citizens, and no mention is made of climate change as an ongoing and accelerating risk to this glacial relict.
February 2018 / Connie Barlow / Narrated video assembled of photos taken in 2005 of site visits to California Torreya trees
In 2005, Connie Barlow visited 4 forested regions in California where Torreya californica could be found growing in the wild. Her aim was to experience and photo-record observations of the trees and their surrounds such that volunteer planters of the Torreya species native to the eastern USA (along with professionals in charge of this endangered species' recovery) could discern habitat preferences of the genus and thus pinpoint similar environments in eastern states for planting seeds and seedlings. Read Connie's 2005 observational notes at: Photo-essays of California Torreyas.
January 2018 / Connie Barlow / Maps Depict Torreya Guardians seed distribution and source documentation
In preparation for the March 2018 Torreya Symposium (see below), I added a section to our History of Torreya Guardians webpage that entails the graphic at left, along with listing the current and extirpated seed sources that we have documented over the years (and sometimes sourced ourselves).
This new graphic is intended to be a helpful visual for volunteers within our group and for interested parties outside to quickly grasp the extent of our "assisted migration" planting actions and our documentation of seed sources past and present.
January 2018 / Connie Barlow / Early Torreya communications now posted as online ARCHIVE
As founder (and webmaster) of Torreya Guardians I have maintained a tremendous number of communications re Torreya assisted migration in digital format, beginning around 2003. Now that a new "Torreya Symposium" will be held in March (see entry below) I determined to make those communications available (and somewhat catalogued/inventoried) for anyone to access online.
In reading over those old communications I was impressed by the degree of science understanding and conservation values being shared among naturalists, botanical experts, and academics in a non-polarized way. Perhaps the upcoming symposium will help today's leaders renew fruitful and friendly discussions, if not joint activities.
You will find this ARCHIVE OF EARLY COMMUNICATIONS at the bottom of the "History of Torreya Guardians" webpage.
The archived documents (in pdf) that are most informative, thought-provoking, and still exceedingly relevant are:
"Responses to Ten Questions" (parts 1 and 2) and "Communications re Pro and Anti draft essays".
January 2018 / Connie Barlow /U. Florida will do T. taxifolia symposium March 1 and 2, Torreya State Park
Symposium: "Celebrating the Florida Torreya Tree of Life"
Featured Speaker: EDWARD O. WILSON (he will also lead a hike)
EXCERPTS: "Building a Team To Save North America's Most Endangered Tree":... Although the species has been subject to extensive conservation interventions, its extinction in the wild is imminent. This event aims to:SCHEDULE (at Gregory House in Torreya State Park):
1. Reflect on Florida torreya and the meaning of its extinction.
2. Examine and discuss the opportunities for linkages between existing resources and experts to develop a plan of action.
3. Establish collaborations that will lead to documentation of the biodiversity associated with Florida torreya in its habitat assembling a "Florida Torreya Tree of Life".March 1: lectures; hike by Ed Wilson, Torreya planting, conservation discussionSee also how this program is listed at University of Florida School of Forestry site.
March 2: Assembling the Torreya Tree of Life (sampling and field work)
SPEAKERS: Edward O. Wilson (Harvard), Jason A. Smith (University of Florida), Pamela Soltis (Florida Museum of Natural History), Lisa Thomson (American Chestnut Foundation), Chuck Cannon (Morton Arboretum), Emily Coffey (Atlanta Botanical Garden), Rob Nicholson (Smith College)
Sponsors: University of Florida, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Florida State Parks
January 2018 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / PHOTO-ESSAY: Could Florida Torreya Take the Place of Eastern Hemlock?
I am reposting here notice of a Torreya webpage that I created back in April 2015, because I recommend it as background reading/viewing for anyone attending the March 2018 Torreya Symposium (listed directly above). The webpage is Could Florida Torreya Take the Place of Eastern Hemlock?. The Asian Woolly Adelgid is destroying hemlock groves from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. Two frigid winters have set back its invasion in New Hampshire. But in the southern Appalachians, the prognosis is dark. Conservation professionals tend to think of Torreya taxifolia as a weak and fragile species which it certainly is in Florida, but not in North Carolina! I have therefore compiled photos of our finest Torreya groves in North Carolina, and I have bolstered my proposal with photos I took on site visits in 2005 to soaring giants of the California species of genus Torreya. Visit the page and see for yourself!
December 2017 / Connie Barlow / Our efforts featured in an editorial in a top science journal
An editorial in the 4 Dec 2017 of Nature, which is one of the world's top scientific journals, features the work of Torreya Guardians. Given that we are an informal organization of volunteer planters, it is interesting that we are referred to as "campaigners". The title is "Grows well in sun and warmth and shade and cold". Here is the paragraph about our actions:"A common prediction for how plants will respond to climate change is that it is humans who got them into this mess and so it is humans who will have to get them out of it. That's why the idea of assisted migration of species, although often illustrated with the proposal to shift polar bears to the Antarctic, crops up more frequently in conversations about how to preserve iconic trees. Indeed, in one of the only real-world examples of assisted migration so far, campaigners have planted the seeds of the critically endangered conifer Torreya taxifolia hundreds of miles north of its Florida home."
December 2017 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians work acknowledged in academic symposium
I watched this day-long symposium as online VIDEOS. I was very impressed with how well the event was structured to efficiently provide technical information and ideas to a core audience working on west coast climate adaptation efforts for plants, animals, and marine settings and who wanted to spend a day exploring the decision frameworks and actual experiences in a still-controversial form of climate adaptation: "managed relocation" (more typically called "assisted migration.).
Torreya Guardians was mentioned several times. Importantly, we were the prime example given, and our work was spoken of in a neutral way (whereas in the past there has been hostility in some corners of academia, owing to us stepping out ahead of the academics in this way, and doing so legally.)
MARK SCHWARTZ did a terrific job in summarizing the history of the controversy, which did in fact begin with the actions of Torreya Guardians. Watch the first minute-and-a-half of Schwartz's presentation to see him speaking of his early work with Torreya taxifolia and then of our guardians actions. I highly recommend sampling the entire symposium. Consult this 1-page PDF I created that lists which videos (and timecodes within) have sections ideal for our volunteers to watch.
December 2017 / Connie Barlow / Atlanta Botanical Garden is stepping up its Torreya seed distribution
Paul Camire (one of our Torreya Guardians in Michigan) alerted me to a superb and detailed web page on Torreya taxifolia by Center for Plant Conservation that entails contributed reports from a variety of botanical gardens. Carrie Radcliffe contributed an update in December 2017 that confirms that they have so stepped up their collecting and distribution (to bona fide botanical gardens) of seeds produced in their "orchard" (early reproductive shrubs, owing to fast maturation of rooted branchlets) in Smithgall Woods of northern Georgia that "nearly 5000 cones [seeds] were harvested in 2016." This is great news. From about 2011 through 2015, Torreya Guardians was allowed access to collecting seeds from this site which otherwise would have simply been harvested by local squirrels. We knew we would lose access to harvest opportunities from 2016 onward, so it is gratifying to learn that apparently no seeds are going to waste. Here is what Carrie Radcliffe reported:"Atlanta Botanical Garden and the University of Georgia have also established a Torreya seed orchard, where nearly 5,000 cones were harvested in 2016. Seed has been shared, and seedlings are being distributed to other botanic gardens to use in developing additional ex situ collections and another seed orchard. ABG is currently sharing seeds and seedlings with conservation institutions as part of an agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to distribute material for ex situ conservation. The next step for the conservation program is to reintroduce the species into areas where it has been lost and to continue protecting trees from deer pressure."While it is good news to hear that seeds are going to botanical gardens for "ex situ collections and another seed orchard," there is no mention of "assisted migration" experiments of the kind that Torreya Guardians has pioneered. As things stand, with the exception of seed collection from private residences where mature trees are reproducing in Highlands NC and Clinton NC, Torreya Guardians is unlikely to have access to hundreds of seeds in the years ahead. Thus our ongoing work will be monitoring, analyzing, and reporting on the existing experimental plantings in northward states including in natural forested habitats ("rewilding").
December 2017 / Nelson Stover / Fourth-year report at Greensboro, NC
Of the 30 seeds planted in November 2013, 22 had become little seedlings within these first four years. Notably, 4 of those seedlings emerged only late in the fourth year. Twenty more seeds were planted November 2015; the first 7 of which appeared as seedlings between spring and summer of 2017. All seeds had been "free-planted" directly into the soil of the Stover's regrowth hardwood forest, with no overlying rock or wire protection.
In addition to substantial success in seeds escaping rodent predation underground, even seedlings that experienced substantial above-ground herbivory (whether by rodents, rabbits, or deer) have demonstrated superb capacity to regenerate both by budding along the original stem and by sending up a basal sprout from just beneath the ground surface. (See photos left of post-herbivory re-growth. The seedling at Marker 3, which had been declared "no recovery" from herbivory in the Nov 2016 report, demonstrated remarkable recovery in the 2017 report.
Access the Greensboro NC reports page, or go directly to the 35-page photo-rich report compiling November 2017 results in PDF.
December 2017 / Connie Barlow / Your National Forests magazine reports on assisted migration of Torreya Guardians
"The current issue of Your National Forests uses Florida Torreya as a prime example of "assisted migration" of a climate-threatened tree.
Excerpt: "Another example of such 'assisted migration' in action can be seen with the Florida Torreya ... Facing a likely extinction from a warming climate and restricted range, foresters are experimenting with planting Florida Torreya farther north in Georgia and even into North Carolina."
Note: Only Torreya Guardians is active in assisting this species northward of Georgia. Torreya Guardians also provided the magazine with a photograph used in the article.
December 2017 / Connie Barlow / Site visit at 2-year-old seed planting, Cumberland Plateau TN
Twenty-two months (September 2017) after free-planting 400 Torreya taxifolia seeds (at depth or under rocks) on his 232 acres on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee, Chris Anderson began to see the seedlings emerge. Each seed had been given a flag marker upon planting; each seedling received a second flag.
Mid-November Connie Barlow visited Chris and took a tour of a portion of his Torreya plantings, which were concentrated along the slopes of a ravine deep and cool enough to support hemlock trees.
Now there is a photo-rich webpage that documents Chris's Torreya plantings. (Connie will soon edit and post a video, too.)
November 2017 / Fred Bess / Torreya Guardian in Cleveland OH produces first "fruits"
Could this be the first T. tax to seed set in the state of Ohio in thousands of years?
The female is the plant on the right, male in the middle. The one on the left that was damaged by deer [autumn 2014] has yet to show me what sex it is.
Full report at the Cleveland OH Torreya webpage.
November 2017 / Connie Barlow / Photo of Torreya species in China
Chinese media posted this photo, with this caption: "Farmers hold hands around a thousand-year old Chinese torreya tree in Zhaojia Town of Zhuji City, east of China's Zhejiang Province, Nov. 7, 2017. Zhuji City is a major producer of Chinese torreya with the total output reaching over 2,500 tons in 2016."
Note: Torreya trees of all species are highly valued in Asian countries as wood for Go and Shogi game boards. See the wikipedia entry.
The multi-stem feature of this Chinese Torreya is likely a result of many centuries of sustainable yield forestry: cutting mature stems that immediately sprout basals. Each subsequent generation of growth above the same rootstock thus results in a multi-stemmed, widening cluster of trunks.
November 2017 / Connie Barlow / Dayton OH free-planting success: 6 inches deep in soil
PHOTO LEFT: Diana Spiegel takes Connie Barlow on a tour of her free-planted Torreyas on 9 November 2017. In September she had noticed that 7 of the 12 seeds she planted spring 2016 (from fall 2014 seed harvest) were now 4 to 6 inch tall seedlings. All were planted on this south-facing forested slope along a creek south of Dayton OH, deciduous canopy.
Each seed had been planted 6 inches deep and was surrounded by a mesh of chickenwire also buried 6 inches (and staked). Confirming that Torreya seeds easily sprout at that depth is important news for future free-plantings seeking rodent protection via depth.
November 2017 / Connie Barlow / First Torreya seedling donated to Morton Arboretum, Chicago
November 2, 2017, my husband and I were near Chicago, and I realized that the famed Morton Arboretum would be a superb home for the one remaining seedling I had been nurturing in a pot out west from the set of 3,900 seeds that Frank Callahan had donated to Torreya Guardians from his 2-tree harvest in Medford OR, fall 2016. See video: "Florida Torreya Seed Production in Medford OR."
PHOTO LEFT: Matt Lobdell, Head of Collections and Curator, was happy to accept this gift, along with the source information (National Arboretum seeds 25 years ago grown into trees in Medford OR).
Morton already had an Asian species onsite, T. nucifera, and they are a leader in promoting future-adapted species for street tree plantings in Chicago.
The near PHOTO was taken June 17.
October 2017 / Chris Anderson / Free-planted Torreya seeds sprouting on Cumberland Plateau
Chris Anderson has 232 acres of reforested and wildlife habitat near Spring City TN, 1200-ft elevation overall, with some steep ravines and ridges, bounded on one side by Stinging Fork State Park.
He "free-planted" (directly into forested ground) most of the 400 seeds sent to him from our Fall 2015 seed harvest. Sites especially included the steep ravine slope rich in hemlock trees.
As of 23 October 2017 he reports, "I started to find 4 to 6 inch seedlings that have sprouted. There are 22 so far but I have not checked all locations."
Note: Connie Barlow later visited the site (on November 12) and videoed Chris showing the newly sprouted seedlings and explaining the habitat nuances and his planting techniques. The video will be posted after editing.
October 2017 / Clint Bancroft / Site Visit to Big Torreya in Madison FL
Editor's note: This past spring Clint Bancroft wrote the Chamber of Commerce of Madison County, Florida, in an attempt to track down the whereabouts of any mature Torreya taxifolia remaining in that area.
The Chamber provided ample information, which is included in a new webpage on the Madison tree(s).
There you will also find photographs taken by Clint during his visit to Madison, including proof (3rd photo) that this tree is predominantly female. Clint also measured circumference (72.5 inches) = 2 foot diameter and took cuttings in order to preserve the genotype via rooting those branchlets.
October 2017 / Connie Barlow / Update on Atlanta Botanical Garden's management of Torreya taxifolia
Atlanta Botanical Garden is the lead institution for implementing the Endangered Species management plan for T. taxifolia. "Recovery of the Florida Torreya - one of the rarest conifers in the world", by Atlanta Botanical Garden, was published on the website of Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanic Gardens, 7 September 2017.
This short article is helpful for several reasons: (1) It confirms that T. taxifolia cannot be successfully stored as a dried or frozen seed, but there has been success via a somatic embryogenesis tissue culture system to produce somatic seedlings and cryogenically store cultures of T. taxifolia, and (2) their entire approach to species conservation still anticipates restoration in historically native habitat, along with research into its "evolution under predicted climate change." Thus we Torreya Guardians and allied institutions are still vital for pressing forward with assisted migration approaches to species rescue in this time of rapid climate change.
Thanks to Paul Camire, Torreya Guardian and planter in Capac, Michigan, for alerting us to this article.
September 2017 / Connie Barlow / A conifer cousin of Torreya can be nurtured tall from rooted branchlet
As of September 2017 we have no clear observations (and varying predictions) on whether Torreya cuttings clipped from lateral branches and then rooted can ever be nurtured into producing vertical trees v. the usual shrub-like growth form. And no one has yet confirmed whether clipping and rooting the vertical leaders of basal sprouts produces better tree-form results. However, I have just video-documented a redwood grower in California who confirms that rooted lateral branchlets produce squirrely branches in their early years and continue to do so at their lower lateral levels even after staking a potential central stem finally yields a singular and strong vertical leader that begins producing the tree form. Go to timecode 28:06 of the video by Connie Barlow, CTL 9E - California Sequoias to Inland Pacific NW: Is it too dry?, and there you will see images of the strange lower branches but strong top leader, while Denise Rushing talks about her nurturing of this redwood sapling.
July 2017 / Connie Barlow / a must-read academic paper for Torreya GuardiansA lengthy paper published in the journal Rhodora is of special interest to Torreya Guardians for several reasons. The paper is "Climate Change, Managed Relocation, and the Risk of Intra-Continental Plant Invasions: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration Relative to the Flora of New England". It is the first paper that, because it focuses on real data for a single region, concludes that arguments invoking "the precautionary principle" against assisted migration of climate-endangered plants of the southeastern USA poleward into New England are overwrought. The paper thus recommends collaboration between southeastern botanists (expert in small-range endemic plant species of this non-glaciated and, in some locations, peak-glacial refugial, region) and New England conservation biologists, such as the authors. Torreya taxifolia and the citizen initiative of Torreya Guardians is mentioned in the paper. (Note: the link above will take you to an excerpted section within this website's long "assisted migration scholarly links" page; from there you can access the entire pdf.)
July 2017 / Court Lewis / Planting seeds 5 inches deep yields success!
Court Lewis in northeastern Tennessee began planting seeds from Torreya Guardians from our fall 2015 harvest. Check out the new webpage for his plantings in Unicoi, TN, which includes lots of photos. Here is a first very significant experimental result:"I had begun to think that the seeds I planted without protecting cans had been eaten or were too deep. But they've just started coming up. I had them at 5 inches deep compared to 1-2 inches in the rodent-protected cans, so it just took them longer. Also, lately we're been having heavy rains, after a long dry period. Torreya seems to like our orange clay-rich soil in East Tennessee.
"... Counting 7 no-shows in a can, one lost can, two killed by a deer stepping into the can, 3 dying of sun/drought, and 3 deep-plantings that haven't surfaced yet, I have 17 healthy seedlings out of 34 seeds planted a 50% success rate (so far).
May 2017 / Clint Bancroft / Ocoee TN Torreya Update
LEFT: Potted seedlings protected from deer (notice they are kept under a deciduous shade canopy).
I am preparing to plant out on my property, the 33 seedlings I have managed to grow from the 50 seeds Connie Barlow gave me [from fall 2014 harvest via Jack Johnston]. As I plant each one on the property, I am labeling it with the source of its seed.
I believe we have had success rooting SOME of the Columbus GA tree cuttings. They all looked beautiful until late spring of this year, even having put out new growth, then several died suddenly. The remainder seem to still be in good shape. I had kept most of them indoors in heated and unheated rooms, and a few were left outdoors. This week I will be moving the indoor group out into my propagation area...
Continue reading on Clint's: Ocoee Torreya webpage.
Note: Clint also reported results of his experiment of germination differences between 'sinker' and 'floater' seeds. The results (floaters germinate well) confirm what Lee Barnes ascertained in 2012. Read both of their short reports on the Propoagate page here.
May 2017 / Clint Bancroft / The Columbus GA old Torreya Trees were planted (not wild)
There is no longer any doubt; another question has been answered.
After seeing the photograph (left) that Dr. Kim Coder produced, I can tell you that Jack and I DID find the stumps of the two Columbus Torreyas that have been cut down.They were perfectly positioned on each side of the walkway into the house next to the house with the existing tree.I recognize both houses in her pictures. Unfortunately, the stumps were rotting with no basal sprouts when Jack and I located them. Now we can be sure that those stumps were the other two cut-down Torreyas.
We thus know that all three of the Columbus Torreyas were originally growing very close together. This would not be unusual for wild trees which grew there before the founding of Columbus, as have been suggested by some. However, the linear relation of the trees to each other and equidistant from the street, indicate they were far more likely to have been intentionally planted there. All three trees were arranged in a straight line running north to south in front of the houses and parallel to the street out front.
May 2017 / Nelson Stover / Greensboro NC Torreya Update
Nelson and Elaine Stover updated the ongoing (pdf) report of their Torreya plantings in Greensboro, North Carolina, in May 2017. They have had superb success with 'free-planting' seeds (directly into the ground, unprotected from rodents and deer). The photo at left is from their richly illustrated May 2017 report.
April 2017 / Connie Barlow / Distribution of 2016 Medford OR seed harvest
Frank Callahan (photo left) transferred the final 1,000 seeds of his 2016 Torreya taxifolia seed harvest to me (Connie Barlow) in Medford, Oregon (February 2017). This month, April, I completed mailing the entire inventory to 6 distinct volunteer planters in 5 states, via priority mail boxes. I maintain a confidential document of all distribution details for each year.
An overview of the locations and counts for my 1,000 seeds: 400 to an arboretum near Louisville KY; 120 to a new volunteer near Crossville TN; 40 to a new volunteer near Mars Hill NC; 60 to an existing partner in Loveland OH; 150 to a new volunteer in the thumb of Michigan (Capac); 240 to a new volunteer (property held in a land trust) on the Leelaunaw Peninsula of Michigan. The more southerly states are known to be excellent Torreya locations; Michigan is a test state for anticipating rapid climate change. Other Torreya Guardians took charge of distributing the bulk of the 2016 Medford seed harvest: Lee Barnes (1,000 seeds); Daein Ballard (1,000); Jack Johnston (900).
February 2017 / Connie Barlow / New VIDEO of ex-situ seed source in Medford, Oregon
Florida Torreya Seed Production in Medford, Oregon (2017) is our newest video. February 3, 2017, Frank Callahan transferred 1,000 seeds from the 2016 autumn harvest of Torreya taxifolia seeds from two trees he had germinated from seed at an ex-situ planting (Medford, Oregon) some 22+ years earlier. He also shows two shrubby-form trees of Florida Torreya, about 22 years old. Significant discoveries: (a) rooted branchlets will not develop into single-stem trees and (b) Florida Torreya is harmed by sudden exposure to full-intensity sunlight, and even new leaves produced in direct sunlight may never adapt to sun-scald.
24 minutes - filmed February 2017
March 2017 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians featured in Resilience blog
"Helping Forests Migrate" by author Richard Heinberg begins: "A few weeks ago I had coffee with Connie Barlow, an author of popular science books (including The Ghosts of Evolution, 2002), as she and her partner Michael Dowd stopped in Santa Rosa en route southward. Among other things, we talked about the human-assisted migration of trees in response to climate change. I didn't know much about the topic before, but have done a little reading recently at Connie's behest, and the subject seems worth exploring in an essay.
"... Connie coordinated the formation of Torreya Guardians, an organization that has legally planted nursery-grown seedlings of Torreya taxifolia in two forested plots of private land in the mountains of North Carolina. This is, of course, only a token example of the efforts that would be required in order to make a significant difference in the survival of North American tree species."
February 2017 / Connie Barlow / Essay on psychological grief for conservationists who learn about climate changeI just encountered a 2015 article by a 35-year National Park Service employee who writes about the disorientation and depression he entered when realizing how devastating climate change is becoming for the forests of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. You can access excerpts (and also the full article by Nathan Stephenson: "Making the Transition to the Third Era of Natural Resources Management".
January 2017 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians "Learnings" section updated for 2016I updated the Learnings section to finish out the entries for 2016. Most recent entries include (1) Preventing Rodent Destruction of Torreya Roots; (2) Apical Recovery from Herbivore Nibbling; (3) Surviving Extreme Cold and Drought in New Hampshire.
January 2017 / Fred Bess / The newly declared Torreya champion in Ohio is actually a big shrub
Fred Bess (Cleveland OH Torreya Guardian) visited the newly declared "national champion" Torreya taxifolia at Spring Grove Cemetery.
His conclusion: "It seems obvious that it is cutting-grown [not from seed], as it is an oversized bush."
December 2016 / Connie Barlow / Hi-res photos 2005 of champion Calif Torreya posted
Back in 2005 when I made site visits to 5 regionally distinct areas of California where Torreya californica grew in the wild, the internet could only support small, low-resolution photos.
Now I have a reason to post higher resolution versions of the 2005 images in order to try to discern whether the then-champion tree (which died in 2014) may actually have been 2 merged stems.
November 2016 / Nelson Stover / 1/3 of free-planted Torreya seeds germinated within 2 years
Summary of results: Nelson wrote: "Elaine and I conducted another photo examination of the initial plantings. Yesterday we found 10 seedlings from 30 seeds."
Editor's notes: Nelson and Elaine Stover live in Greensboro, NC (elevation 1,000 feet). Visit the Greensboro Torreya webpage dedicated to their Torreya work; many photos and detailed photo-essays in pdf are available from there.
"Free-planting" refers to planting seeds directly into woodland soil (rather than starting them in protected pots or seed beds). The greatest challenges to free-planting are (a) seeds may be dug up and eaten by rodents, and (b) the young seedlings may be partially or entirely nibbled by deer and rabbits. At least 1 (possibly 2) of the germinated seedlings were killed by leaf herbivory within a year of germination.
November 2016 / Clint Bancroft / cuttings from and measurements of the biggest Florida Torreya
Jack Johnston and I made a pilgrimage to Columbus (Georgia) where we collected 6 gallon-size bags of cuttings from the old Torreya. These have been distributed among four different propagators so we hope for the best. I have probably a hundred cuttings myself, so if we have even modest success we will have succeeded in saving the genes of this venerable tree.
Jack and I were able to measure the tree's circumference. At four feet from the ground it measures an impressive 80 inches!
(We were not able to locate the stump next door which was the remains of the second Torreya. There were a couple of stumps in the yard but they were rotting.)
Editor's note: Establishing the circumference is important because, following the death of the old Torreya in Norlina, NC, a Florida Torreya in an arboretum in Ohio had been listed as the species champion (here) but the Ohio tree circumference is just 52 inches.
November 2016 / Jack Johnston and Connie Barlow / Nursery near Atlanta has 2-year-old potted seedlings for sale
Jack wrote: "Nearly Native Nursery has many Torreya seedlings for sale. I visited recently and saw the young plants that are one or two years old."
Connie wrote: Excellent supplier: Here is their Florida Torreya webpage. Know that to comply with the Endangered Species Act, purchasers must go to the nursery to buy seedlings; then you can drive across state lines legally with the seedlings. The ESA law simply dis-allows "sales" in interstate commerce. We Torreya Guardians operate strictly by gifting; but nurseries need to stay in business. Learn more about how commercial nurseries assist endangered plants.
November 2016 / Connie Barlow / Proposal to University of Washington to Inventory Sequoias
Because I am in the Pacific NW from September 2016 thru January 2017, I decided to use my experience with Torreya Guardians to advocate for preliminary data collection in advance of potential "assisted migration" of two California native tree species that are likely to become "climate refugees" this century.
Hence a proposal I submitted to University of Washington's new Center for Creative Conservation to initiate student projects and citizen science to simply inventory the whereabouts, health, and "naturalization" (seed dispersal capacity) of the Giant Sequoias and Coast Redwoods that landscapers have long been planting in the Pacific Northwest. Proposal: "Redwood and Sequoia Inventory for Puget Sound Region".
Update: Connie's proposal was not accepted for further development.
Above: Connie in front of a redwood tree planted in 1947 in Seabeck Washington (west side of Puget Sound). She is pointing toward the wild forest where multi-age redwoods growing amidst the dominant Douglas-fir indicate that this California species is not only capable of growing far north of its "native range" but that it can reproduce and establish with no additional human assistance.
November 2016 / Connie Barlow / Connie Barlow meets key assisted migration forest researcher
November 4 I spent the day with one of the most respected forest geneticists undertaking research to ascertain how far native trees of the western USA will need to move poleward (or upslope) during this century of rapid climate change. Pictured left: me with Gerald (Jerry) Rehfeldt.
First, we met with 4 of his peers at the U.S. Forest Service research station in Moscow, Idaho. After lunch, 4 of us ventured south to Lewiston, where we visited the grove of Arizona Cypress that has been growing well in a xeric garden there since 1995, thanks to Jerry. I posted a photo-essay of our Lewiston visit.
October 2016 / Chris Larson / Florida's Shoal Sanctuary success with free-planting Torreya seeds
Autumn 2016 a Florida Arborist posted a 10-minute VIDEO on youtube that is a quick tour of Shoal Sanctuary. Shoal Sanctuary is in the panhandle of Florida, west of the protected critical habitat of the species along the Apalachicola River. (Video is also posted on the webpage of Torreya plantings at Shoal Sanctuary.)
Note: In March 2015 Chris Larson organized groups of scout, church, and other youth to plant seeds of Torreya taxifolia that were donated for this purpose by Torreya Guardians. For details and photos, see Photo-essay: Children Plant Torreya Seeds at Shoal Sanctuary (FL) (which is updated as project produces results).
September 2016 / Frank Callahan / Torreya Guardians offered seeds from documented trees in Oregon
"We have an abundant crop on two Torreya taxifolia trees in Medford, Oregon - and I do mean abundant!!! Please contact me if you could use some seeds. These are both monoecious trees that are loaded with fruit. Both trees are ca. 20 yrs. old." (email from Frank Callahan)
December 2016 update: Several Torreya Guardians received 2016 seeds from Callahan, and we created a new Oregon ex-situ page for posting photos and results ongoingly.
Editor's note: Frank Callahan, a conifer aficionado who specializes in the genera Pinus and Cupressus, has nominated more than 80 National Champion Trees certified by American Forest in Washington, D.C. He has published in Herbertia and Phytologia (Calochortus syntrophus/C. coxii) and revised the entire genus Calochortus in Bulbs of North America. Frank owns and operates Callahan Seeds. See a full biography of Callahan in a 2009 issue of the journal of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. Torreya Guardians is fortunate to have received this offer from Frank. We will soon create a webpage For the full and continuing correspondence with Frank. Access a short biography of Frank on page 15 of a 2013 issue of the same journal, at the end of his coauthored historical report, "Botanizers in the Land of Conifers.
Frank has been instrumental in effectively doing (solo) an emergency assisted migration of the gravely endangered Chihuahua Spruce (of NW Mexico). The local paper in Medford Oregon published a news article in 2007 of Frank's role in acquiring seedlings of the spruce in Mexico and planting them 25 years ago in a Medford local park. Read this news report online: "Pair team up to save endangered trees". Frank is quoted that the Chihuahua Spruce he planted had begun producing seeds and that the trees were doing well: "It's the spruce on steroids."
Go to the Torreya californica page on The Gymnosperm Database website and do an internal search for "Callahan." There you will see Frank's involvement in documenting ages of fallen specimens of the oldest California Torreya trees, including one whose disk contained 480 rings over a diameter of 45 cm. He also recently documented that the then-champion tree that Connie was photographed standing alongside in 2005 near Santa Cruz (which fell in 2011) had a disk of 286 rings in a diameter of 204 cm (29 meters tall).
August 2016 / by Connie Barlow / Video posted that celebrates tree-planting mythic story
Pt. 7D: ASSISTED MIGRATION MYTHIC INTERLUDE
This is the fourth installment in the Alligator Juniper Assisted Range Expansion series within Connie Barlow's Climate, Trees, and Legacy video series, posted on another website. She is cross-posting that video here because it centers on an award-winning 1987 video of the key mythic story (by Jean Giono) that motivates her action: "The Man Who Planted Trees".
14 minutes - published 10 August, 2016. WATCH
August 2016 / by Connie Barlow / New discoveries shape best practices for planting Torreya
In 2016 a paper was published in Science that requires an immense worldview shift in how we study and interpret forestry results. "Belowground carbon trade among tall trees in a temperate forest", by Tamir Klein et al. (2 pages), is a must-read for all Torreya planters. Planting Torreya seeds or seedlings beneath a mature deciduous canopy will ensure drought and winter-wind protection, while offering opportunities for the young trees to receive sugars from the canopy via fungal root connections so long as canopy trees include those using ENDO (not ECTO) mycorrhizal types. To learn about this amazing discovery via video format, watch this 15-minute TED talk by forester Suzanne Simard in 2016: "How Trees Talk to Each Other".
July 2016 / of Lee Barnes / First video "Torreya Guardian Profile": Lee Barnes
21: Torreya Guardian Profile: Lee Barnes (VIDEO: 16 minutes)
Lee Barnes is a founding Torreya Guardian, with the longest tenure of work with Torreya taxifolia. From 1981-85 his graduate research entailed advanced propagation techniques for three endangered plants in Torreya State Park of Florida Torreya among them. Here Lee speaks of his research, his early role in securing Torreya seeds for distribution to volunteer planters, and his broader frame of biodiversity-centric life work. Lee confirms that North Carolina is excellent habitat for this Florida species and that it is crucial to experiment with plantings much farther north as climate continues to change.
July 2016 / by Connie Barlow / Two-part video report of 8-year old plantings in Lake Junaluska, NC
20a: Root-eating rodents kill endangered Florida Torreya at Junaluska NC
Of the 5 remaining Torreyas planted in 2008 at the lower end of the garden, 2 were killed by rodents eating the tree roots overwinter 2015/16 and another is gravely injured in the same way. Both of the uninjured young trees are being dangerously encroached upon by rapidly expanding rhododendron patches. Connie Barlow narrates, with assistance by Michael Dowd. Note: This is a 2016 follow-up to 10b video filmed 2015 at Corneille Bryan Garden in Lake Junaluska, NC.
29 minutes - filmed 21 May 2016
20b: Two biggest Florida Torreya trees still thriving at Junaluska NC in 2016
Both trees planted in full sun (as potted seedlings) in the upper end of Corneille Bryan Garden in 2008 are continuing to excel despite now being fully shaded by deciduous border and canopy. A key finding is that neither specimen produced vertical apical growth in 2015, but both are doing so in 2016.
21 minutes - filmed 21 May 2016
July 2016 / by Connie Barlow / Video report posted on youtube of superb growth on Torreyas in central Ohio
13b: Florida Torreya to Ohio's Dawes Arboretum (pt b) 2016
Documents superb annual growth on the two Florida Torreya specimens beneath a full deciduous canopy (and protected from winter winds by a border of evergreen conifers). Confirms 1-month difference in vegetational budburst bt the Florida Torreya (May budburst) and adjacent Chinese Torreya (June budburst). Speculation on the importance of nearby maple helping the Torreyas by shared fungal root symbionts.
17 minutes - filmed June 18, 2016
July 2016 / by Connie Barlow / Information on uses of Torreya grandis seeds in Chinese markets
I have a "Google Alert" for keyword "torreya", so I know that the seed of the Chinese species of genus Torreya is a commercial product (photo left). A 2016 Chinese article (in English) linked here gives a hint at how complicated the processing is from seeds grown in a tended 500-year-old grove. "After the seeds are harvested, they must go through a month of natural fermentation, as well as two separate manual frying processes. Only then will they become the golden aromatic nuts that appear on store shelves. The complexity of the process has always caused Torreya to fetch a high market price."
June 2016 / by Connie Barlow / More experimentation needed in "free-planting" Torreya seeds
After two winters in the ground in southern Ohio, 3 of the initial 18 seeds "free-planted" were visible above ground. All 18 seeds had been intentionally planted on very steep slopes in full-canopy deciduous moist forest in a ravine. The intent was to ensure that no buck deer would be able to rub against a torreya sapling to dislodge antler velvet (as this is a big problem almost everywhere that torreyas grow). All 18 seeds were planted shallow in the soil, with no rock protection and all 3 successes are very near downed logs or large branches. Conclusion: As of 2016 Connie is very unsure of the best techniques for free-planting Torreya taxifolia!
More experimentation is needed. See more photos and information in the free-planting section of the propagate page.
July 2016 / by Connie Barlow / New section added to "Assisted Migration Scholarly Links"
Since 2007 I have been posting annotated links on a webpage dedicated to keeping track and ensuring easy access to research papers and news reports on the the topic of "assisted migration". We at Torreya Guardians were prominently mentioned in those early papers and reports, because at the time Torreya taxifolia was about the only example of a species actually being deliberately moved poleward to escape the adverse impacts of climate change already experienced in its native range. Because that webpage is so voluminous, I just added a new, directly accessible section that will list new entries by year.
Check out the 2 entries thus far included for 2016. Highly recommended for its superb background and implications for North American forests is the July 2016 article in The Economist, titled "Ravaged Woodlands."
May 2016 / by Buford Pruitt and Connie Barlow / Video report posted on youtube of trees in Brevard NC
19a: Florida Torreya to Brevard NC: 2016 Report
Buford Pruitt leads Connie Barlow on a video tour of his 17 Torreya taxifolia caged seedlings, planted in partial sun offered by his homesite edges in a regrowth forest near Brevard NC. Significant findings: Watch an "autopsy" of the one plant that died during the winter, and see evidence rodent predation of roots and lower bark. Learn how to assess plant vigor and important measurements to record. Notice the "basal sprouts" and why they should never be pruned back. Buford's trees are all from 2010, 2011, and 2012 Torreya Guardians seed harvests.
45 minutes - filmed 25 May 2016
19b: Florida Torreya to Brevard NC: 2016 Report
The last half of Buford Pruitt's tour of his 16 still-living caged seedlings. Three apparently are planted on the compacted soil of an old logging road, and are struggling. Connie steers a discussion of the overall forest health: Why is there so little greenery on the forest floor? Pieced in are video segments of the lush greenery surrounding the original torreya plantings at the Waynesville site, 700 feet higher in elevation and on a far steeper (never cattle-grazed?) slope. Overall, this 2-part series is a superb video for all new Torreya Guardians to watch in order to help them assess their own properties for where best to plant seedlings.
35 minutes - filmed 25 May 2016
April 2016 / by Connie Barlow / Article offers shift in conservation outlook (by Janet Marinelli)
"As World Warms, How Do We Decide When a Plant is Native?"
Old-time Torreya Guardians will remember botanist-writer Janet Marinelli accompanying us during our 2008 North Carolina seedling planting adventure. Janet's essay on our project appeared in a 2010 issue of Audubon Magazine: "Guardian Angels". This month, Janet continues her exploration of "assisted migration" of native plants northward during this time of rapid climate change. Her online essay in Yale Environment 360 explores the inadvertent assistance provided to one of America's most beautiful understory forest trees, Umbrella Magnolia 150 years ago at the home of poet Emily Dickinson.EXCERPTS: "Among the plants that survive on the family property where Dickinson confined herself for much of her adult life are picturesque old trees called umbrella magnolias (Magnolia tripetala) so named because their leaves, which can reach two feet long, radiate out from the ends of branches like the spokes of an umbrella. The trees, believed to have been planted by Emily's brother Austin, have jumped the garden gate in recent decades and established wild populations not far from the poet's home. This new location is a couple of hundred miles north of the tree's native range, centered in the sheltered woods and ravines of the Appalachian Mountains, and is the first evidence that native plant horticulture in the United States "is giving some species a head-start on climate change," according to Smith College biologist Jesse Bellemare.
"Ironically, the denizen of the Dickinson homestead is also challenging basic precepts of conservation practice, such as what is the definition of 'native'? Are climate refugees that hitchhike north via horticulture less worthy of protection than plants that arrive on their own? Do they pose a threat to existing native species? Should native plant gardening, the domestic form of assisted migration, be used to help plants stranded in inhospitable habitat?"
Click to continue reading the article. Click also to the Magnolia section of our links webpage (then scroll) to read excerpts of Jesse Bellemare's 2015 paper on the discovery of Umbrella Magnolia escapees.
April 2016 / by Daein Ballard / New Hampshire Torreyas survive their first winter
April 2016 UPDATE: "I just wanted to let you know that Kinder Morgan suspended the Northeast Energy Direct project which was the gas pipeline project that was supposed to affect my property. Doesn't mean it's dead for good, but it's very good news nonetheless. On a side note, it seems all of my Torreya have made it through winter alive."
February 2016 UPDATE: "Last weekend it got down to -14F, with a wind chill of -40F, which is a new low temp since I moved here. I've looked at all the Torreya and in spite of their young age they all pulled through completely unscathed. Since then it's gotten over 50F twice to give the seedlings a chance to show signs of damage if there was any. This is with all of the seedlings being at least partially exposed, since the snow was only a few inches deep. Even the most exposed seedlings in open areas show no ill effects."
Click to access the New Hampshire Torreya webpage.
March 2016 / by Connie Barlow / New hour-long video narrates site visits to Torreyas at Biltmore Gardens
VIDEO: Florida Torreya Grove at Biltmore Gardens NC: 75 years old
In 1939 Chauncey Beadle supplied the Biltmore Estate with a dozen Torreya taxifolia seeds or specimens collected in Florida prior to any understanding of climate change and endangered species. Now this 75-year-old grove and its offspring are precious for securing the wellbeing of the species and for demonstrating that (with little human help) North Carolina is an ideal habitat for escaping the native diseases of a now too-warm Florida. Connie Barlow narrates photos and videos she captured on site visits to the Biltmore: February 2004, August 2006, and April 2015.
1 hour - assembled and posted March 15, 2016
March 2016 / by Connie Barlow / New US Forest Service Report Features Florida Torreya Assisted Migration Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis, James Vose et al., editors (300 pages in pdf; collaborative effort of 77 scientists).
Although this document pertains to projecting and managing for drought the forests of the USA, it necessarily deals with the whole of climate change. This document is highly recommended as an overview of the current research and for its superb lists of key references by chapter. Only one tree species is mentioned in having ASSISTED MIGRATION underway in the USA:
p. 81 "Centuries of horticultural and decades of silvicultural practices show that growth and establishment (reproductive success) of many tree species is possible well outside of their native ranges. Many commercial (e.g., loblolly pine) and ornamental species have had their ranges greatly expanded across the Southeastern United States. The widespread plantings of the southern magnolia in the southeastern Piedmont (Gruhn and White 2011) and upper Coastal Plain, and bois d'arc (Maclura pomifera) across the Eastern United States (Burton 1990) are examples of such facilitated migrations, helping to establish these species well beyond their native ranges. While these cultivated successes could be viewed as examples of the potential conservation value of assisted migration, far less is known about the likelihood of success of this management practice for the species most directly threatened by climate-induced environmental change. Efforts are currently underway to see if assisted migration can help with the federally endangered Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) as well as a number of other tree species imperiled by the anticipated impacts of increased drought and higher temperatures on their limited native distributions (McLachlan and others 2007, Williams and Dumroese 2013).
Note: In March, I checked with our staff contact at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see if they now regard their ex situ Torreya plantings in northern Georgia as being a foundational component of a developing assisted migration project. Her answer was no. So the reference to Florida Torreya assisted migration in this U.S. Forest Service report is referring entirely to the project initiated by TORREYA GUARDIANS.
January 2016 / by Connie Barlow / New hour-long VIDEO posted of basic Torreya background
VIDEO: Site Visits to Florida's Endangered Torreya and Yew Trees
Connie Barlow presents 15 years of baseline photos and videos she recorded of Torreya taxifolia and Taxus floridana in their historically native range in Torreya State Park in northern Florida. Photos of spectacular California Torreya trees, recorded by Barlow in 2005, show the potential for Florida Torreya recovery efforts to strive for. Fred Bess shows (in 2014 video) 2 Asian conifers (Cephalotaxus and Cunninghamia) used in landscaping that are Torreya look-alikes. Paleoecological evidence that Florida's Torreya was "left behind" in its peak glacial refuge supports "assisted migration" actions.
January 2016 / by Court Lewis / Report on seed planting using can protection
Court Lewis (TN) received his first set of seeds in November 2015. He decided to use the can technique suggested by Jack Johnston.
Photos LEFT by Court show his final stages of planting. Read his detailed methodology (with more photos) here in PDF. He planted 2 seeds per can one scarified and the other not. His results will help us evaluate the benefits of scarification.
30 seeds were planted in this fashion, 2 per can. "Five additional seeds are planted without cans but 5 inches deep, well below the frost zone, so it will be interesting if they show different results from the other 30 (and whether rodents can detect them at that depth)."
January 2016 / by Connie Barlow / Updated list "Assisted Migration Scholarly Links"(new table of contents)
January 2016 / by Connie Barlow / Inspirational Video for Planting Trees
Award-winning animated video excerpts the allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono, 1953.
This is the mythic story to inspire all of us conservation biologists, forest managers, and involved citizens to pull ourselves out of despair over the looming impacts of climate change and get on with the great work of planting (and moving!) trees.
December 2015 / by Connie Barlow / First success of "free-planting" seeds under rocks
Connie Barlow reports 5 seedlings newly emerged from beneath large flat rocks 2 years after planting. The free-planting section of the Propagate page contains the detailed photo-essay.
Results include: (a) Never plant seeds under or near a log; (b) Rocks distant from vole hiding places work best; (c) Expect the seedling to emerge always on the upslope side of the rock; (d) Success rates for good placement of rocks probably range from 20 to 50% max; (e) Expect seedlings to become visible above ground in about 2 years minimum (after 2 winters).
Barlow recommends these additional questions for volunteer testing: (1) Are there any insects (ants?) detrimental to seed germination under a rock? and (2) If a seed is planted very deep (approx 4 inches) out in the open, with no rock protection, will squirrels be unable to smell it?
December 2015 / by Lee Barnes / Online Torreya photos via Encyclopedia of Life
Genus Torreya in online Encyclopedia of Life
The Encyclopedia of Life online has a lot of photos of genus Torreya especially the one Californian and several Asian native species. For example, the photo left of ripe seeds of California Torreya confirms that this sister species has the same seed shape and color as Torreya Guardians have documented of North Carolina plantings of the Florida Torreya. (If you click on the "original" link associated with each photo, you will sometimes find not only the original photo but detailed information on date and place.)
December 2015 / by Connie Barlow & Daein Ballard / Photo-essay of 2015 Torreya planting in New Hampshire
Torreya Guardians sent a new volunteer, Daein Ballard, 40 seeds from our 2013 harvest.
By the summer of 2015, most had germinated (indoors, in pots), so Daein planted them on his property in regrowth forest.
Thus Torreya taxifolia is newly rewilded in New Hampshire, as of 2015. Daein's photos (with captions) now appear on a New Hampshire page on this website.
This planting will be an important field experiment to test just how far north this "Florida" conifer is capable of growing in today's climate and in the climate changes ahead.
Note: The yellow arrows point to locations of two of the seedlings.
December 2015 / by Connie Barlow / 2015 book features Torreya Guardians in chapter on Florida Torreya
In 2015, Kara Rogers published a book (left) that includes a detailed chapter on Florida Torreya (University of Arizona Press). The end of that chapter highlights the work of TORREYA GUARDIANS.
Access sample excerpts here.
The Quiet Extinction: Stories of North America's Rare and Threatened Plants is also accessible via google books.
November 2015 / by Nelson Stover / 20% success rate after 24 months of "free-planting" Torreya seeds directly into forested property
Free-planting success in Greensboro NC: Nov 2013 Nelson and Elaine Stover received and "free-planted" directly into their rural property a total of 30 seeds from two of our freshly harvested seed sources.
Exactly 2 years later (Nov 2015), they made a careful survey of their plantings and discovered that 6 of the 30 were now visible seedlings, including the photo at left. This is a success rate of 20%.
Whether the remaining 80% of the seeds failed to germinate, were dug up and eaten by squirrels, or may germinate in future years is unknown. But the Stover experiment sets (thus far) a superb "free-planting" success rate of 1 in 5.
Note: See the kink in the lower stem. Nelson reports that a branch probably fell on it, as the setting is wild. "I found it while clearing off the leaves."
November 2015 / by Lamar Marshall / Cowee Valley NC seed germination success and outplanting
Lamar Marshall received seeds from our 2013 harvest.
He began out-planting the seedlings in 2015 (2,200 foot elevation), choosing an orchard style planting pattern on open ground next to his house (with lots of sun). The intent is to maximize growth so that this grove can begin producing seeds for future seed distribution.
See the new Cowee Valley, NC Torreya page of his early results.
November 2015 / by Connie Barlow / The Economist magazine features Torreya Guardians in their special issue on Climate
Just before the global climate conference in Paris, The Economist featured an 8-part "special report" on climate change. The biodiversity section highlights the work of Torreya Guardians as the USA example of climate adaptation underway. Connie Barlow was quoted, "We are the radical edge of what is going to become a mainstream action." Online access: "A Modern Ark: To save endangered species move them to more congenial places".
Only after she was interviewed did Connie learn (thanks to another journalist) of an even more substantial "assisted migration" project well established in the USA. A large timber company in California is receiving seeds from all 75 distinct groves of GIANT SEQUOIA (donated by the various state and federal public agencies managing each grove), and then is out-planting the germinated seedlings into recent small clearcuts on company properties as much as 200 miles northward. The private-public agreement is that this action will ultimately serve as the beginnings of new Old Growth Sequoia groves for the centuries ahead (as climate change is expected to extinguish the existing groves). Click to read a summary and access the timber company's 2015 report on the Sequoia assisted migration project.
Fall-Winter 2015 / Native Plant News magazine article includes Torreya Guardians in its cover story"What Is 'Managed Relocation' and Will It Have a Place in our Conservation Toolbox?, by Jesse Bellemare.EXCERPTS: ... Plant species have played a central role in both triggering and illustrating the debate surrounding managed relocation. Indeed, much of the current discussion was sparked by a 2004 article in Wild Earth in which Connie Barlow and Paul Martin proposed 'assisted migration' to establish new populations of the endangered conifer Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) outside its small native range in the Florida panhandle.... However, the Florida torreya survives, and even thrives, when planted in areas to the north of its native range at cooler, higher-elevation sites in the southern Appalachian Mountains....
... The radical proposal to establish naturalized populations of torreya in these areas outside its native range was inspired in part by my Smith College colleague Rob Nicholson, who wrote in a 1990 Natural History magazine piece on the decline of torreya that an artificial refugium might be established in the southern Appalachians to ensure the continued survival and evolution of the species in the wild. The fossil record has produced evidence of torreya in North Carolina in earlier geologic periods, showing that its natural range has indeed extended elsewhere in the past. Given the negative trends in the present-day wild populations of Florida torreya, it is possible that naturalized plantings outside the native range and in botanic garden collections might be the only place where the species survives in the future.
Barlow and Martin argued that ensuring the species survival in the wild, even if beyond its historical range boundaries, should be a top priority. However, alongside this provocative piece, conservation biologist and long-time torreya researcher Mark Schwartz responded with an article contending that "conservationists should not move Torreya taxifolia,"citing invasion risks and the need to invest in conserving species within their current native ranges. Even now, 10 years later, the contours of the scientific and ethical debate sketched out by these well-intentioned authors continues....
VIDEO: Foresters Outpace Conservation Biologists in Climate Adaptation
The "assisted migration" ongoing project of Torreya Guardians is regularly cited in academic literature on climate adaptation controversies in biodversity and ecosystems protection. Here, Connie Barlow presents the first (highly illustrated) talk to professionals. Speaking to faculty and students at Michigan Technological University's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Barlow presents the history of the "assisted migration" controversy highlighting the reasons why foresters have already taken actions where conservation biologists fear to tread. (filmed Sept 11, 2015)
Note: This video is episode 08 in an ongoing video series by Barlow on forestry and climate adaptation. See an annotated list of titles and links to all such videos here: "CLIMATE, TREES, and LEGACY".
October 2015 / by Connie Barlow / Tennessee chapter of Sierra Club posts Torreya Guardians article in newsletter
Citizen Science Project Seeks Tennessee Climate-Forestry Volunteers.
The Sept-Oct 2015 newsletter of the Tennes-Sierran newsletter contains an article soliciting volunteers in Tennessee to begin planting Torreya taxifolia seeds in their state. Click the image left and then scroll down the online pdf to page 8 in order to read the full article.
Nov 2015 update: Thus far, 5 residents of Tennessee have volunteered to plant Torreya seeds on their forested properties, thanks to this article.
Nov 2017 update: Thanks to the Sierra Club newsletter, a new volunteer on the Cumberland Plateau planted 400 seeds in Nov 2015. Two years later, Connie Barlow visited his in-forest plantings, took photos and video, and posted this ongoing report: Torreya Rewilded to Cumberland Plateau, TN.
August 2015 / by Connie Barlow / 1984 listing of Torreya as endangered now online
Periodically, I check the wikipedia entry for Torreya taxifolia. Doing so today, I discovered that the 1984 establishment of "Florida Torreya" as an endangered species is now online. Significantly, this conifer was recognized as a Pleistocene relict right from the get-go. See key excerpts from the 1984 documentation I just added to our why torreya is endangered webpage. Also, access directly the entire Federal Register 1984 document. I also added this note to our webpage titled "Paleoecology and the Assisted Migration Debate: Why a Deep-Time Perspective Is Vital":No mention of Torreya taxifolia as a Pleistocene relict, nor its endemic habitat as a glacial "refugium" appears in the current recovery plan for this species: "Torreya taxifolia, Florida Torreya, 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. Thus the recovery emphasis has been on continuing to identify the disease-causing agents and employ management techniques within the native habitat to combat the pathogens. The management plan for Torreya taxifolia has yet to catch up with the management agency's ongoing shift to adapt to ongoing climate change. See a 2015 editorial in Conservation Biology by Mark Shaffer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: "Changing Filters".
July 2015 / by Connie Barlow / PHOTO-ESSAY: Children Plant Torreya Seeds at Shoal Sanctuary (FL)
Photo-essay: Children Plant Torreya Seeds at Shoal Sanctuary (FL).
In March 2015 Chris Larson organized groups of scout, church, and other youth to plant seeds of Torreya taxifolia that were donated for this purpose by Torreya Guardians.
Shoal Sanctuary is in the panhandle of Florida, west of the protected critical habitat of the species along the Apalachicola River.
June 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: Rewilding Florida Torreya to Cullowhee, NC: 2015 report
15a: Rewilding Florida Torreya to Cullowhee, NC - 2015 report. This wild forest site on Jim Thomson's property east of Cullowhee is the first location where Torreya Guardians have had access to a north-facing mountain slope, elevation 2,600 feet. Here they observe the 4 Torreya taxifolia seedlings that Jim planted 18 months earlier from their pots. 17 minutes - filmed April 27, 2015.
June 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: Germinating Torreya Seeds: 2015 report
15b: Germinating Torreya Seeds: 2015 report. Jim Thomson, Lee Barnes, and Connie Barlow discuss what we all have learned thus far about how to germinate Florida Torreya seeds outdoors, in locales far north of the "historically native range". Seeds harvested from the same tree in the same year will span a number of years to germinate, even when planted under the same conditions. 13 minutes - filmed April 29, 2015.
June 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: Final segment of 2015 progress report on our 2008 rewilding action
10B: FL Torreya to North Carolina (pt 2): 2015 progress report (Junaluska, NC).
Second half of video progress report on our 2008 rewilding to North Carolina. Key findings include recommendations for measuring vigor, perils of cohabiting with rhodies, long-term negative consequences of planting root-bound conifers, the stress of seedlings needing to re-orient growth to wild light conditions. 45 minutes - filmed April 25, 2015.
June 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: Free-planting torreya seeds directly into wild forest
14: Free-Planting Torreya Seeds into Wild Forest: 2015 report. Best practices discovered by Torreya Guardians in attempting to plant seeds directly into the soil of wild forest in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Preliminary results confirm that planting beneath flat rocks and beneath a thatch of branches were both effective in deterring squirrels. However, the results are mixed for voles. This video chronicles Connie's visit to the Waynesville NC site 17 months after planting seeds. 47 minutes - filmed April 24, 2015.
May 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: Dawes Arboretum, Ohio, progress report on Torreya plantings
13: Florida Torreya to Ohio's Dawes Arboretum. Dawes Arboretum (Newark, Ohio) received ten seeds from Torreya Guardians from the 2006 harvest by Biltmore Gardens (Asheville, NC). Possible learnings are: (1) A full deciduous canopy of oak and maple seems to be superb habitat for Torreya in central Ohio. (2) Exposure to full sun and especially to polar winds seem to be very stressful to this genus. Video also compares Florida Torreya's leaf and branch morphology against two sister species native to Asia that have been planted in Dawes Arboretum: Torreya grandis (China) and Torreya nucifera (Japan). 23 minutes - filmed May 17, 2015.
May 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: Progress report of seedlings planted in 2008 near Franklin NC
12: FL Torreya to Franklin, North Carolina: 2015 progress report
Russ Regnery leads Connie Barlow on a tour of his young torreya trees. Topics include (1) the advantage of shading screen during the early years if Torreya is in full-sun, (2) how Torreya is vulnerable to winter sun and wind scalding/dessication if not protected by a canopy, (3) advantages of planting near nurse trees for shading and for sharing their symbiotic root fungi. "Free-planting" seeds from the 2014 seed harvest directly beneath the forest canopy is the final half of the video. 32 minutes - filmed April 29, 2015.
May 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: Torreya pictured in MinuteEarth video on extinction/conservation priorities
Peter Reich, professor in the Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, visited the 2008 plantings by Torreya Guardians at Corneille Bryan Native Plant Garden in Waynesville NC this month. Photo left is Peter standing with the fastest growing of the Torreyas there. Sara Evans alerted us that Peter's son, Henry Reich, includes Torreya in an episode in his animated video shorts series, MinuteEarth, on youtube. The series is "an energetic and entertaining view of trends in earth's environment in just a few minutes."
April 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: 90-year-old "rewilded" Torreya grove documented in Highlands NC by Torreya Guardians
11: FL Torreya to Highlands NC: 90 years of de facto rewilding (2015)
"Assisted migration" for climate-endangered Florida Torreya inadvertently began 90 years ago, when botanist Thomas Harbison planted this conifer species on his mountainside land in Highlands, NC. April 2015, Torreya Guardians documented this gone-wild grove likely, the best and oldest example of how this ancient native lineage grows beneath a deciduous canopy and its slow dispersal by squirrels. Connie Barlow narrates with camera; Jack Johnston assesses the Torreya grove and surrounding plants. 28 minutes
April 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / PHOTO-ESSAY: Could Florida Torreya Take the Place of Eastern Hemlock?
This week I finished compiling a richly illustrated proposal that I will be advocating to various foresters and forestry institutions: Could Florida Torreya Take the Place of Eastern Hemlock?. The Asian Woolly Adelgid is destroying hemlock groves from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. Two frigid winters have set back its invasion in New Hampshire. But in the southern Appalachians, the prognosis is dark. Conservation professionals tend to think of Torreya taxifolia as a weak and fragile species which it certainly is in Florida, but not in North Carolina! I have therefore compiled photos of our finest Torreya groves in North Carolina, and I have bolstered my proposal with photos I took on site visits in 2005 to soaring giants of the California species of genus Torreya. Visit the page and see for yourself!
April 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Higher resolution photos now on the 2006 site visit webpage of the 90-year old rewilded Torreyas growing near Highlands, NC
Since I am inhabiting a home near Cashiers NC this month, I am eager to arrange a second site visit to, what I now believe is, the most important Torreya grove in the eastern USA. The late Bob Zahner had told us that this grove was planted in the 1920s. Not only are the original trees in fine shape, but the squirrels have obviously been spreading seeds nearby, some of which have become young trees, saplings, and newly emerged seedlings. Wow! Take a look at these 2006 photos and see if you agree that perhaps Torreya taxifolia could fill the ecological niche of our recently extirpated eastern hemlock. Its slow growth and ability to survive in deep shade is very similar to what our native hemlock was renowned for. Click to visit the Highlands Torreya Grove webpage.
April 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / I'm video-documenting our tree/seed plantings in the southern Appalachians this month
10: FL Torreya to North Carolina: 2015 progress report (Waynesville, NC)
First video-documentation of fate of historic 2008 rewilding action of the endangered Torreya taxifolia from Florida to North Carolina. Connie Barlow films and narrates a survey of the 21 plants in wild forest on the slope of Eaglenest Mountain, near Waynesville. Most important results are both positive and negative, which help us ascertain the habitat preferences of this species (moisture, shade, slope, aspect).
09: FL Torreya to Ocoee Watershed 2: Wolf Creek, NC 2015
Thomas Mesko receives 43 Torreya taxifolia seeds from Connie Barlow, drawn from the 2014 harvest of Torreya Guardians. This video documents seeds being planted generally on north-facing slopes, between 1,600 and 1,800 feet elevation on Thomas's 50 acres of forested property along Wolf Creek, in the North Carolina section of the Ocoee Watershed.
08: FL Torreya to Ocoee Watershed 1: Greasy Creek, TN 2015
Clint Bancroft shows Connie Barlow the 9 Florida Torreyas he has planted on his 18 acres in southeastern Tennessee (plus 2 more in pots). At 1,100 ft elevation, and in a mixed deciduous/conifer forest, all the Torreyas look healthy. In closing, Connie gives Clint 40 seeds from the fall 2014 Torreya Guardians' harvest. Clint demonstrates his rodent-proof outdoor shelter for germinating those seeds.
March 2015 / by Fred Bess, Torreya Guardian / Torreya trees survive record cold February in Cleveland, Ohio
The Torreya came through better than last year. Unlike last winter, I treated all of the trees with anti-desiccant to reduce windburn damage and it worked pretty well. Only the windward side of the trees had any damage, and it was far less than last year. [Read more and see Fred's winter photos at our Cleveland Ohio Torreya webpage].
March 2015 / by Chris Larson, Torreya Guardian / Torreya seeds planting underway at Grotto Ravine, Shoal Sanctuary FL
"Our Torreya seed planting project is well under way. Some are already in the ground in Grotto Ravine. We are mapping, documenting, and photographing galore. 14 boy scouts are coming with their parents this Saturday to plant. The rest will be in the ground on Sunday when some girl scouts and folks from University of FL come with their children. Photos will be labeled and sent once we get all the seeds safe in the ground. It's a great project. You'd love the kids' enthusiasm."
March 2015 / by Chris Larson, Torreya Guardian / Torreya trees protected during controlled burn in Florida
"Here are photos for the Shoal Sanctuary FL webpage, taken during the burn. The fire crew was eager to hear about Torreyas and to get their picture taken helping to protect them, especially the one we named Burn Torreya. We are all safe and sound."
Editor's note: Most of the acreage at the privately owned Shoal Sanctuary (west of Torreya State Park in the panhandle of Florida) is managed for longleaf pine forest restoration. That requires periodic subcanopy burns. No burn was possible in 2014 because of windy, dry weather. But mid March 2015 offered a superb day for controlled burning. Click to see the burn photos.
March 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Now we know that Glomus is the fungal symbiont for Torreya and which trees naturally harbor that genus of mycorrhizae
In early March I had email communications with a Smithsonian molecular plant ecologist who did research on Torreya taxifolia, but who has not yet published her results in a scholarly paper. We are grateful that Melissa McCormick gave us a summary of her findings. She identified Glomus as the genus of mycorrhizal fungi that associates with Torreya taxifolia. I have added her advice and the list of common trees that do harbor Glomus and the list of those that do not. Visit this section of the Propagate page: Encouraging SYMBIOTIC MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI. Henceforth, we would be wise to mix into pots for seed germination soil from beneath favorable tree species in the locales where ultimately the seedlings will be out-planted.
March 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Conservation Biologists Lag Behind Forestry Researchers in Assisted Migration for Climate Adaptation
On March 4 I sent an email to UK conservation biologist Sarah Dalrymple. Because it is the most complete explication I have yet written on the worldview distinctions between conservation biologists and forestry researchers re assisted migration for climate adaptation, I have posted my side of the correspondence in pdf here: "Conservation Biologists Lag Behind Forestry Researchers in Assisted Migration for Climate Adaptation".
February 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Torreya Guardians has presence on ResearchGate
Because I am the author of several peer-reviewed scientific papers and book chapters, I have an authorized presence on the scientific networking site, ResearchGate. Recently, one researcher posed this Question: "Does anyone have any examples of assisted colonization, managed relocation or assisted migration in plants?
The USF&WS staff person in charge of the recovery plan for Torreya taxifolia responded; her concluding comment: "I am the Recovery lead for Torreya taxifolia, and this conifer has been re-allocated by a group called the Torreya Guardians. I'm trying to direct their efforts, since it has not been base on science."
That led to a lengthy response by me, posted in the dialogue. Because it is a useful summary of our tensions with the officials in charge of this species, and because I present our approach to field experimentation (in which negative results are not failures but help us in our ultimate quest to discover Torreya taxifolia's habitat preferences in northward realms), I think it is a useful document to include on our website. You can find it here: Researchgate Torreya Guardians Dialogue
February 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / New webpage highlights VIDEOS by Torreya Guardians
Fall of 2013 I began videoblogging about our Torreya Guardians work. My video reporting ramped up in 2014 to include videos of our fieldwork, because I acquired a small hand-held videocamera. As of February 2015, I have posted 7 videos about the work of Torreya Guardians. They are all listed and annotated on a new webpage: Videos by Torreya Guardians. The three most recent are:
05: Torreya Trees at Shoal Sanctuary FL: pt 01 Four Torreyas on Sandy Uplands 06: Torreya Trees at Shoal Sanctuary FL: pt 02 Grotto Ravine (preparing to plant seeds) 07: Ancient Florida Torreya in Columbus, Georgia
February 2015 / by Lee R. Barnes, Torreya Guardian / Distribution of 450 T. taxifolia seeds from 2014 harvest in Clinton, NC
Note: Lee sent this news/invitation to existing volunteer seed/seedling planters in North Carolina: "Torreya Guardians has about 450 stratified Torreya taxifolia seeds to distribute all from the lone Torreya tree in Clinton, NC. (Ms. Kennedy's estate). I've cleaned and am stratifying the seeds now. We want to further distribute this genotype to those with previously distributed different genotypes (eg., GA, Biltmore Estate, Woodlanders, etc.) in an attempt to maintain and increase genetic diversity. We also want to invite Duke Gardens and JC Ralston Arboretum, who have existing tree(s).
So I will distribute 20 stratified seeds-each packs in early April to any of you who request seeds. I'm open to sending additional seeds to particular projects that may need more seeds. I also prefer those who are set-up to raising seedlings vs. wild direct seeding but will not turn anyone down while seeds last. Thanks also for your many sharing of your successes and failures with Torreya. It's all great knowledge that we need to document and share!"
Lee R. Barnes, Torreya Guardian, Waynesville NC (near Asheville). Contact Lee
January 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Philadelphia and Chicago urban forestry managers are now planting more southerly trees species
"Climate change to Philly trees: It's not 1910 anymore" (news article) by Carolyn Beeler, 23 January 2015. Surveys Philadelphia and Chicago urban trees and parks managers who have already begun planting more southerly tree species on municipal lands. Joan Blaustein, head of urban forestry and ecosystem management at the Philadelphia Parks Department, is quoted: "We need to anticipate what the conditions are going to be 100 years from now, rather than trying to restore to 100 years ago." Beeler writes, "In the fall, the city will plant non-native trees suited to warmer climates, including the Southern chestnut oak and bald cypress, and plant some species native to Pennsylvania that are currently at the northern end of their range, such as the Southern red oak and red mulberry. . . In five years, Blaustein hopes the early results of her experimental test plots will give her an idea of which new trees to plant city-wide."
December 2014 / by Connie Barlow and Lee Barnes, Torreya Guardians / New Website Shows Movement/Adaptation Difficulties for USA Tree Species facing CLIMATE changeAlthough none of the interactive climate-forestry sites (all coauthored by US Forest Service research staff and others) include Torreya taxifolia in their range-shift projections re climate change (2050 and 2100) we want to urge visitors to our website to check out these interactive sites online. The newest entry to this forestry-climate endeavor (third in the list below, which applies to the entire USA) is the first to include color-coded projections for which geographic populations of each tree species will have the greatest difficulties of moving or adapting to climate change. Here are the three:
FORESTS OF USA
MAPS OF USA FOREST TREE SPECIES FUTURE RANGES:. Highly detailed online maps to compare current, 2030, 2060, and 2090 range predictions for 76 species of western USA trees. (Always click on the .png versions to see the maps.) For example, Alligator Juniper, now absent from Colorado, is expected to have ideal range open up west of Denver in 2030, while southerly populations become stressed. (How are they going to get there, as the closest current population is near Santa Fe NM?) Note: A superb paper that details the data-source and modeling used to generate these range maps is "North American Vegetation Model for Land-Use Planning in a Changing Climate", 2012, G.E. Rehfeldt et al.
WESTERN USA: "Plant Species and Climate Profile Predictions"
EASTERN USA: Easy-to-use USFS webpage of maps imaging current and climate-shifted ranges of 134 tree species in eastern North America: Climate Change Tree Atlas interactive site. See also a multi-agency generated Forecasts Maps Projects for the Eastern USA.
WHOLE USA: This forest tree website builds on the previous (above) two, while adding a new feature of color-coded images that show relative difficulties in moving/adapting of different geographic populations of each species. Access here: The ForeCASTS Project, subtitle: Forecasts of Climate-Associated Shifts in Tree Species.
November 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / New York Times Op-Ed helps "assisted migration" move forward"How To Mend the Conservation Divide" was published Oct 31 in The New York Times. Co-authored by a leader in the "new conservation" (Emma Marris, who has reported on the actions of Torreya Guardians) and a senior scientist in the "old conservation" (Greg Aplet of The Wilderness Society), this advocacy piece helps to bridge the divide that has been problematic for we at Torreya Guardians. The Op-Ed begins,"A schism has recently divided those who love nature. 'New conservationists' have been shaking up the field, proposing new approaches that break old taboos moving species to new ranges in advance of climate change, intervening in designated wilderness areas, using nonnative species as functional stand-ins for those that have become extinct, and embracing novel ecosystems that spring up in humanized landscapes. Some "old conservationists" have reacted angrily to this, preferring to keep the focus on protecting wilderness and performing classical restoration that keeps ecosystems as they were hundreds of years ago."Their proposed solution to the squabbling:"So what should we do? Should we continue to invest in keeping ecosystems in historical configurations? Should we attempt to engineer landscapes to be resilient to tomorrow's conditions? Or should we just let nature adapt on its own? We should do all three. In the face of great uncertainty, the sensible thing to do is hedge our bets and allocate large swaths of landscape to all three approaches: restoration, innovation and hands-off observation. . . No one approach will save everything. Ceasing all management will put many threatened species at risk for extinction. Restoring ecosystems to historical baselines may prevent them from adapting to change and lead to collapse. And innovation means creating untested systems that may also fail. Mistakes are inevitable. But at each site, we should fully commit to a single strategy. Otherwise, we risk a haphazard stew of approaches that don't meet any goal."I posted a comment (under my husband's subscription name, Michael Dowd), which became one of the "New York Times Picks". (Access it online by looking to the right of the article's title, and then clicking on "94 comments". From there, click on the "NYT Picks" tab). Here is the text of my comment, in which I mentioned the science being done by USFS researchers:That a leader in the new conservation (Ms. Marris) and a scientist employed by the symbol of the "old" (Mr. Aplet with the Wilderness Society) co-wrote this article is by itself cause for celebration. Yes, let us work together! A group I founded a decade ago, Torreya Guardians, has been the target of barbs since our 2008 eco-action of moving the endangered Florida Torreya tree poleward to North Carolina. Now I am using US Forest Service research reports to encourage other citizen-naturalists to (a) use the conclusions of science for (b) beginning to organize for moving even our common species of forest trees in the USA northward. That climate is changing is well known by the public; that it is orders of magnitude more rapid than our tree species have had to deal with in the past is less widely known.
The oaks in particular have lost their long-distance disperser of seeds and exactly 100 years ago. As a visitor to Washington D.C. this week (walking with The Great March for Climate Action), I went to the Smithsonian as a pilgrimage to the superb and mournful exhibit of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. Up one set of stairs I then visited the photo exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Was I the lone visitor who witnessed these exhibits with the sad knowledge of how they truly are linked?
November 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Two recent publications move assisted migration forward and reference Torreya Guardians "Species Migration Shaping Ecosystems of the Future" by Ruby Russell, 14 October 2014, Deutsche WelleCONCLUDING EXCERPT: "Looking at all life-forms, it is trees that move the slowest. The majority of trees cannot keep pace with climate change," Torreya Guardians' founder Connie Barlow says, adding that the Florida torreya's seeds are too large to be carried by the wind or most animals. Assisted migration is controversial, but Barlow and others argue that on a continental landmass like Europe or North America, terrestrial species have shifted back and forth with climatic change over the millennia, so that what seem like 'new' species combinations have actually existed in the past.
What is unprecedented is the rate at which climate change is now happening. Chris Thomas says this means defending current species combinations may not always be the best approach. "If all our biological communities are going to change anyway, why should we not think about including within those biological communities even if it requires us to intervene some of those species which are truly endangered?" asks Thomas. He says some may not think this is very natural. But, then neither is current climate change, he points out.
"Assisted Migration: What It Means to Nursery Managers and Tree Planters" is an excellent short introduction intended for landscapers and their clients, urging that planting for climate change become integral to the profession.
ABOVE: The authors (Williams and Dumroese) distinguish 3 types of climate assistance: (1) Assisted population migration, (2) Assisted range expansion, and (3) Assisted species migration. (Florida Torreya is the illustrated example of type 3.)
October 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / VIDEO: 2014 report of Torreya project at Secrest Arboretum, OHIO
Fred Bess of Cleveland Ohio is the Torreya Guardians liaison collaborating with Ohio State University's Secrest Arboretum to encourage and foster the planting of a Torreya taxifolia grove on their grounds. In this 10-minute video, recorded by Connie Barlow during a site visit in September, you will see the substantial progress in that effort.
Note: The photo at left shows the potted seedlings (grown from seeds harvested autumn 2011 by Torreya Guardians) that will eventually be planted out on the arboretum grounds.
For more information, visit the new webpage that will henceforth chronicle all progress reports on the Secrest Torreya Project.
October 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / VIDEO: 2014 report of Torreya project Cleveland, OHIO
Although Torreya taxifolia seeds were planted in 2014 by Torreya Guardians in Michigan (Connie Barlow) and New Hampshire (Daein Ballard), the northernmost locale with above-ground seedlings/saplings is at the home of Fred Bess in Parma (OHIO) near Cleveland. In this 9-minute video, recorded by Connie Barlow during a site visit in September, you will see (a) how well Fred's 5 seedlings/saplings survived the -17F degree "polar vortex" of the previous winter, and (b) how vulnerable the young trees are to overpopulated buck deer looking for suitable size and texture plants to scrape the velvet off their antlers.
Importantly, Fred reports that sapling protection is needed only during the antler season, as even overpopulated deer accustomed to eating domestic plants that wild deer would shun perform no more than a nibble of a taste test on this unfamiliar species before determining it is not a food source.
October 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Put an end to "invasive species" fear-mongering re Torreya Guardians assisted migration effortsOctober 11 I posted a comment on the Climate Central website criticizing how the journalist depicted concerns about "assisted migration". Because Climate Central is respected for its scientific accuracy, I felt it important to post a comment on the September 7 article by Greg Breining, titled "Time for Trees to Pack Their Trunks?". My comment in full is below:It is time for journalists and scientists to refrain from using inappropriate scare tactics that hinder forward movement in responsible experimentation with "assisted migration." This article states, "Think carp and kudzu, two species intentionally introduced far outside their native range to become despised invaders." Surely you know that there is a huge distinction between introducing a species that is native to a different continent (as in carp and kudzu) v. helping a native species move north along the geographic route it has used for millions of years whenever climate has shifted albeit at a far slower pace in by-gone times.
I am the founder of Torreya Guardians, and our volunteer work and experimentation is vital in that we expressly set out to learn just how far north this highly endangered "Florida" conifer tree can live (and reproduce) in today's climate. Because it was "left behind" in its peak glacial refuge 10,000 years ago (likely, for lack of an animal that could disperse its large seed across the sand flats of southern Georgia), nobody knows how far north it can thrive. Sadly, it will become increasingly necessary for us two-legged intentional seed dispersers to experiment with even our common trees (especially the oaks) who depend on 4-legged animal dispersers (squirrels) as only we can move species north at a fast enough pace.
What have we discovered thus far? Crucially, one Torreya Guardian has waist-high young Torreya trees on his property in NE Ohio and he reports that, without any artificial warmth (blanket or wind-resistant plastic), these trees not only survived the -17F degree "polar vortex" of last winter but they have put on superb new growth this past summer. Last month I planted 30 Torreya seeds in the mitten of Michigan: to learn not only whether they can survive that climate regime but also whether they can germinate directly from the forest soils and whether planting those seeds during a year of supreme oak masting (lots of acorns!) means that the squirrels will not be driven to find and dig up the torreya seeds.
There is so much to learn! And there is so much enthusiasm and avocational expertise among citizen-naturalists who love plants, and who are happy to work for free. It is a shame that the paid professionals are failing to do and learn at least as much as we are. Visit the TorreyaGuardians.org website and click on "What We Are Learning".
September 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Field Testing of Torreya extends to Michigan
Connie Barlow planted 30 seeds from the autumn 2013 harvest into a private regrowth forest near Ludington Michigan in September 2014. Halsey Barlow had already planted 40 seeds in the spring of 2014 into her father's regrowth forest near Alpena Michigan.
Thus, a new page of "assisted migration in MICHIGAN has been added to the website.
Go directly to the 30-minute video of the Ludington seed planting experiment.
September 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Torreya taxifolia featured in Landscape Architecture Magazine
A September 2014 4-page article, "Have Tree, Will Travel" is a superb way to grasp the paleoecological foundation that undergirds projects for which poleward "assisted migration" on the continent of origin is becoming standard practice in this century of rapid climate change. The author, park planner Kevan Williams, weaves the science and policy viewpoints into three sequential narratives:
(1) a futile recent Nature Conservancy project of attempting to "rewild" a native camellia, Franklinia alatamaha, southward to its "native" (actually, peak-glacial) habitat in southern Georgia from its cultivated (rescue) domain near Philadelphia.
(2) the ongoing (and thus far successful) attempt by citizen naturalists to work around the Endangered Species Act and thus on their own initiative move a critically endangered Florida conifer, Torreya taxifolia (photo left), from its peak glacial refuge in northern Florida into the southern Appalachians and points farther north.
(3) the disaster looming large for even common forest trees, as climate shifts rapidly, along with the role that massive projects of assisted migration, on the one hand, and urban forest landscaping, on the other, could play in helping species move north.
September 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Correspondence bt our citizen's group and officials in charge of Endangered Species management plan for Torreya taxifoliaNOTE: Connie Barlow is posting this correspondence for historical reference:
In early September I received an email from Torreya Guardian Jeff Morris, who offered to collect seeds this fall from the lone mature Torreya taxifolia tree growing (on private property) in Clinton NC. I responded that seed collection would be very helpful, but we also need to consider that a lone individual that produces seeds is doing so by self-pollination (thus, genetic inbreeding).
I wrote a lengthy response to Jeff and cc'd Vivian Negron-Ortiz, who is the USF&WS staff person in charge of the Endangered Species Management Plan for Torreya taxifolia. I also cc'd Mark Schwartz, a conservation biologist who has published in opposition to assisted migration for Torreya taxifolia and who is the lead author of a multi-author paper on the challenges of assisted migration. Apparently, inbreeding is very unhealthy for conifers. I wrote:"Alas, while Atlanta Botanical Garden has as much genetic variety in their Torreya plants as Florida had to offer, they cannot just hand potted seedlings over to us, owing to restrictions in the official Endangered Species management plan. I have recently hypothesized that the hesitancy for the USF&WS in charge of that plan to add assisted migration into its official options over many years probably reflects, at least in part, that to actually conduct an official assisted migration would have politically powerful climate deniers up in arms because it would be affirming that climate change is real in the USA, and already has endangered a native tree. Reflect on how the USF&WS recently backtracked on certifying the wolverine as an officially endangered species, because the reports advocating that primarily listed reduced snow pack and timing owing to climate change as the biggest cause upcoming. Thus it became a political problem, at least for the Congress people from those NW states. Maybe I am wrong on that, but it is hard to understand why we Torreya Guardians are still left to scramble to find adequate genetic diversity.I received these responses to the above email:
As some of you know, the climate hazards for USA trees are now far beyond our beloved Torreya taxifolia. The IPCC Working Group II this last spring issued a report that included a diagram that shows that of all life forms, trees are most threatened by climate change owing to their being the slowest to be able to shift ranges (slow generation times + limited seed distribution for trees dependent on squirrels).
I am now sounding the alarm for all non-wind-dispersed trees in the USA. The fifth episode in my "Climate, Trees, and Legacy" videoblog series is the best one to watch to see this. It was filmed before a live audience in Durango CO in June, and you will hear people audibly shocked when I show them maps of how the USFS itself projects tree habitable zones to shift this century. (I will be recording more videos beginning in November.) Go to this overall webpage to see links and topics for all 5 episodes, and scroll down to click on episode 5: "Rocky Mountain Trees in Climate Peril."From MARK SCHWARTZ: "Just a note: Florida Torreya is monoecious. Hence, separate male and female plants. Thus, I don't see how there could be selfing seeds produced, unless it is facultatively dioecious. I have spoken to a number of USFWS about assisted migration and the hesitancy on the part of the agency is, as I see it, not about climate politics or climate deniers. In fact experimental populations have been established outside historic ranges, albeit not necessarily based on a climate futures model. However, the TG rewilding is not based on that either, as best I can tell.
My sense is that it is about limited capacity and drivers of extinction risk. The application of the ESA has been focused on extinction prevention, and not on restoring ecological relevant populations. Hence, Torreya would not be a priority as it is not high on the list of species likely to go extinct soon."
From VIVIAN NEGRON-ORTIZ: "As Mark pointed out, Florida torreya is comprised of male and female plants. So selfing is not an option. Potentially, if male plants are not available, asexual reproduction could be an alternative; however this statement has to be scientifically confirmed (other alternatives are also plausible).
The goal of the ESA is to 'bring a listed species to the point at which it is no longer likely to become in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range'. So care/guidelines is/are needed to introduce species outside their historic range. Research specifically focused on assisted migration is necessary to help inform the debate on the concept of assisted migration."
CONNIE BARLOW'S note to readers: October 2013, A.J. Bullard worked with Connie Barlow to photo-document Bullard's long-held observations that single T. taxifolia individuals do sometimes produce both male and female reproductive structures. See here captioned photos of male and female cones on the same plant growing on Bullard's property in North Carolina. ADDENDUM: On 30 September, Connie sent an email to Schwartz and Negron-Ortiz requesting them to view the photo-documentation of male-and-female reproductive structures on the same individual. Both did and responded positively to the photo-documentation. Schwartz added, "I did hear from someone once that they will switch from male to female as they mature. If so, then it makes sense that there may be a transitional period."
Also, the IUCN Redlist (updated in 2011) lists Torreya taxifolia as "critically endangered", which is the highest level of risk prior to becoming "extinct in the wild."
September 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Teaching kids about assisted migration to help trees adapt to climate changeAUDIO of a 6-minute Story for All Ages that Connie delivered at the Sunday morning service of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Indianapolis in September 2014. Here she uses leaves of a tuliptree and nuts of a walnut tree she collected that morning on the church grounds to (a) help the kids identify and enjoy these trees and (b) gently introduce them to the idea that their generation will need to help such trees move north in tandem with a changing climate.
August 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Need to learn which conifers harbor symbiotic root fungi helpful for TorreyaTorreya Guardian Jeff Morris (with plants in Spencer NC) noticed last fall that the T. taxifolia seedlings Connie had dug up from beneath the mature T. taxifolia tree in Clinton NC and had given to him had mychorrizal root fungal hyphae obvious on it. Apparently, the thriving parent tree had inoculated the seedling with that vital soil inhabitant. Jeff wrote in an email:"When I was transplanting the six seedlings that Connie gave me on November 3rd, 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, so that they have the best advantages available to gain necessary nutrients from the soil and atmosphere, which is about 80% nitrogen, but is not readily absorbed in usable form by trees without bacterial or mycorrhizal chemical reactions. This is another reason that I believe planting the T. taxifolia between the sprawling roots beside a Pinaceae stump will lead to greater survival of northern winters in climates colder than a zone 6."Jeff's observation led us on a new track of trying to (a) find out what the species of symbiotic root fungus is for T. taxifolia, (b) where to obtain inoculant of that to add to our existing (and future) plantings, and (c) which other (ideally, common) species of conifer associates with that same symbiont. If we could determine which conifers harbor that same endo or ecto mychorrizal fungi, we could then dig up soil from there and add to our Torreya plantings and also try to place our future seed plantings near those conifer species (but not overshadowed by them).
The USF&WS Endangered Species Recovery program for T. taxifolia has published results on identifying "the soilborne pathogens" that have devastated the original Florida population since the 1960s. In an email to Connie Barlow dated 24 May 2014, USF&WS staffer in charge of Torreya, Vivian Negron-Ortiz, wrote: "A mycorrhizal study was funded a few years ago. We have the results, but the study has not been published."
Right now we are wondering whether White Pine may harbor helpful symbionts. Jeff Morris thinks that planting Torreya near Pinaceae conifers may be helpful. Connie then reported that the two Torreya specimens growing far faster than the rest at Corneille Bryan Native Garden in Junaluska NC are both near a young White Pine. Buford Pruitt (who has Torreyas planted in his yard at Brevard NC) then noted that "My largest in-ground torrey was adjacent to white pines and was flourishing. I transplanted it a few weeks ago (further away from pines) because a large white pine needs to be timbered and would have crushed the torrey coming down. Some of my other torreys are planted close to white pines."
Torreya Guardian Daein Ballard in Mason, New Hampshire, received 40 seeds from us from the Fall 2014 harvests. He is actively interested in experimentally determining compatible fungal symbionts on his property, where he has "two hemlock and one white pine clustered together. In fact the soil I mixed into the pots I'm germinating the Torreya seeds in is from that spot." His hemlock trees are still alive, even though woolly adelgid has been spotted nearby. Daein reports:"Last spring I found infested trees less than a mile from my property. I don't know if the town is spraying, but not too long ago I went back and observed these hemlocks again and they no longer seemed to be infested with adelgid. One of the hemlocks I found infested was one of my favorite huge hemlocks, an impressive tree (6+ feet around, 100+ feet high) too. No sign of infestation at the moment. Despite the proximity of the infested trees to my property I haven't found any here. Though I have found massive infestations of pine bark adelgid on young white pines on my property. Could be a sign of increased environmental stress on the white pines. I don't know, but even the most inflicted little saplings seemed to survive the most horrible infestations with ease. White pines are like weeds here so it'd take a lot to put even a small dent in their population.
All in all I think the hard New England winters may be holding the hemlock adelgids in check in my area. Especially since my area has supposedly been infested for years, yet the little guys can't seem to keep hold on any particular tree for more than a season. If global warming progresses, I'm sure the hemlock adelgids will eventually get the best of the trees."
August 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Torreya Guardians work highlighted in an article about whether endangered species should be "translocated" as climate changesTorreya Guardian Lee Barnes was interviewed for an article that appeared in the 15 August 2014 online issue of Climate Wire. Lee's comments were followed by those of a U.K. biology professor who advocates that species threatened by climate change should be regarded as "innocent until proven guilty" re concern about whether they might become "invasive" in the recipient ecosystem. Because "guilty until proven innocent" has been the unexamined norm, official policy has yet to endorse assisted migration experiments for endangered species, including the highly endangered Florida Torreya. Click to read the article: "Endangered Species: Will it be extinction or translocation as impacts of climate change increase?"
May 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / We need to ensure our assisted-migration plantings attract the proper symbiotic fungi on their roots (mycorrhizae)We need to learn more about how to encourage mycorrhizal fungi to attach to the roots of any seeds or seedlings we plant in the future. Jeff Morris reported seeing mycorrhizal fungi on the roots of Torreya seedlings that I collected beneath a mature T. taxifolia tree in Clinton NC last fall, and ever since I have been reading about the importance of encouraging such fungi to work with our plantings. (Read about mycorrhizal symbionts and Jeff's ideas on our propagation page.) Someone should visit the Clinton NC tree, dig up more seedlings, and study the mycelium on their roots (the seedlings easily gain fungal symbionts because they sprout directly beneath the mother tree). Also, someone should carefully examine a bit of root from samples of our plantings in Waynesville and Junaluska NC.
Hypothesis to test: Do the two tallest seedlings from our 2008 plantings in NC (both at Corneille Bryan Native Garden) have the best developed symbiotic fungi on their roots? Both are very near a white pine so we need to test whether planting Torreya near a living conifer (and of what species?) is the best way to ensure that seeds and seedlings attract the ideal fungal partners.
May 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Brewer's Spruce in coastal Oregon is superb "relict-species" analogue to Torreya taxifoliaOn the annotated links page, I have excerpted a crucial forestry paper published in 2012 in American Journal of Botany. Everyone involved with planning and management of Torreya taxifolia in Florida and points north should read these excerpts, which can be found by visiting the Forestry section of the assisted migration links page, then scrolling down to the "PALEOECOLOGICAL SECTION" and looking for the "Relict Species" section with Brewer's Spruce (coastal Oregon) as the focal species. Better yet, read the entire paper, which is available for free online viewing.
May 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / U.S. Foresters see great need for assisted migration of even common forest trees of the Rocky MountainsThis month I have been reading up on a plethora of recent articles published by U.S. Forest Service researchers or academic forestry professionals. The projected need for assisted migration (owing to rapid climate change) of even common forest trees of the Rocky Mountains is astounding. Although controversy still exists on this issue among conservation biologists, U.S. foresters now join Canadian forestry professionals in focusing on what, how, and when to do it rather than continuing the academic debate. View the assisted migration online links webs page of scholarly and news articles (which I keep updating).
April 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / SUNY website, "MOVE IT?", invites knowledgeable people to fill out a decision tree to assess suitability for assisted migration of species of interestEXCERPT: Move It? is an online questionnaire that scores the suitability of user-defined species (candidate taxa) for assisted colonization. Questions are divided into three main categories, following Hoegh-Guldberg et al. (2008): (1) need for assisted colonization, (2) technical feasibility of assisted colonization, and (3) biological/ socioeconomical costs versus benefits of assisted colonization.
Move It? is also a growing database of user-submitted scores, which can then be used to compare candidate taxa and guide decisions about the use of assisted colonization in practice. Although primarily developed in the context of climate change, Move It? can be used to evaluate any proposal to translocate organisms outside their current range. Take the Survey!.
NOTE: Lee Barnes and Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardians, have both completed the Move It? survey for Torreya taxifolia. Connie engaged in an e-conversation with Move It? staffer Andrew Neil Stillman, which included discussion about terminology, with Connie requesting that "assisted migration" rather than "assisted colonization" be the term of use. See that portion of discussion here.
April 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / IPCC "Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability" lists trees as most in need of "assisted species migration"On the Assisted Migration annotated papers page of this website, I excerpted the "assisted species migration" figure and paragraph included in the 44-page summary of the IPCC multi-volume report. Notably, the report points to trees as being the most vulnerable of all life forms and thus the most in need of human assistance to keep pace with climate zone changes. Note: In May I uploaded to youtube a 45-minute presentation I delivered in Prescott, AZ, in which the IPCC diagram that shows how vulnerable trees are to lagging behind latitudinal climate shifts was a central feature. "Forest Trees in Climate Peril" (Connie Barlow 2014).
January 2014 / by Fred Bess, Torreya Guardian in Ohio / January 2013 Ohio Torreyas meet -15 F"During the 'polar vortex' here in OHIO I registered -15 F in my back yard. It looks as though the Torreyas are ok, but spring will tell for certain. Another round of cold is due over the next few days. My (contained) bamboo and at least one of my Giant Sequoia cultivars were severely damaged or killed."
Editor's note: Bill Alexander, forest historian at the Biltmore Estate reported that in the winter of 1985 all Torreya specimens survived unharmed an episode of unusual cold; temperatures plunged to minus 16 degrees F.
January 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / New instructions on protecting Torreya from DEERI posted a new box of instructions on the "Propagation" page to offer advice on when and where to protect young Torreya trees from deer damage (bucks may use young trees to scrape velvet off of antlers). Those instructions include photographs.
January 2014 / by Christina Larson, Torreya Guardian / 2013 photos of progress of 4 T. taxifolia trees in Florida panhandleThe four trees are still doing very well, thanks to liming, in Shoal Sanctuary (Moss Landing, Florida)
January 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / New VIDEO SERIES 2014: "Climate, Trees, and Legacy"
On January 4, I posted a new 42-minute videoblog on youtube that extends our learnings and experience within Torreya Guardians to potentially apply to private landowners throughout the USA who want to begin experimenting on their own lands with helping even common tree species (especially large-seeded species dependent on squirrels for range extension) to move northward in anticipation of climate change climate change that may push habitable ranges northward faster than the trees can "move" on their own. I offer a name for that new movement: Leaf a Legacy.
Access: "Climate, Trees, and Legacy VIDEOSERIES".
Episode titles: 01 - Introduction; 02 - Lessons of Torrey Pine; 03 - Lessons of Joshua Tree; 04 - Lessons of Arizona Cypress; 05 - Rocky Mountain Trees in Climate Peril
December 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Testing 3 natural methods for deterring squirrels from digging up seeds planted directly into forestsFollowing a voluminous 2013 harvest of seeds accessible to Torreya Guardians, I decided to experiment with planting seeds directly into naturally forested landscapes. In prior years, recipients of seeds have germinated their seeds in pots or soil patches protected from squirrels by wire mesh and other devices as the seeds may take several years to germinate naturally, and during that time squirrels tend to dig up the seeds (as squirrels find Torreya seeds tasty). So I experimented with 3 ways to use natural materials to prevent predation by squirrels. The 3 methods are: (1) burial beneath a log, (2) cover the buried seed with a rock, and (3) protect the buried seed with a thatch of branches. Because the seeds are very large and thus contain a store of energy, it should be no problem for a germinating seed to grow sideways 6 inches underground before it finds an opening to turn upward and reach the air. Click to see photos of the 3 methods of natural protection against squirrels.
December 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Posting of historic early communications about assisted migration of T. taxifoliaWhile I was sorting through old computer files today, I noticed I still could locate ancient email correspondence including early communications that led to the founding of Torreya Guardians. I copied one long and pivotal March 2004 email and posted it here in pdf: 10 Discussion Points (2004). Point 9 remarkably anticipates a key point of discussion today:9. IS IT POSSIBLE TO DISCUSS T. TAX AND ADVOCATE "ASSISTED MIGRATION" OF THIS ONE SPECIES WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT THE POSSIBLE NEED FOR WHOLESCALE MOVEMENT, BY HUMANS, OF FOREST ECOSYSTEMS AS THE CLIMATE RAMPS UP? My discussion last week, for several hours, with Hazel and Paul DELCOURT at their office in Knoxville was intellectually exhilarating, but emotionally depressing. I walked in there just wanting to help rewild Torreya, using what I like to call "deep-time eyes." Alas! Hazel, whose 2002 book, "Forests In Peril: Tracking Deciduous Trees from Ice-Age Refuges into the Greenhouse World" (which draws upon her 3 decades of work on this topic), opened my eyes to the scale and speed of forest upset that global warming is and will increasingly cause. Yikes! Wildlands corridors may be fine for mobile animals, but trees simply cannot move fast enough, and the generation times for trees are much longer than are those for animals. Already, HAZEL discerns that the Evergreen Magnolia-Beech climax forest, which used to be widespread south of the Appalachians yet barely exists anymore, would do quite well in the southern Appalachians right now. Climate warming is already that advanced. (Significantly, I was in such a forest in February when I was viewing the diseased T. tax on the eastern slope of the Apalachicola River.) See Hazel R. Delcourt, 1977, "Presettlement Magnolia-Beech Climax of the Gulf Coastal Plain: Quantitative Evidence from the Apalachicola River Bluffs, North-Central Florida," Ecology 58: 1085-1093.
Note: I also just posted in pdf the email correspondence I had with University of Washington paleobotanist Estella Leopold (who is the youngest child of Aldo Leopold). She describes new fossil evidence of genus Torreya in eastern Washington state (11 mya). That correspondence can be accessed here in PDF.
December 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / 1905 Report posits T. taxifolia as a "northern mesophytic" treeI modified the "About Torreya taxifolia" webpage to add a new section that excerpts a 1905 Botanical Gazette article that is the first recorded instance of the hypothesis that Florida's Torreya tree actually "is a northern plant of the most pronounced mesophytic tendencies, and to be associated with such forms as the beech-maple-hemlock forms of our northern woods." I also included in that new section a photo and caption of the 2013 documentation (by AJ Bullard) that male and female cones appear on the same specimen.
December 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / European peak-glacial plant refuge equated to ApalachicolaI was searching online for T. taxifolia and came upon a paragraph in the March 1989 newsletter of JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh NC (which has a lot of T. taxifolia): "A Rhododendron ponticum was introduced to England from Turkey over 200 years ago and is becoming perhaps the most invasive and damaging of weeds in the country today. . . An interesting paradox for those who would leap on this with an attack on 'the problems of introduced exotic species' is that studies show the species originally came from the British Isles, was forced south to Turkey during the glacial age, where it was left as a remnant population (much like the Taxus floridans, Rhododendron chapmannii, Torreya taxifolia, Magnolia ashei, etc. in Florida today)."
November 2013 / by Fred Bess, Torreya Guardian in Ohio/ Buck antler-rubbing damage to Torreya this fall.Editor's note: Fred informed us that one of his young Torreya trees that he planted near Cleveland Ohio sustained damage from a buck rubbing antlers on it. Although Torreya probably is safeguarded against deer eating it (too prickly), sapling stage Torreyas are very vulnerable in places where deer are over-populated. Connie Barlow saw deer-scraping damage on Torreya saplings in Torreya State Park in Florida.
November 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 75-minute VIDEOBLOG on Torreya GuardiansIn early November I recorded, illustrated, and posted on my Youtube channel a 75-minute VIDEOBLOG: "Helping Plants Move North in Anthropocene Climate", which includes a lot of discussion and photos of the activities summarized in the next entry down, along with a survey of Torreya Guardians actions since the beginning. Click the "Show more" link beneath the caption to read a detailed hotlinked table of contents (so you can skip to whichever topics interest you).
November 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Seeds harvested from Clinton and Mt. Olive NC Torreyas, and 2 new NC landowners recruited to plant seeds/seedlings on their forested properties.In late October I was able to accomplish in North Carolina:
planted (from the 2013 harvest by Jack Johnston) 43 seeds at the Waynesville (Evans) site, using natural forms of squirrel protection: under logs or overlain by rocks or thatched branches.
Gave 43 seeds to Janet Manning, head gardener at the Junaluska site where we planted seedlings in 2008: Corneille Bryan Native Garden.
Harvested 102 seeds from the Clinton NC tree and 41 seeds from A.J. Bullard's trees in Mt. Olive NC; see a photo-essay of those activities.
Met Torreya Guardian Jeff Morris of Spencer NC and exchanged seeds/seedlings with him to increase the genetic diversity of plantings within NC. I gave him all 6 of the seedlings I collected beneath the Clinton tree, 12 of the 102 seeds I collected in Clinton, 12 of the 41 seeds I collected in Mt. Olive, and 21 seeds from the primary harvest of Torreya Guardians (provided by Jack Johnston). In exchange, Jeff gave me 4 potted seedlings he had grown from the 20ll Torreya Guardian seed harvest and 28 seeds he had harvested early October from his own trees.
Recruited a new landowner of forested property in Greensboro NC (Nelson and Elaine Stover), and gave them 15 seeds from Mt. Olive and 15 seeds from our main harvest. They will plant all 30 directly into their forest, using the natural squirrel-protection methods I suggested to them (under logs, overlain by thatched branches or rocks).
Recruited a new landowner in Cullowhee NC (our first in the Tuckasegee watershed), who received the 4 seedlings Jeff gave me, plus 20 seeds from the Clinton NC tree. Jim Thomson planted the 4 seedlings right away and sent me photos, which appear in a photo-essay page dedicated to the Cullowhee site.
Recruited my brother, Bill Barlow, to test the viability of Torreya seed germination and possible establishment in Michigan. This site constitutes a new northern-most location: Midland (for germination) and Farwell (120 acres of forest, with some boreal species). Our previous northern outpost was the Cleveland Ohio area, where the trees are still doing well. I sent Bill 2 seeds from Mt. Olive, 2 seeds from Clinton, and 34 seeds from the main Torreya Guardians 2013 planting.
2 possible Arboretums to begin growing Torreya: (1) Fred Bess, Torreya Guardian in Parma (Cleveland area) Ohio, recruited nearby Holden Arboretum (Kirtland Ohio). (2) I made a site-visit to Lovett Pinetum (Strafford Missouri), and its founder Robert Lovett took me on a tour, including the two naturally forested areas he hopes to plant Torreya taxifolia in. Although his land is west of the Mississippi River, it is still a long way from California, so there is no risk of our eastern North America species interbreeding with the California species. I need to follow through with trying to get the Atlanta Botanical Garden to communicate with both arboretums (also, Duke Gardens in Durham NC, as Nov 12 email from Lee Barnes said they were interested in seeds/seedlings), as I understand that ABG may be willing to send seedlings (official ESA management plan) to bona fide nonprofit arboretums for off-site species protection. While "assisted migration" is not officially sanctioned in the ESA management plan for Torreya taxifolia, surely these arboretums could helpfully test these northern climates for possible future viability of the species if and when assisted migration is eventually undertaken. See "Plan Seeks 'Chaperones' for Threatened Species", which is a news report on a talk that Adam Smith (ecologist at Missouri Botanical Garden) presented at the Ecological Society of America meeting, August 2013 (the report is by Virginia Gewin, published in Nature 09 August 2013).
October 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 2013 paper by Shirey et al. confirms legality of Torreya Guardians actions in assisted migrationIn 2008 I secured email confirmation that our planned "assisted migration" action in North Carolina would be legal (email communication with Stan Simpkins, then-overseer of the Endangered Species Act management plan for Torreya taxifolia). Nonetheless, in subsequent years, bloggers sometimes labelled our actions as "eco-terrorism" charging us with endangering the southern Appalachians with a possibly "invasive" species. That is why the publication in Conservation Letters in Sept/Oct 2013 of a paper by Patrick D. Shirey et al. is a significant step for legitimizing our work. It is also crucial for alerting conservation biologists to the looming difficulties of effectively managing endangered species not only for species preservation but also increasingly to accommodate climate change. The paper is "Commercial trade of federally listed threatened and endangered plants in the United States". Because this paper is so important, I excerpted key passages pertaining to assisted migration and especially the Torreya Guardians example discussed.
October 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Photos of October 2013 Torreya taxifolia seed harvestSeeds from the 2013 fall harvest, available for germination and planting by Torreya Guardian volunteers.
August 2013 / by Zev Friedman, Torreya Guardian/ 60 Torreya taxifolia seedlings ready for planting in private forests in Asheville NC regionZev Friedman, with Living Systems Design" in Asheville received 200 seeds from the fall 2011 harvest. Because Living Systems Design "supports landowners and local communities in restoring prosperity and abundance to the places we all live", Zev's idea (for clients he works with who have forested lands) is to see if Torreya taxifolia can take the place of the once-magnificent hemlock trees that have died off in the mountains of North Carolina. As of August 2013, Zev reports, "I've got approximately 60 Torreyas coming up from the 2-year old seeds, so am going to be distributing those soon!
July 2013 / by Fred Bess, Torreya Guardian/ Report of progress of T. taxifolia planted near Cleveland, OhioSummary: Strong growth of the 4 seedlings planted in full sun; poor results for the one specimen planted in the shady woodlot. The single specimen planted from a rooted branchlet is branching out nicely. Seeds from the fall 2011 harvest that were planted in the nearby Secrest Arboretum (Wooster, Ohio) are beginning to put down roots (but no above-ground growth yet). See photo essay on the Ohio page.
July 2013 / by Connie Barlow / Journal of Forestry Review Article reveals historical and management reasons why COMMERCIAL AND PUBLIC FORESTERS ACCEPT "ASSISTED MIGRATION" as an adaptation strategy for climate change far more readily than do conservation biologists working with endangered species and ecological restoration.The Review Article was published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of Forestry. "Preparing for Climate Change: Forestry and Assisted Migration", by M. I Williams and R.K. Dumroese. This should be essential reading for all those whose climate adaptation concerns pertain to endangered plants, restoration ecology in natural areas, and invasive species management, because it shows that resource managers of populous plant species have been engaged in forms of assisted migration for decades. For example, "In the United States, movement has been practiced for decades in the southeast with southern pines (Pinus spp.), for which seed sources are moved one seed zone north to increase growth." (p. 289). July 2013 / by Connie Barlow / Three assisted migration VIDEOS now linked from this website
I just linked from this website my 2-minute 2004 VIDEO: "Assisted Migration of Plants and Animals in a Changing Climate". I also linked two new videos on that topic by legal scholar Alejandro Camacho: 2011: Redefining Nature through Assisted Migration (21 minutes) and 2012: Why Federal Climate Change Legislation Shouldn't Stop States from Innovating in Adaptation Efforts (29 minutes)
July 2013 / by Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardian book reviews of Forests in Peril by H. Delcourt
End of this month I'll be taking Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Chicago. So I've been reflecting on how I came to see ongoing climate change as a threat to America's eastern deciduous forest not just to the endangered conifer our group supports (Torreya taxifolia). Certainly, the forest fires in Yellowstone National Park in 1988 were a big wake-up (especially since I had been an Earthwatch volunteer in Yellowstone for geological fieldwork in 1987 and had worked there the summer of 1970, too). But reading Hazel Delcourt's 2002 book, Forests in Peril: Tracking Deciduous Trees from Ice-Age Refuges into the Greenhouse World, was another big push.
I met with Hazel Delcourt in her office at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, March 15, 2004. Soon after, I created this website to serve as the communications center for a loose organization of "Torreya Guardians" (original participants and other communicators are listed on this page.) Today, I just added to this website a pdf of the 2 reviews of Hazel Delcourt's book posted on Amazon by Torreya Guardians. The reviews are by myself and Russ Regnery. You can also access an earlier review I wrote of Forests in Peril, published in the Winter 2004 issue of Wild Earth magazine.
May 2013 / by Connie Barlow / Results of SPRING 2013 field assessment of North Carolina rewilded Torreyas
Connie Barlow led field assessment work on April 23 and 25 of the seedlings we had "rewilded" in 2008 to Waynesville and Junaluska mountainous habitat in North Carolina. Lee Barnes, Michael Dowd, Sara Evans, Janet Manning, and Jane Stoffer also helped with the fieldwork. Our findings were three-fold: (1) Corneille Bryan Native Garden plants are thriving; (2) Mixed survival rates at Evans property; and (3) leaf bud counts formed the basis of a new quantitative data format, on which we invite others to pose interpretations and recommendations. The 2013 data in table format can be viewed on the "learnings" page of this website.
May 2013 / by Connie Barlow / Assisted Migration Debate Takes a Sharp Turn in May 2013On May 8, CO2 in the atmosphere reached 400 ppm for the first time in human history. On May 9, Science journal published a stunning analysis of Siberian lake-sediment data that offers irrefutable evidence that a 400 ppm atmosphere (when it equilibrates air and ocean conditions) will produce an ice-free Arctic. Henceforth, responsible discourse about assisted migration will no longer question should it be undertaken, but rather when, how, and by whom. Below are the key links to the May 9 paper, beginning with the paper's title and abstract page. "Pliocene Warmth, Polar Amplification, and Stepped Pleistocene Cooling Recorded in NE Arctic Russia" by Julie Brigham-Grette and 15 international coauthors, in Science (9 May 2013).
"The Arctic was once warmer, covered by trees": Pliocene epoch featured greenhouse gas levels similar to today's but with higher average temperatures", reported by Erin Wayman in Science News, 9 May 2013.
"Climate Sensitivity Stunner: Last Time CO2 Levels Hit 400 Parts Per Million The Arctic Was 14 degrees F Warmer!", blogpost by Joe Romm, 12 May 2013
March 2013 / by Connie Barlow / Report on Joshua Tree in CA and NV and Lodgepole Pine used to reforest vast Alaska forest burns support assisted migration advocacy for Torreya taxifolia
I spent the morning reading the 2012, 80-page pdf multi-agency (USA federal, state, and tribal) joint report, National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. It's purpose: "to inspire and enable natural resource administrators, elected officials, and other decision makers to take action to help the nations valuable natural resources and people that depend on them adapt to a changing climate." Clearly, climate-change activists are well past the hurdle of fearing that talking about adapting to future climate change will lessen public concern about the need to move forward powerfully with actions to mitigate climate change. I thus view this report as an indication that perhaps Torreya Guardians will soon be appreciated for the forward-looking conservation work we have been doing, rather than criticized. Thanks to the report, I learned about two recent developments that, in my view, strongly support the assisted migration action we have already taken for the highly endangered eastern NA species of genus Torreya. I plan to bring those two developments to the attention of the USF&WS staff person in charge of the ESA mgmt plan for our species. The two developments are:
JOSHUA TREE: "Past and ongoing shifts in Joshua tree distribution support future modeled range contraction" by Kenneth L. Cole et al., Ecological Applications, 2011. - The authors report that, owing to extinction of its seed disperser (Shasta Ground Sloth), the tree-form tall yucca called Joshua Tree will not only disappear from its namesake national park in California as climate warms, but it will need help in migrating northward into more suitable habitat even beyond Nevada and into southern Utah.
NON-NATIVE LODGEPOLE PINE PLANTED ON KENAI PENINSULA (ALASKA) TO REPLACE NATIVE SPRUCE DEVASTATION BY CLIMATE-CAUSED SPRUCE BEETLE ERUPTION: Although not called "assisted migration", this intentional use of a more warm-adapted tree species (native to the dry northern Rocky Mountains, occurring naturally at lower elevations to the spruce zones on mountain slopes) is a clear example of foresters drawing upon a more southerly species native to the continent to replace forest dominants that are no longer viable, given the climate shifts already impacting Alaska. See: "Alaska: Across the Wildest State, Climate Change Threatens Many Species and Habitats", USF&WS June 2011. February 2013 / by Connie Barlow / Unique fungal pathogen identified as cause of Torreya canker
The current issue of the journal Mycologia reports a newly identified and named pathogen of Torreya: Fusarium torreyae. ABSTRACT: During a survey for pathogens of Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) conducted in 2009, a novel Fusarium species was isolated from cankers affecting this critically endangered conifer whose current range is restricted to northern Florida and southwestern Georgia. Published multilocus molecular phylogenetic analyses indicated that this pathogen represented a genealogically exclusive, phylogenetically distinct species representing one of the earliest divergences within the Gibberella clade of Fusarium. Furthermore, completion of Koch's postulates established that this novel species was the causal agent of Florida torreya canker disease. Here, we formally describe this pathogen as a new species, Fusarium torreyae.
January 2013 / by Connie Barlow / Barlow files comments in support of "assisted migration" as an adaptation strategy recommended within draft Climate Assessment ReportChapter 8, page 300 of the USA draft Climate Assessment Report includes 5 adaptation strategies for preserving ecosystem health and biodiversity. The 4th strategy is: "assisted migration to help move species and populations from current locations to those areas expected to become more suitable in the future."
BARLOW'S SUBMITTED COMMENT: Thank you for using the original term for this adaptation method ("assisted migration") rather than alternative terms suggested later in the scholarly literature (terms include "assisted colonization" and "managed relocation"). "Assisted migration" is not only the original term (named by Brian Keel), but it is the only term that suggests assistance as part of a natural process the process of species migration as climate changes. I am the citizen naturalist who founded Torreya Guardians, and in 2008 we helped the highly endangered conifer tree Torreya taxifolia move 600 km to the north (from the Apalachicola River of Florida panhandle, where it has not been able to reproduce since the 1960s) to Waynesville in the mountains of North Carolina. Torreya is an ancient genus, tens of millions of years old. Surely it has migrated north and south a number of times as climate has shifted. (Its pollen is indistinguishable from genera Cupressus and Taxodium, so unfortunately there is no fossil evidence in the Appalachian Mountains to prove its prior residence there).
If you are receiving pressure to change the term from "assisted migration" to something else, please resist that pressure. The name is very important to present this adaptation strategy as a little human assistance in an otherwise very natural process. For the history and arguments on this naming concern, please see, "Assisted Migration or Assisted Colonization: What's In a Name?"
If you are interested in learning more about the assisted migration project that we Torreya Guardians have already undertaken, visit our website: http://www.torreyaguardians.org
We are very excited that our 2008 migration effort is proving successful, and we now have data that indicate the genus's habitat preferences in its new post-climate-change "native" habitat. Go to this page to learn more: http://www.torreyaguardians.org/learnings.html.
One more thing: Our entire project was undertaken by citizen naturalists using our own free labor, plus a little of our own money for transportation and to purchase seedlings from a nursery. We suggest that our effort should set a good precedent for responsible citizen naturalists to undertake similar projects with little or no taxpayer assistance other than supervisory roles played by funded scientists. To economize on funding, and to ensure that every species is given an opportunity to migrate, Americans must make use of the voluntary labor lovingly provided by experienced citizen naturalists.
November, 2012 / by Janet Manning, Torreya Guardian/ Five of 20 seeds from fall 2011 seed crop have germinated in 2012 at Corneille Bryan Native Garden, Lake Junaluska NC"Seeds were not planted until December 2011, and two had started to germinate before I planted them. I had kept them in a ziploc bag in my basement. Seeds were planted in two outdoor seed beds one at the garden and one at home (ten each) in about 3 inches of fafford germinating mix, layered over 6 inches of a mix of old and new potting soil. The 2 pre-germinated seeds were among those planted at the garden. All of the 5 seedlings are in the bed at the garden. The seedlings are about six inches tall. I am hoping to have more come up in the spring of 2013." ADDENDUM: By late April 2013, 7 more seeds had germinated outdoors. Check out the photos of this on the