Reports by Torreya Guardians Volunteers
Listed chronologically from most recent

July 2024/ Connie Barlow and Jake Wells/ First photo documentation of a successful freeplanting of Torreya seeds in Illinois

For the past two years I (Connie) have delayed distributing to volunteer planters the annual fall harvests of Torreya seeds from Cleveland (Parma) OHIO and two homes in central NORTH CAROLINA. Instead, I distribute seeds the following year or even the next. This is because Torreya seeds almost never germinate after a single winter stratifiction. About 3/4 of the viable seeds will germinate after two winters, and the remainder after three. By my stratifying them safely together, this reduces opportunities for rodents to find and dig them up.

   PHOTO LEFT: This is the first germination of the 40 seeds that Jake Wells planted in late July of 2023. The seeds came from the 2022 fall harvest in Clinton NC (where we were granted permission to collect beginning in 2013).

Jake Wells, who lives near Alpha ILLINOIS, has initiated an experiment. Instead of waiting to see a seedling emerge before caging, he chickenwired each site right after planting the seed. This is very labor intensive!

We already know that caging is crucial to prevent browsing by deer, which can devastate young seedlings. But we do not know how much early herbivory is by rabbits or woodchucks. And even if seeds are planted 4 inches deep, we cannot be sure that squirrels, chipmunks, or tunneling voles won't find them. Chickenwire supported by wooden stakes certainly keeps rabbits, woodchucks, and squirrels away. Jake's experiment will teach us whether early caging is worth the effort.

JAKE wrote, "I am very proud to be part of this grand experiment. The fact that I have been given the chance to help save a species is a privilege. And now that I have a torreya growing, it is even more special. I am so excited to be the first in Illinois to have a documented torreya growing with photos — and to put Illinois on the map!" (Details are on the new Illinois page.)

July 2024/ Connie Barlow/ New "3-Part Framework" for recovery planning offers Torreya Guardians collaborative possibilities

   A google search for how USF&WS recovery planning is done led me to a new webpage. This 3-part framework may finally induce the agency to value what our citizen group accomplishes.

No longer will the two participating botanical gardens in Georgia have the power to veto experimentation in "assisted migration" poleward (which is what happened in 2010). This is because "working groups" are a thing of the past.

Instead, comments received from everyone during the update process will be considered by agency staff in writing just the basic statutory elements required in a "recovery plan." These include targets for rises in population numbers that will constitute success for downlisting and delisting. Also included will be categories of actions for moving toward success.

But a lot of elements that are in the official plans now will be shifted into two flexible and updatable documents. This is where our group can shine. They are:

• The SPECIES STATUS REPORT (SSA) for Florida torreya: Here we can offer agency staff documentation of (a) the geographic inventory we completed of Historic Groves of old horticultural plantings, (b) results of our own volunteer torreya plantings (including seed production in Ohio) and (c) our ever-growing sense of best practices for propagating, siting, and nurturing this species in a variety of states and habitats northward of this glacial relict's tiny historical range.

RECOVERY IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES (RIS) will for the first time be authorized for the agency to develop separately with each participating institution. Thus the agency could explore a separate RIS to be carried out by our group. So long as experimentation in assisted migration is included as an action category in the official recovery plan update, the agency will be free to explore this option. Our willingness to engage in supportive actions for Florida torreya without needing any funding is likely to make us very attractive as an RIS collaborator.

June 2024/ Connie Barlow/ Florida Torreya Recovery Plan Update begins — Opportunity for Torreya Guardians to comment

We've got until AUGUST 5 to post comments. I alerted the main group of planting volunteers right away. Meanwhile I am trying to have a phone conversation with a relevant staffer to accomplish two things:

   (1) Gain assurance that several of us will be invited to partipate officially in the Working Group for Florida Torreya. We are stakeholders no less than the park managers, private landowners, and botanical gardens who are attempting to help this species in its "historical range" in Florida and Geogia.

(2) How might our collaboration be most helpful? What specific information and discoveries we have made might be most useful to include in our comments?

June 2024/ Connie Barlow/ "Latent pathogen" discoveries could help Torreya Guardians advocacy

   At timecode 01:46:04, a 2-minute section of a long forestry video is where MY QUESTION is read to the guest speaker: "Do you recommend assisted migration, northward, upslope, or onto north-facing slopes?" His response was generally positive. "I don't see anything wrong with it. It's happening already.... In the Sierra Nevada, trees are moving upslope."

As the lead forest pathologist in the state, Prof. Matteo Garbelotto had talked about the scale and causes of the shockingly unexpected and sudden tree deaths happening in the San Francisco Bay area — all unquestionably attributed to the recent extremes of heat and drought. These, in turn, empowered native fungi to kill previously healthy trees.

HOW CALIFORNIA'S EXPERIENCE COULD HELP FLORIDA TORREYA: Torreya Guardians have long been conducting our own "assisted migration" experiments northward by using seeds produced from horticultural plantings in the Appalachians and northward. However, the two botanical gardens who control the ex situ wild-stock plantings in northern Georgia have stalled in collecting and distributing the prolific annual seed production — out of fear that the newly named Fusarium torreyae (which is present in all tissues, including seeds) might be able to harm other native trees. In his talk, Prof. Matteo Garbelotto (U.C. Berkeley) used the term "latent pathogens". These are native fungal and bacterial "endophytes" that are always present within tree tissues, "possibly beneficial", but then turn lethal when their host trees become climate stressed.

In contrast, when the globally known fungal disease Fusarium lateritium that has long been identified with root necrosis and/or stem cankers in Florida Torreya was renamed in 2013 as a new species, Fusarium torreyae, the fear arose that it might not be a native disease (triggered by Holocene warming to kill a left-behind glacial relict). Rather, it might be from another continent, introduced by the horticultural trade mid-20th century, as that is when the massive deaths of torreya trees began. Now consider: "Latent pathogen" is another name for a commensal or mutualistic microbial member of the "plant microbiome" that turns deadly when its host is stressed. This is especially true of the subset of fungal mutualists that normally pass their own descendants forward as part of the SEED MICROBIOME. Scroll down to this entry to learn more about the possibility that Fusarium torreyae may actually be mutualistic with Florida torreya in northward climates:   December 2023/ Connie Barlow/ Botany papers reveal that Fusarium torreyae is actually a mutualist, only becoming pathogenic when the host plant is stressed.

May 2024 / Buford Pruitt/ Squirrels can be helpful — if one has hundreds of seeds

   May 28 email from Buford Pruitt in Brevard NC:

"... Fred Bess had also sent me seeds to be scattered in natural habitat, some of which I put 4 to 6 inches deep into the ground and others I merely placed within the leaf litter.

Two of those seeds germinated this year and are currently 6+ inches tall (see photo).

They came up at the edge of my picnic table area — way too close to the table for me to have placed them there. Their needle-tipped leaves are not needed at picnics!

So, I believe squirrels found them in the leaf litter and planted them. I plan to relocate them."

Note: A year ago Buford contributed a 3-page analysis of the range of ways in which squirrels provide seed dispersal services in the wild.

SEE ALSO: See the DECEMBER 2019 entry by Clint Bancroft on his torreya page: evidence that a squirrel carried and planted a seed some 200 feet distant from the seed pot it had worked its way into!

QUESTION: Has anyone tried putting CHILE FLAKES just below the soil surface when covering up a deep-planted seed?

May 2024 / Russell Regnery and Connie Barlow / Unlike Florida Torreya project, Wollemia tree project encourages citizen plantings

CONNIE writes: Russ Regnery (Torreya Guardian NC) alerted me to this 2022 paper, "Home gardens contribute to conservation of the critically endangered Wollemi Pine: Evaluation of a botanic garden-led horticultural release programme", by Catherine Offord and Heidi Zimmer, published in Plants, People, Planet.

   At least one Torreya Guardian (Wisconsin Mike Heim, PHOTO LEFT) participates in the global effort to ensure geographic distribution of a relict genus of conifer (Wollemia) whose last native hold is a cool, deep canyon in eastern Australia.

In that project, citizens are welcomed — and planting in a vast variety of geographies and habitats is regarded as useful for discerning the full range of climate and habitats in which this narrow endemic could be translocated to perhaps thrive and disperse on its own again.

In sad contrast, we citizens assisting the northward migration of one of America's own glacial relict trees (Florida torreya) have been criticized by some conservation biologists (but not forestry professionals), and subjected to hostile statements by the agency and botanical gardens officially in charge.

Initially, we were criticized for not waiting for professionals to study whether this species could (a) survive northward, and (b) would not become "invasive" by doing too well in northward habitats. Well, the professional studies never happened. Instead, we used basic natural history skills to document on our own the survival and lack of invasiveness in existing northward horticultural plantings more than a half-century old.

In the late 2010s a new charge was launched against us: that we might inadvertently be spreading northward an allegedly exotic fungal disease by moving torreya plants (and even just their seeds) north. Even though professional botanists are now recognizing that fungal species routinely found within the seeds of a host plant are a strong sign of mutualism (becoming pathogenic only when the host is too stressed to produce seeds), the botanical gardens are still letting their ex situ seed production in northern Georgia go to waste. Accordingly, they criticized our group for continuing our own distribution of horticulturally grown seeds and thus our northward planting projects. At least one professional is still speaking of Fusarium torreyae as an exotic fungal disease and as a danger to other tree species in the eastern USA — even though the scientific papers did not document an exotic source. As well, there are no peer-reviewed published papers documenting dangers to other tree species. Inoculations of potted plants of other species by a graduate student in laboratory settings in Florida cannot determine susceptibility of those same tree species when supported by climate and mutualists of their own natural ecological settings in the Appalachian Mountains.

April 2024 / Connie Barlow / Superb forest slope of new torreya planter in Illinois

After 1 winter stratification here in the ground in Michigan, I sent seeds from Fred Bess's 2023 harvest (Cleveland, Ohio) to 5 new torreya planters, including our first planter ever in NEW JERSEY. Photos above are where our new planter in Peoria ILLINOIS will be putting his torreya, following germination and growth into seedlings after maintaining the seeds safely for a second winter stratification. The steepness of the slope, with lots of Christmas ferns under a deciduous canopy, look like ideal habitat. Caging against deer browsing will be put in place if necessary.

March 2024 / Mike Heim and Connie Barlow / Torreya survives a crazy winter in northern-most planting

   Back in February, Mike Heim contributed photos of 5 of his torreya seedlings during a winter of relatively little snow in Wisconsin. A springlike week in February is the photo left. Snow arrived again in March (right).

Mike reported that the coldest temperature this winter was -16F (not bad for northern Wisconsin!). Fortunately, the seedlings were covered in snow then. He reported "-6F is the coldest they've been exposed to."

You'll see lots more photos on Mike's Wisconsin Torreya page.

Now, compare the Wisconsin Torreya to a Torreya Guardians planting in the panhandle of Florida below. That's quite a climate span for a species to cope with! Such experiments are extremely useful in this time of rapid climate change.

March 2024 / Chris Larson / Photo of seedling at Shoal Sanctuary in the Florida panhandle

   MARCH 20, 2024: Chris Larson sent this photo of one of the remaining Florida Torreya seedlings, 9 years after the seeds were "freeplanted" directly into the forest.

Notice the creek in the background.

The topographically rich and forested land in this region of northern Florida contains the same kinds of "steephead ravines", with small creeks at their bottoms, that provides crucial habitat in the original relictual range eastward in the panhandle.

IMPORTANT: Notice the absence of deer herbivory on this perfect seedling. (The seedlings have never been "caged".) Hunting is a normal activity in this very rural part of Florida — in contrast to prohibition of hunting in Torreya State Park, where herbivory has been severe.

March 2024 / Connie Barlow / Estella Leopold dies at age 97 (she told Torreya Guardians about a Miocene Torreya fossil in Washington state)

New York Times posted an obituary of Estella Leopold (last surviving offspring of Aldo Leopold) on March 5. She was 97. I was scheduled to meet her in Seattle in 2017, while I was volunteering there for the "Valve Turners", but she had to go to the hospital for a lung condition, so that never happened. Earlier she and I had engaged in e-correspondence about Torreya taxifolia and her team's finding a Miocene torreya fossil in Washington state. I am grateful that I kept and posted the Leopold-and-Barlow correspondence.

March 2024 / Connie Barlow / Three Torreya Guardians report germination after 3 winters

(1) End of February 2024, Mike Heim of Hayward WI sent me photos of the 5 torreya seedlings that had emerged Summer of 2023 from NC seeds that Mike had planted directly into his deer exclosure right after the Fall harvest, November 2020. Thus, it took 3 winters in the ground before those seeds produced seedlings.

(2) Early March 2024, Connie Barlow in Ypsilanti MI decided to check on how the NC seeds from the 2021 harvest were doing, after spending a third winter stratifying. She was shocked and delighted that of the 45 seeds that had not germinated (as many do) after their second winter stratification 34 had already germinated by early March after their third winter. Indeed, the roots had already lengthened so much (see photo left above) that they could easily break during shipment or even during careful planting here in Michigan. Statistics: 45 total seeds, of which 34 had germinated, 4 were dark gray (no longer healthy brown) and upon dissection were confirmed dead, 1 had a white wormy insect larva emerging from its round depression near the tip, 2 had the triple crack that precedes germination, and the remaining 4 had the customary thin slit at the tip that precedes the triple crack. The experiment now continues with the remaining 6 healthy brown seeds.

(3) Mid December 2023, Paul Camire of Capac MI was surprised that he still had a neglected bag of November 2021 harvested NC seeds in his refrigerator. So he pulled out the bag and put it in his basement. Connie's early March report that her third-winter stratified seeds had already germinated prompted Paul to check his bag of 2021 seeds. He found that two had just started to germinate (photo above right).

December 2023/ Connie Barlow/ Botany papers reveal that Fusarium torreyae is actually a mutualist, only becoming pathogenic when the host plant is stressed.

Using Google Scholar, and also aided by the PLANT MICROBIOME page on wikipedia, I encountered a raft of recent botany papers concluding that fungal propagules regularly found in seeds entail the SEED MICROBIOME. Even beneficial fungal partners, however, may express pathogenically if a plant host becomes too stressed to produce seeds.

IMPLICATIONS AND QUESTIONS: Might this explain why Fusarium torreyae had first been detected in stem cankers within the historical range, yet subsequent observations had also detected it in all seeds produced in northern Georgia? Might the professionals in charge of torreya seed policy not be aware of these recent papers — which entail a marked paradigm shift? As well, is there some way that Torreya Guardians could ensure that these papers would be considered in the next 5-year plan update, due in 2025?

Toward fostering professional and public awareness of technical papers that brought about this paradigm shift, I posted a lengthy new webpage that links and excerpts the main papers. I use a chronological framework that also lists and excerpts previous scholarship (beginning in 1967) exploring possible causes for the demise of Florida torreya within its historical range. I also produced a video introduction to the paradigm shift and the history of scholarship pertaining to Florida torreya:

Published Documents on Endangerment Causes of Torreya taxifolia in Florida
     (Table of contents for this lengthy new webpage is below.)

VIDEO on the paradigm shift
     (Title: "Assisted Migration of Climate-Endangered Plants - Torreya Guardians lead the way")

December 2023 / Daein Ballard / NEW HAMPSHIRE discoveries on full-sun torreyas

SUMMARY (by Barlow) of the New Hampshire report: Three of the 6 photos Daein Ballard sent us in December are shown above. Significant findings include (1) At least in full-sun sites, torreyas as far north as southern New Hampsire will have 2 growth spurts annually — just like we have documented in full-sun Tennessee. (2) The full-sun torreya growth form is less yew-like than in shady habitat (see the lower portion of the middle photo above). Daein reports that the full-sun leaf pattern deters deer. This is likely because the deer cannot avoid getting poked by the very sharp needle tips when it tries to bite off the end of a lateral. See how the full-sun growth form is very similar to that already demonstrated by Fred Bess in Ohio. (Go to the Cleveland-Ohio page and scroll down to the October 2018 photos.)

November 2023/ Connie Barlow/ New VIDEO reviews history of search for Torreya's causes of endangerment — and implications of the new papers on PLANT and SEED MICROBIOMES

   This 70-minute VIDEO begins with a celebration of the 1,000+ seeds our grower in Ohio produced autumn 2023. The rest of the video is a presentation by the group's founder, Connie Barlow, of the long and shifting history of scientific speculation and (sometimes faulty) assumptions about the ultimate cause(s) of this ancient conifer's sudden demise in its tiny historical range in Florida.

A new webpage Connie created, "Published Documents on Endangerment Causes of Torreya taxifolia in Florida", is the basis for this educational video.

BACKGROUND: Motivated by the July 2023 adoption of a new regulation permitting the agency in charge of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to expand recovery efforts beyond the "historical range" — especially if climate change had already damaged prospects there — Connie began a scholarly search of new papers that might offer guidance for Florida Torreya. What she found was a "paradigm shift" (beginning around 2016) that offered new and compelling scientific reasons for the ESA implementers to follow the lead of this citizen group in "assisted migration" poleward as a way to help this tree regain its ability to fight native diseases. Central to this new understanding is the discovery that all plant tissues — including seeds — harbor beneficial fungal and bacterial partners: what is now called the PLANT MICROBIOME and the SEED MICROBIOME.

November 2023/ Connie Barlow/ USDA new map of plant hardiness zones shows regional warming in our northward Torreya plantings

November 2023/ Connie Barlow/ Seed harvest by Torreya Guardians at two sites in central NC

Visit the Cinton and Mt Olive NC page for 2023 photos during collection, added to the chronological entries that began October 2013.

November 2023/ Fred Bess/ Parma OHIO, photos of final harvest from 3 female stems


ABOVE: Visit the Parma, OHIO (suburb of Cleveland) torreya page for the full history, from planting to harvesting seeds.

  Fred delivered 1,085 seeds to Connie Barlow in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

LEFT: Connie noticed a clear, thin "cap" on all seeds — and thus an experiment: For winter stratification outdoors, she put 400 seeds with the cap removed into one pit, and 400 with just the flesh removed into another pit.

HYPOTHESIS: Perhaps when this ancient genus was dispersed by large herbivorous reptiles who swallowed the seeds whole for the food value of just the fleshy aril. Passage through the system may have removed this clear, thin cap that covers just the pointy, germination tip of the seed. Is our own failure to remove this cap the reason why almost no seeds germinate after just one winter? (Most germinate after 2 winter stratifications.) Thus, will the 400 seeds with caps removed show more first-winter germinations than the 400 seeds with intact caps?

November 2023/ Mike Heim / Torreya planter in Wisconsin obtains LAND CONSERVATION easement

  Mike Heim writes, "Another 58 acres protected forever!"

Access the news article on the CONSERVATION EASEMENT DESIGNATION.

SIGNIFICANCE: This is the first time that a torreya planter on private land has ensured that protection of their plantings will continue after their own death or sale of the property.


October 2023/ Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians reported in New York Times and Sierra Magazine as the first assisted migration project — now redwoods have taken the lead

Access links and lengthy excerpts of New York Times and Sierra Magazine

See if this "share" link gets you past the paywall: NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE "Redwoods"

   COAST REDWOOD is the new leader in assisted migration — and thank goodness! Finally, academics and journalists have lost any truthful grounding for nitpicking the efforts of Torreya Guardians, as citizens, working on our own to achieve recovery of the nearly-extinct-in-historic-range FLORIDA TORREYA.

Additional good news is that the massive project moving REDWOOD seeds from California to the Seattle WA area was originated by CITIZENS in 2016, with an NGO formed to lead the expanding project only this year.

Over the past four years, I used my personal experience with redwoods and reading relevant scientific papers to help with their laying out of best practices for propagation and siting where to plant. See here and here.

TORREYA GUARDIANS also helped with applying our own experience as to whether rooted branchlets can ever be nurtured into tree form. In the case of our slow-growing subcanopy tree, the answer is no. In the case of the evolved canopy capacity and basal resprouting ability of Coast Redwood, the answer is yes. Learn more about the lengthy and photo-rich webpage I constructed: "Growth Capacities of Coast Redwood".

TORREYA GUARDIANS WEST formed in 2022 in order to begin assisted migration of the California species of the genus: Torreya californica. Unburdened by any endangered species listing, and free of academic and institutional attempts to block citizen actions, Torreya seeds from the 2022 harvest in California went to a citizen in Vancouver, British Columbia last year. This year's harvest (already finished) will include seed shipment to a botanical garden also in that part of CANADA. The citizen redwood group in Seattle will also be able to help California torreya find additional homes in the Pacific Northwest in the years ahead.

IMPLICATIONS FOR ESA MANAGEMENT OF FLORIDA TORREYA: From what I can discern, there is only one remaining scientific basis for the two botanical gardens in Georgia to continue their prohibition of assisted migration of Florida torreya. These two institutions are empowered by the Endangered Species Act to exercise total control over the management of the two ex situ plantings of diverse, wild genetics of Florida Torreya in northern-most Georgia. From what we can discern, ever since 2016 tens of thousands of seeds produced in those orchards have not only been uncollected and unutilized but also not even documented as to yearly production.
    The "one remaining scientific basis" for the Georgia botanical gardens continuing to block wild-genetic seed distribution poleward has recently been falsified by discovery of, what is now called a PLANT MICROBIOME, which is pervasive in all the tissues of all plants studied thus far. Even more important is that, when the botanical gardens documented the genetics of a Fusarium fungal species in all torreya seeds sampled, their decision to halt seed distribution northward would turn out to be the polar opposite of what the next paradigm shift would signify, beginning in 2018. That is, papers published in botany and pathology journals confirmed that all plant seeds contain their own SEED MICROBIOME of fungal and bacterial mutualists — crucial for successful germination and root development.
    Thus the finding of Fusarium torreyae within torreya seeds should have been a green light for moving ahead with assisted migration, not a full-stop. Because I myself was unaware of the PLANT & SEED MICROBIOME discoveries until this summer, I do not fault overworked botanical staff and academics for being unaware of that too. So the question becomes:

Which scientist or journalist will bring this SEED MICROBIOME PARADIGM SHIFT to light, such that institutional management policies will have to shift in order to still be regarded as scientifically grounded?

October 2023/ Fred Bess/ Parma, OHIO (a suburb of Cleveland) has another big torreya seed harvest


Fred Bess (Cleveland, OH) does it again! He writes in part,

"I spent the last hour 'donating blood' while picking Torreya arils/seeds. Dang, those needles are sharp! The aril flesh has finally started to split. That is my cue to collect them.
    I picked only from the big female tree and only the mid-section. I still must pick the top third and bottom portion. You can see I've gotten quite the crop. A two-and-a-half-gallon bucket full to the top, and I may be able to pick yet another bucket full. I want to heal for a day or two before I pick more. I have yet to pick from the other two females. And, as always, I keep the seeds separated to keep the genetics apart...."

October 2023 / Clint Bancroft / A torreya grown from seed emerges with a triple stem


CLINT BANCROFT: "Torreya as trinity! Today as I was removing seedlings from their group container to put into individual one-gallon pots, I discovered that one had emerged from a single seed — but had three trunks! Never before has a seed sprouted with more than a single trunk. (The group of seedlings in the container all sprouted from seeds harvested Fall 2021 at Mt. Olive, North Carolina.)"

September 2023/ Connie Barlow / Wikipedia page on Torreya Guardians has new section on how our group is influencing academic philosophers

   In my retirement, I've had more time to devote to volunteer activities beyond maintaining this webpage for Torreya Guardians. Notably, I have become an experienced wikipedia editor.

My first effort in 2021 was co-creating a new page with a Canadian: "Assisted migration of forests in North America". Next, I massively updated and extended the Torreya taxifolia wikipedia page.

I did not create the original Torreya Guardians wikipedia page. But I was able to make some contributions of basic facts (although not all that I had hoped for!) when it was created.

Now I have learned enough about wikipedia standards — especially for topics that include controversies, which our page certainly does — that I managed to craft a new section that passed the test. I did that by selecting two excerpts: one that favored our work and the other that did not. So there is balance.

The new section is "Reception within the Bioethics profession". As per my custom as a former science writer, I looked for scholarly papers by academic bioethicists that mentioned how our group was leading "assisted migration" in this time of rapid climate change. Check it out!

September 2023/ Clint Bancroft/ Basal sprout appears on precious seedling sourced from 2018 seeds donated by Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve in Louisiana


ABOVE LEFT: Clint Bancroft receives several torreya seeds produced by the tallest Florida torreya at the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve in Louisiana, November 2018. (The tree is immediately behind Clint.)

ABOVE RIGHT: Clint took this photo nearly five years later (September 2023) of the basal sprout emerging from a young torreya growing from one of those seeds. (It takes 2 winter stratifications before torreya seeds will germinate.) Clint Bancroft is a Torreya Guardian who aims to plant the most genetically diverse population of seedlings in a wild forest setting on his property along Greasy Creek, in the Ocoee watershed of southeastern Tennessee. CLINT WROTE:

"I have good news from Greasy Creek. As you know, there was only one seed from the 5 we were gifted from the Dormon torreya collection in Louisiana (November 2018 site visit). I had the good fortune, and awesome responsibility, of being the holder of that single seedling. It is doing well, still in its pot behind an impassable fence wire barrier. This year the tree has put up a basal sprout. I plan to leave it on the parent until next fall and then collect it for rooting. My sense is that it is yet too small for collection this year. This, being the rarest among our collection from various seed sources, will be dealt with very cautiously."

September 2023/ Connie Barlow / 2020 Report shows cumulative government funds spent on endangered species management of Torreya taxifolia

The 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act is December 2023. Because there is a lot of political controversy about possibly amending the act as well as the usual funding debates, I am reading quite a few relevant news reports. One linked to a tabulation of cumulative government spending for each species. The image below is just a piece of Table 2, which entails (in order of expenditures from highest to lowest) the funding rank of 1,599 of the 1,821 domestic species (and subspecies) listed as endangered (E) or threatened (T) as of 2020. Florida torreya was the third highest-funded plant. A saltwater plant and an orchid native to springs in five western states were the only plants (plants entail the majority of listed species) that received more funding, since aggregate accounting began in 1990.

Also relevant to our group is a table from a 2022 paper, "Data sharing for conservation: A standardized checklist of US native tree species and threat assessments to prioritize and coordinate action". Below you will see my adaptation of the table, which singled out something I have never before been able to discern myself from within the vast list of endangered species. This is the subset of TREE species on the endangered species list. Besides our own focal tree, only three others have genus names that are recognizable to me as trees: Asimina (pawpaw), Betula (birch), and Cercocarpus.

September 2023/ Connie Barlow / Citizen planters helping Australia's Wollemia tree validate our own group's effort helping Florida Torreya

Thanks to Canadian Lucas Machias, I learned of a new research paper (and a news article about it) reporting how citizen science is helping to conserve the "living fossil" Wollemia tree — both within and outside of its tiny relict range (at the bottom of a deep canyon, to keep cool) in eastern Australia.

   Consider first that Wollemia's discovery in 1994 is what knocked Florida torreya off its pedestal as the "most endangered conifer in the world."

Thanks to the unusual decision to have commercial nurseries help in distributing rooted cuttings of Wollemia to home gardeners in some 31 nations around the world, scientists have been able to learn a lot about where and how this precious species can grow — without having to spend their own time (and a lot of funding) to do so in the usual way that "endangered species" are managed.

Indeed, citizens were recruited to care for Wollemia cuttings, and commercial nurseries made distribution part of their normal business. What a contrast to how our own citizen effort has been ignored (and spoken against) by the professionals in charge!

Torreya planter, Fred Bess, in Cleveland Ohio has participated in the Wollemia home effort (using his greenhouse) and so has our Wisconsin planter, Mike Heim, who keeps his Wollemia potted for moving indoors during the winter. See my excerpting of the 2023 research paper on our Historic Groves page. I also added a new conservation subsection on this topic to the WOLLEMIA WIKIPEDIA page.

August 2023/ Mike Heim and Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians contribute to northward American Chestnut documentation

BELOW LEFT is a 2023 photo by Mike Heim of one of his mature 1980 plantings of (pure) American Chestnut on his forested property in northern Wisconsin. He wrote, "Here is a photo of my largest blight-resistent pure American chestnut. I had bought them from a nursery in MI in 1980. It developed blight cankers early on, healed over them, and hasn't had a problem since." Notice, for scale, the man standing at the tree's base.

   LEFT is a MAP from a 2022 paper, "Beyond blight: Phytophthora root rot under climate change limits populations of reintroduced American chestnut", by Eric J. Gustafson et al., in Ecosphere.

Notice how far north Mike Heim's WI property is — and thus how far north American Chestnuts can already thrive. Access more, full-scale photos of Heim's American Chestnuts.

Another Torreya planter, Paul Camire in southern Michigan, is newly experimenting with pure American Chestnuts. Go to timecode 13:17 of the VIDEO of Torreya Guardians posted immediately below to see Paul's chestnut planting.

SIGNIFICANCE: Because Historic Groves documentation by Torreya Guardians far north of the tiny historical range of Torreya taxifolia in n. Florida has been recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an important contribution of ours, citizens and professionals involved with American Chestnut restoration should also be aware of and document just how far north of "historical range" this cherished native canopy tree can survive (even thrive) today.

August 2023/ Paul Camire and Connie Barlow / New VIDEO of Torreya thriving in MICHIGAN

PAUL CAMIRE, whose family farm and forest is in the "thumb" of southern Michigan, led CONNIE BARLOW on a tour of his Florida torreya plantings August 13, 2023. Despite setbacks by herbivory, Paul's 45-acre deciduous forest is proving to be good habitat for this endangered and slow-growing subcanopy conifer. Another 30 young ones still in pots outdoors at his home will join the forest plantings in the years to come.

   This 34-minute VIDEO delves into the details of best forest planting practices. Paul's experience will encourage other planters to (a) build strong cages to protect torreya where DEER are over-abundant and (b) don't give up when herbivory happens. Torreya will recover! This ancient species may be slow, but it is almost indestructible once it gets a roothold.

Crucially, too: There is no evidence of winter kill or disease problems. And at timecode 10:52 you will hear Connie's surprise when Paul shows his vibrant Florida yew — another glacial relict left stranded amidst the wild torreya in the panhandle of Florida.

  Watch on youtube: "Michigan welcomes endangered trees from Florida (2023)".
  Visit the Capac Michigan torreya webpage.

August 2023/ Connie Barlow / 48 papers linked and excerpted on the history of research on why Florida torreya is endangered

   Until this month I was unaware that in 2015 agricultural research pathologists initiated a PARADIGM SHIFT in how they regard fungal endophytes (including Fusarium species).

Henceforth, fungal endophytes discovered in plants are first evaluated as potential mutualists with their hosts: "seeds contain mainly plant-beneficial microorganisms" (Abdelfattah et al. 2022)

Learn more in this new list of 48 scientific papers, with excerpts.

Since 2003, I have been analyzing published papers that offer and/or test hypotheses on WHY FLORIDA TORREYA suddenly succumbed to disease(s) in its tiny native range in the 1950s, and continuing today. "Environmental stress" that provoked disease expression by weakened plants was tested in the 1990s. However, quantitative historical data (especially on temperature changes in the ravine habitat) were not adequate for the scientists to point to a specific environmental shift as the likely ultimate cause of the multiple diseases injuring the species.
     In the early 2010s, new morphological standards for parsing the globally ranging FUSARIUM genus of fungi led to University of Florida researchers distinguishing and naming a NEW SPECIES from fungal isolates that previously had been called Fusarium lateritium. The new species was named Fusarium torreyae, and this gave rise to speculations that the disease was exotic and had arrived on this continent in sync with the sudden outburst of stem cankers in Florida torreya. Thenceforth, the risk of a possibly exotic pathogen spreading northward supplied new reasons for botanical garden staff to maintain hostility to "assisted migration" projects, such as those underway by Torreya Guardians.
     Within the past half-dozen years, an additional risk factor put a virtual end to harvesting and distribution of tens of thousands of torreya seeds produced annually in the two ex situ orchards in n. Georgia that are "safeguarding" the wild genetics. That new risk factor derives from the finding that Fusarium torreyae was not only in "all tissues" of Florida torreya — but even in its SEEDS. This finding, however, actually offers hope for the fears to subside — but only if the botanical staff and other professionals familiarize themselves with the new (post-2014) scientific papers, such as my own compilation of
48 SCIENTIFIC PAPERS, which includes the most recent papers documenting that FUNGAL ENDOPHYTES CAN BE BENEFICIAL, especially when inside SEEDS .

July 2023/ Connie Barlow / Discovery: It took 2.5 months for seedlings to emerge after I free-planted GERMINATED seeds in a forest site

Having retired to my home state of southern Michigan, I have been frustrated by the overabundance of deer that destroy the understory in just about every forested site I have explored. Folks who began planting torreyas in Michigan a half-dozen or more years ago find that winter-hungry deer will sometimes push down all but the sturdiest cages.

   So in April 2023 I tried something new. I selected massively tangled treefall sites for planting already germinated torreya seeds. These were from the 2021 harvest in Clinton, NC. None germinated after one winter stratifiction, but 39% germinated after two.

After planting mid April, it took 2.5 months for any of the already germinated seeds to show any above-ground growth. Instead, torreya's big seed invests in a long and well furnished TAPROOT, which is crucial for surviving summer droughts.

At the 3-month point, 6 of the 10 seeds had produced seedlings, 2 of which soon were nibbled down to stubs. These will regrow new leaders from the still-green bud scales that remain.

ABOVE: Photos show the first two seedlings (June 30 and July 5 photos), next to context photos of the treefall tangles where I chose to plant seeds in April. (I used round rocks to mark each planting.)

July 2023/ Fred Bess / Seeds galore forming in Parma, OHIO (a suburb of Cleveland)

"I was out doing yard work and noted that the big female in the front yard is absolutely loaded with arils/seeds."

For the history of Fred's Torreya plantings, go to the Cleveland, Ohio page on this website.

Editor's note: While these torreya seeds are full size and fully rounded in shape, ripening continues for another 3 months. Picking the seeds before the fleshy coating peels off easily (without sticking to the seed) dooms the seed to death. Usually, the seed flesh turns yellowish or orange (sometimes with purple patches) when fully ripe. Scroll down to November 2022 and see the color of Fred's plucked seeds from his 2022 harvest.

July 2023/ Connie Barlow / Federal government adopts new rule to authorize assisted migration for "experimental populations" of endangered species

In June 2022 the government proposed to modify the ESA regulation (not the statute) so as to no longer require "experimental populations" to be placed within "historical range". I filed a comment (as a citizen) supporting that change, which you can access by scrolling down this webpage or accessing directly my August 2022 entry. At the same time I went into the Wikipedia page: "Endangered Species Act of 1973" and created a new section titled "Climate adaptation".

  This month, the government finalized the change, so I added this para (with references) to the wikipedia page:

"The U.S. Department of Interior on June 30, 2023, announced its decision to modify the section 10(j) "experimental populations" rule generally as proposed a year earlier. The press release summarized the reason for the change as, 'At the time the original 10(j) regulations were established, the potential impact of climate change on species and their habitats was not fully realized, yet in the decades since have become even more dramatic. These revisions will help prevent extinctions and support the recovery of imperiled species by allowing the Service and our partners to implement proactive, conservation-based species introductions to reduce the impacts of climate change and other threats such as invasive species.' The rulemaking action includes a section summarizing 25 topics entailed in comments submitted in 2022, along with the agency's official response to each."

This is a hugely significant shift in federal policy that would seem to finally allow (perhaps even motivate?) the agency staff in USF&WS to officially authorize "assisted migration" poleward of Florida Torreya, as we Torreya Guardians have been doing since 2005 — thanks to an "exception" (just for plants) in the statute itself that enables citizens to plant horticulturally produced seeds outside of "historical range." I predict, however, that the agency will not act — unless I (and others?) once again petition the government to utilize this new tool or at least issue a written decision as to why it will not.
     And, yes, it is possible for a citizen (without any legal help, nor costs) to submit a formal petition — as I did September 2019 when I petitioned to "downlist" Florida torreya from endangered to "threatened", based on the accomplishments of Torreya Guardians. Access directly my September 2019 comment on this page where I link to MY DOWNLIST PETITION; and then the October 2021 comment where I posted access to the agency's decision NOT TO DOWNLIST. Alas, the agency is probably not legally required to respond with any depth to a petition merely to shift how it implements its current recovery plan. The latest recovery plan update occurred in 2020, and the interval between such updates appears to be about 10 years. Nonetheless, the agency will have to respond at least in a sentence or two as to when they would consider applying the new regulation to Florida Torreya.
     For a summary of the problematic episodes that Torreya Guardians have faced in the official resistance to "assisted migration" poleward of this "glacial relict" species from its peak glacial refuge in Florida, access the "Case Study of Agency and Institutional Failures" page on this website.

June 2023/ Eric Hongisto / Huge California Torreyas documented north of San Francisco

Editor's note: In the past several years, three Californians have been contributing photos of Florida Torreya's giant cousin that is native to the Coast Range north of Santa Cruz, CA. The four below by Eric Hongisto are now on the Samuel P. Taylor State Park torreya page. Find more via our California Torreya main page. (And notice how massive trees often form from uniting basal regrowth stems — thus indicating much older root stock below, possibly thousands of years old.)

June 2023/ Court Lewis / My two tallest torreyas now 6 feet tall (Unicoi, TN)

   COURT LEWIS reports June 2023: "Here is a photo of the two biggest specimens I have. They're both about 6 feet tall, although it's hard to tell that since they're surrounded by grass that I've let grow too high.

I only have a total of 5 survivors out of 34 planted 6-7 years ago.

The one that grew out of a free-planting in the soil is the third largest (not pictured here). It's about 4 1/2 ft tall. Two others are smaller: 1-2 feet.

... All of mine that have thrived are on sloping ground."

See all his photos and reports at Unicoi TN torreya page.

June 2023/ Fred Bess and Connie Barlow / Lack of peer-reviewed science prolongs Fusarium fears within Torreya Keepers group

Editor's note: The lack of peer-reviewed scientific discernment is still evident in the disease pathology stance blocking support for seed distribution — even by the institutions administering the official recovery plan for this endangered species. When Fred Bess (who planted the farthest north, Cleveland, set of seed-producing torreyas) heard of a Facebook debate on this topic, he stepped in to present an alternative view. Fred contributed 6 points, of which 3 are excerpted here:

   EXCERPTS from Fred Bess's comment in a Facebook thread:

... 3. I know from personal experience that T. taxifolia is winter hardy to (at least) -17F (-27C) here in my own yard and they are fully exposed to the weather and salt spray from the 5 lane road I live on. This seems good evidence that the species was not originally a southern tree. If it were, why would it have the need to be that cold tolerant? More likely as many other southern US species it had to move south during the Ice age, but was unable to move back north, likely because its seed dispersers had gone extinct.
     4. Is there any data on Fusarium hardiness? Not every fungus can survive severe cold, especially if it is living within plant tissues that are completely exposed to those sub zero temperatures. Have any studies been done on this?

     5. I have an issue with the Fusarium testing on other species. I've seen the photos of completely dead Pinus and other genera in the lab. Just because a plant is killed in the lab does not mean it would be an issue in a natural habitat where there are other factors. Exposing any living organism to a possibly deadly pathogen is likely to end as those experiments did. I suspect those plants were grown in the lab as well and did not have the benefit of mycorrhizal associations that could have helped the trees deal with a fusarium infection....

Editor's note: Fred's full comment is available on his Ohio Torreya page, as the May 2023 entry within the Endangerment (causes of) webpage, and within the long facebook discussion thread. Reading this thread motivated webmaster, Connie Barlow, to send an email to the Fusarium expert in USDA, plus a climate-range-shift specialist there she has communicated with in past years. Connie wrote, in part:

REQUEST: Could a group of USDA scientists evaluate and publish what is known and unknown about the science concerning: (a) native v. non-native origin of the newly identified Fusarium torreyae; (b) whether "glacial relict" history accounts for the small "historical native" range; (c) possibilities for successful reintroduction of Torreya into Florida, absent genetic engineering; (d) whether unpublished lab experiments in Florida that injected the fusarium into clippings or potted specimens of spruce, fir, and pine species native to high altitudes of the southern Appalachian mountains offer reliable evidence for halting seed distribution from the ex situ groves and perhaps also from mature horticultural plantings in North Carolina and Ohio; (e) scientifically credible next steps for producing peer-reviewable and thus publishable results on the actual disease risks of continuing Torreya seed distribution northward of Florida and Georgia.

May 2023/ Jeff Morris / Photos of his tallest Torreya trees in Spencer, NC

   The foreground tree in each photo is a Torreya taxifolia.

The tallest (left) is 14 feet in height, and it bore fruit in 2022.

The foreground tree in right photo is about 9 feet tall and is 4 or 5 years younger.

More photos and commentary at the Spencer, NC Torreya page, which is in central North Carolina, 40 miles northeast of Charlotte, 700 foot elevation.

May 2023/ Lamar Marshall / First year of seed production near Franklin, NC

   Beginning with seeds donated from the 2013 generation of seeds, Lamar Marshall reports,
"I have six surviving Torreyas, a few of which are producing seeds for the first time."
More photos and commentary at the Cowee Valley, NC Torreya page, which is 8 miles north of Franklin on a south-facing slope at 2,200 foot elevation.

Maintained as a full-sun site by lawn-mowing.

May 2023/ Connie Barlow / USGS surveys USF&WS staff on views about "assisted migration" of endangered species. Conclusion: staff are cautious.

SCROLL DOWN first to a JUNE 2022 entry on a proposed USF&WS regulation authorizing "assisted migration" by removing "historical range" as the sole locus for endangered species recovery. THEN RETURN HERE:

This 22-page government document is a superb introduction to the concept and controversy about using assisted migration as a climate adaptation tool for endangered species.

  In addition to the usual statement of risks of "invasion in recipient ecosystems", disease spread, and project failures resulting in wasted government money, there were several new risks, controversies, or complexities that I was unaware of — either because they pertain mostly to animals or to the complexities of bureaucracies.

RISKS pertaining only to ANIMALS: (a) suffering or death during capture and transport, (b) loss of genetic diversity from the source population, (c) walking, flying, or swimming away from their intended "recipient ecosystem", and (d) requiring a lot of money to prepare, do, and monitor.

RISKS pertaining only to BUREAUCRACIES (not actions freely undertaken by citizens, such as Torreya Guardians): (a) INADEQUATE FUNDING for staff and/or NGOs to engage in all steps from planning to soliciting comments and then all aspects of carrying out the project. (b) INSECURE FUNDING to ensure monitoring and adjustments over many years. (c) LITIGATION by public either at source or recipient site.


1. PLANTS were not specified as being less risky and costly than animals.

2. No mention that NORTHWARD PLANTINGS IN PLACE at botanical gardens, urban streets/parks, and private residences can be evaluated as free, long-term experiments for assessing actual risks of project failure or harm to recipient ecosystems (such as we have done for Torreya in our "Historic Groves" webpage).

3. No distinction in historic consequences/risks of MOVING SPECIES WITHIN THE USA V. FROM ANOTHER CONTINENT.

4. Despite use of the term "paleontological" twice, there was no consideration that forestry scientists in America are well aware of GLACIAL-INTERGLACIAL MIGRATIONS OF TREES SPECIES regularly forming "novel ecological communities" during the transition times.

1. Overall I gained additional compassion for USF&WS agency staff who are dedicated to the prospect of helping endangered species fully recover. Yet the bureaucracy they work within necessarily poses hurdles, complexities, inertia, shifting political priorities, insecure long-term funding, and endless oppositional public constituencies and lawsuits such that stepping out boldly on assisted migration will continue to be an unwise choice — no matter how good the "decision frameworks" may become.

2. The only climate-motivated "assisted migration" that will occur for endangered species will be those undertaken by CITIZENS WHO USE THE EXISTING "EXCEPTION" FOR PLANTS in the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The USF&WS will not do it. Overall, then, the best way to assist plants who could benefit from assisted migration is to cease attempting to list them as threatened or endangered. NGOs and citizens should simply move plants on their own, of course using the best science for doing so wisely.
   • Access Barlow's marked-up copy of the 22-page government document.

April 2023/ Connie Barlow / 10 germinated seeds from 2021 Torreya harvest (after 2 winter stratifications) planted within 3 deer-proof treefalls

After two winter stratifications in Michigan, 30 of 78 torreya seeds harvested in autumn 2021 in North Carolina had germinated. (None had germinated the previous spring, after only 1 winter stratification.)

   Contrary to her usual practice of avoiding planting sites where deer are overpopulated, Connie planted the first 10 germinated seeds into such a forest — because she found three treefalls of sufficient size and branch density to serve as natural exclosures against deer.

LEFT: Connie at the third treefall site in the forest alongside the cemetery in Ypsilanti, MI. Here she planted 4 germinated seeds, at least 6 feet apart, along the distance of the biggest fallen tree. The curving stalks of the invasive subcanopy dominant, Amur honeysuckle, form a helpful mesh for excluding deer.

More photos and commentary at the Ypsilanti, Michigan Torreya page.

April 2023/ Connie Barlow / Seed germination results after two winter stratifications

After a second winter stratifying in Michigan 78 torreya seeds (from the 2021 seed harvest in North Carolina), Connie photographed and inventoried the results.

   After 2 winter stratifications 39% of the total 78 seeds had newly germinated.

• Whether or not a seed shows a thin slit on its germinating point makes no difference in next spring germination.

• Any seed with a trifold crack (wider than a slit) at the germinating point will germinate the next spring.

• Any seed with punky (weak) regions on its seed coat are just as likely to germinate as seeds with perfect coats.

• None of the 9 seeds (slit or unslit) that evidenced a dark, circular depression at the opposite (round) end of the seed germinated after their second winter.

More photos and commentary at the Ypsilanti, Michigan Torreya page. Visit the "Germinating seeds" section within our "Propagation" page for more photos and guidance from other Torreya Guardians, along with information gathered from scholarly papers.

April 2023/ Connie Barlow / Review paper features Florida Torreya as one of a very few examples of "assisted migration" already underway — anywhere in the world.

"The application of assisted migration as a climate change adaptation tactic: An evidence map and synthesis", 2023, by William M. Twardek and 5 coauthors, published in Biological Conservation. The paper states: "Assisted migration has been implemented very few times as a conservation tactic.... Assisted migration was most common for plants (particularly trees), followed by birds, and was rarely implemented for other taxa."

   The text highlighted at left of FLORIDA TORREYA is the team's summary of just five case studies globally that were carried out "for the purpose of conservation or management, rather than for experimentation or some other purpose."

Torreya Guardians is noted as a "citizen science group." Our results are judged as "interesting."

February 2023/ Connie Barlow / Preparing for 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act

   December 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act in the USA. I was a senior in college then and cannot recall that I was aware of that momentous event.

Lots of organizations are beginning to appear in the news about it. At left is the image used by the Center for Biological Diversity in their 2 February 2023 press release, titled "Celebrating 50 Years of Endangered Species Act Success".

Three national journalism outlets already contacted me — just for background. Whether and how Torreya Guardians shows up in the news this year is yet to be determined. Suffice it to say that, as founder of our group (and still, chief contact), I will do my best to insist on a site visit to one or more of our successful volunteer planters.

I regard our website as the best archival source for anyone to learn our history, to dig into the controversies, and to easily access the online resources of the official recovery program (both USA government and the several participating institutions). Because the US official "Record of Actions" page is difficult to use in its tabular form, today I excerpted and posted in pdf what I regard as the most important historical records of action documented officially.

February 2023/ Buford Pruitt / Remembering squirrels are important local seed dispersers

BUFORD PRUITT, a wildlife biologist, is a very successful planter of Florida Torreya at his rural home near Brevard, NC. Visit Pruitt's Torreya webpage on this website. This month he contributed a 3-page advocacy essay: "Torrey Squirrels"

   "...Torreya Guardians already know that the Eastern Gray Squirrel can affect our assisted migration tactics. This rodent (1) raids mother trees of their seeds, (2) steals potted seeds, and (3) caches seeds in developed areas and wildlands that can germinate and grow into naturally occurring individuals and colonies.

Although we know this third thing, and we are happy about it when new seedlings 'volunteer,' we have historically focused on the first two annoyances. In my view, this is because our historical charge has been to propagate and migrate. Obviously, we cannot increase the population until we learn how to propagate and nurture it. I believe we have now done those two things well enough to start looking at natural colonization strategies...."

February 2023/ Connie Barlow / Using our Torreya photos and learnings in my photo-essay to help Coast Redwood planters

Although Genus TORREYA will always be my top priority as a citizen volunteer, beginning in 2014 I started video documentation and advocacy of assisted migration for other tree species, too. These are listed and linked in my "Climate, Trees, and Legacy" webpage.
    Owing to 18 years of an itinerant lifestyle with my husband, Michael Dowd, (which ended during the covid lockdowns), I have been blessed with in-forest experience of COAST REDWOOD. I was surprised that I learned far more about this stunningly miraculous species by many months of exploration of regrowth redwood forests — rather than the old growth in parks.

   As with Torreya, Coast Redwoods have lignotubers and a nearly immortal ability to use prolific basal sprouting to regrow giant trees from the same root system, post-logging (and post-fire).

In 2023 journalist interest in "assisted migration" has soared, and Torreya Guardians is of interest to them.

But of greatest interest are the old horticultural plantings of this California giant that document how fog belts of the Pacific Northwest (even B.C.) already superb habitat for helping redwoods track climate warming and drying.

To help both the journalists and the northward planters learn about redwood's growth capacities, I found that PHOTOS and LEARNINGS about genus Torreya that our group has made actually offer important insights for the assisted migration of Coast Redwood. Therefore, I created a multi-part PHOTO-ESSAY, "Growth Capacities of COAST REDWOOD". Two sections feature what we have learned about genus TORREYA: "Fallen Branches Sprout by Layering" and, especially, "Propagation from Cuttings."

January 2023/ Connie Barlow / Robin Wall Kimmerer advocates "helping forests walk"

Robin Wall Kimmerer spoke at the "Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit" at the University of Colorado, December 2022. The video was posted on youtube January 2023. The LINK here goes directly to timecode 41:04, where Robin uses her own Indigenous term, "helping forests walk," to speak about "assisted migration" of plants as a traditional application of the value of "reciprocity" among native peoples on this continent.

EXCERPTS: "I think about the cultural value of thinking that our actions are not only on behalf of human people, of course, but on behalf of our more-than-human relatives. An aspect of that, that we can share, to perhaps guide some climate-related solutions are things like assisted migration — what one of my really respected teachers, Henry Lickers, called, 'Helping forests walk.'

   "... It is our responsibility as human people who have been gifted by so much from the plants that we need to reciprocate with our gifts — particularly in this time when the climate is changing so fast that our plant relatives can't move on their own. So the kinds of things that I would advocate sharing with the climate science community are these strategies of things like assisted migration. That is, the way in which our people participated in carrying our plant relatives around, from place to place, to new habitats as the environment changed.
     "It's an exchange of gifts: our human gift of mobility and seed planting in return for the gifts of the plants. And those kinds of broad values coupled to action."

January 2023/ Paul Camire / Photo update of Michigan torreyas plus news of Chinese Torreya video

Editor's Note: In addition to sending photos of his within-forest plantings of torreya in Michigan — all protected by deer-proof cages, PAUL CAMIRE alerted me to a Chinese video (on youtube) of that country's native Torreya grandis.

  Connie Barlow writes:

The IMAGE LEFT is how the screen captures I took now appear within the "Other Species of Genus Torreya", section of our immense webpage titled, "Natural History of Torreya taxifolia.

Visit that section to access the video — and to read in the caption what I learned about this genus — including the likelihood that harvesting of the seed for processing into a highly regarded "nut" food occurs well before the ripening is complete. Early harvesting ensures that the seed coat has not yet hardened, and thus does not need to be removed.

January 2023/ Connie Barlow / Our CALIFORNIA TORREYA webpage is updated and expanded

Torreya Guardians now has a Torreya californica subgroup! Our website made it possible for citizens in the home range of California Torreya to connect with, thus far, one volunteer planter (with an excellent forested ravine on his property) in the Pacific Northwest.
     For many years, Californians have been contributing photos of their own native Torreya trees (close cousin of Florida Torreya) that they encounter in the wilds of the Coast Range and Sierras. I then post the photos in the California section of this website. Initially, posting the Torreya californica photos was simply to help our own planters of this genus in the eastern USA locate suitable habitats.
     It is gratifying that "assisted migration" has now begun for California torreya — well before it might qualify for listing as an endangered species. Endangered species listing of Florida Torreya in 1984 made it difficult for we citizens, beginning in 2005, to access genetically diverse seeds for our northward planting efforts.
     Below is the new and expanded Table of Contents for the California Torreya page:

December 2022/ Michael Heim / A Wollemia Christmas Tree in Wisconsin (potted, of course)

Like our own glacial relict, Torreya taxifolia, Wollemia is making a last stand in the coolest place it could find: the bottom of deep, nearly inaccessible canyon in southeastern Australia. Sadly, unlike Torreya, there is as yet no citizen or governmental project aiming to "rewild" this remarkable tree into a poleward location (are there any in the southern hemisphere?) where it could thrive over a larger geographic range.

   PHOTO LEFT: Our Wisconsin Torreya planter sent us this photo of the Christmas tree that he, as a self-described "plant nerd," is enjoying this season. It is none other than the famous "living fossil" plant of Australia, discovered alive in 1994. This is the monotypic genus Wollemia.

All Wollemia here in the USA in horticultural circulation are rooted branchlets. Mike sets this potted specimen outdoors in the warm seasons, bringing it back inside each winter.

PHOTO RIGHT: Earlier this month, Mike sent Torreya Guardians this photo of an ericad shrub native to the southern Appalachians that he had planted in his Wisconsin forest: Pieris floribunda.

December 2022/ Eric Hongisto / Documented another large CALIFORNIA TORREYA (Bolinas Ridge)

   ERIC HONGISTO writes:
I found another great grove near top of Bolinas Ridge, above Samuel P Taylor park — maybe 200 trees inside a mature Fir and Bay mixed forest.

Most of the Nutmegs [Torreya] are on the young side. The best one was a huge double clonal structure. PHOTO LEFT.

FYI, 5 miles from parking lot, if you use 'proper trails' and then some bushwack down from ridge (approx. 800') to the tree.    38.01850&° N, 122.73963° W

NOTE BY EDITOR, Connie Barlow: I like to post photos by Californians who are finding new giant California Torreya trees — usually by bushwhacking into likely areas. It is a reminder that there is no scientific evidence on size or age contraints for Florida torreya. By the time botanical documentation occurred, settlers had been utilizing the valuable wood. As well, I have seen photos of Asian species (T. grandis and T. nucifera) that are as big as those documented in California.

December 2022/ Buford Pruitt / December 2022 photos of 14 torreyas planted in my forest, BREVARD, NC

   LEFT: Photos of one of the biggest and one of the smallest torreya trees.

EDITOR'S NOTE: See photos of all 14 trees, along with other photos and reports, in the chronologically organized Brevard NC torreyas.

That page goes back to 2012, based on seeds Pruitt received from the 2010 and 2011 harvests by Torreya Guardians.

Pruitt reports that height differences are primarily attributed to differences in sunlight. He also reports that none have yet grown any reproductive buds, and that deer haven't browsed the leaders and long branches that protrude over or through the cages. He keeps them caged primarily to prevent buck antler-rubbing (and is thankful that his neighbors hunt deer on their properties).

December 2022/ Paul Camire / News article links Torreya at Caroline Dormon preserve (Louisiana) with Torreya Guardians planting at Junaluska, NC

   In 2008, the first group planting of Florida Torreya by Torreya Guardians took place at Corneille Bryan Native Garden in Lake Junaluska, NC.

I found this undated article online (probably from the Charlotte Observer). It shows that Caroline Dormon of Louisiana visited that garden long ago — and several Torreya Guardians visited in 2018 the giant female Torreya that Caroline had planted at Dormon Preserve.

As it turns out, the writer of this article, Elizabeth Lawrence, was a famous gardener herself. As presented on the website of Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden:

Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985) is an internationally known garden writer. She is regarded as one of three preeminent figures in the horticultural history of the Southeast, sharing this short list with Thomas Jefferson and J.C. Raulston. She is also listed among the top twenty-five gardeners of all time. The work she did while designing, writing and gardening at her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed greatly to that status.

December 2022/ Connie Barlow / "Budcapping" the leader growth is added to deer-prevention section of our PROPAGATION page

A Minnesota Public Radio News story on DEER-PROOFING WHITE PINE SEEDLINGS in Minnesota was added to our webpage here of Best Practices for PROPAGATION. The article was published 22 November 2022 and is titled, "Bringing back the white pine, a foundational American tree", by Dan Kraker, Deer Lake, Minnesota.


... So John Rajala's father, Jack, started fiddling with different ways to discourage deer from munching the trees. They experimented with rotten egg mixes, and different commercial products. But what worked best was stapling a folded piece of paper over the bud. Simple, but backbreaking and incredibly time-intensive work. It's called "budcapping," and now it's used by pretty much anyone who plants trees in the North Woods.

Jack Rajala detailed the work in his book titled Bringing Back the White Pine. John Rajala said over the years his family has planted, and budcapped, millions of white pines. You see evidence of it all throughout the forest, small squares of white paper topping tiny trees dotting the forest floor.

Note: Wisconsin Torreya planter, Mike Heim, reports: "I'm already budcapping my tuliptrees with knee-high nylons held on by twist-ties from supermarket cilantro bundles."

November 2022/ Sharon Mohney / Virginia planter chooses sites with fern and lycopod evergreen camouflage

   Sharon Mohney in Buchanan, VA captured this photo of an unbrowsed seedling camouflaged by an evergreen fern.

Notice that this site has two flags. When freeplanting the seeds in November 2020, she marked each site with a flag. Now, when she spots a seedling, she installs a second flag, so that the seedling locations are documented — and thus can be confirmed in future years as to survival and possible demise by deer browsing.

She wrote: "The plant in the foreground of my photo is, I believe, Diphasiastrum digitatum rather than a Selaginella. I have used it as a protective cover for my torreya plantings when Christmas ferns weren't nearby."

Editor's note: This innovation in using a clonal evergreen lycopod for camouflage is very interesting, so I added this photo and caption to the camouflage section of our Freeplanting webpage.

November 2022/ Connie Barlow / 83 seeds from 2022 harvest planted in DEER-FREE forest slopes; ongoing experiments with 2021 harvested seeds


My share (some 400 seeds) from this year's harvest of torreya seeds from one horticultural planting in Clinton, NC, is mostly being used at or near my home in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for experimental plantings — especially at exceedingly rare DEER-FREE SITES along our major river. (Deer herbivory has been so problematic for volunteer planters that losses have been great or investments in deer-proof cages have been necessary.)

Each DEER-FREE site is located on a downtown stretch of steeply sloping forested edges of the Huron River. These were reinforced long ago by solid concrete lower portions (red outline on map above) or a series of concrete and asphalt blocks onto which trees and woody plants (especially Amur Honeysuckle) have taken hold. Natural regeneration over many decades have produced patches of good soil into which I put seeds (usually 4 to 6 inches deep, to escape detection by rodents) of America's most endangered conifer tree.

PHOTO ABOVE shows the unusual cracked seedcoats of a small portion of the 2022 harvest, through which the vibrant red seed itself is seen — clearly, not yet rotting. So these I needed to put into final destinations immediately. As well, the cracked seed farthest right displays a dark indentation on its round, non-germinating end (germination happens at the pointy end). So some of these seeds I also planted this month (turquoise outline above).

PHOTO BELOW shows the remaining seeds from 2021 harvest being tested in a safe, outdoor container. Scrutiny of seed characteristics (especially "slit" v. "unslit" over the germination point after a second full summer) may help us predict which seeds require only one additional winter to sprout. (Visit the Torreya Guardians PROPAGATION page for many more learnings and recommendations.)

    VISIT Connie's YPSILANTI MICHIGAN Torreya webpage.

November 2022/ Connie Barlow / New VIDEO summarizes history of TORREYA GUARDIANS

EPISODE 35: Torreya Guardians - Reflections by Connie Barlow


While cleaning and sorting torreya seeds freshly harvested from a private home in Clinton, NC, Connie extemporaneously delivers the history of significant beginnings, achievements, and frustrating institutional obstacles that she and other volunteers encountered during nearly two decades of action and advocacy in behalf of this endangered subcanopy tree.

The final 5 minutes is where she explains the new governmental proposal to authorize "assisted migration" for climate threatened species, such as this glacial relict.

Length: 43 minutes, with timecoded table of topics in the youtube caption. Access the full list of TG videos.

November 2022/ Eric Hongisto / Photo of large CALIFORNIA TORREYA north of San Francisco

   ERIC HONGISTO writes:
"This torreya is one of the largest in the three known groves at Fort Ross State Historic Park.

This grove has 15 trees connected over 1/4 acre. It is directly on the San Andreas Fault, east of the creek.

You can see the tree being pulled slowly, and adjusting.

On both sides of the fault are old growth redwoods."

NOTE BY EDITOR, Connie Barlow: Beginning about two years ago, several Californians have been sending me photos and ideas about Florida Torreya's California cousin. Although there is no doubt that the species could do well in the subcanopy of Pacific Northwest forests, the rugged topography of this Coast Range section of California affords the trees shady north slopes and deep canyons for healthy living today. I have been adding these new photos, with captions, to the California Torreya webpages I maintain on this website.

November 2022/ Fred Bess / Report of torreya seed harvest, Cleveland OHIO


November 3:

"After the squirrels got a fair number from the two front females, the count is +/- 230 seeds."
Update November 6:
"As I was mowing the lawn I found an additional 15 seeds under the Torreyas that had apparently dropped off — mostly from the big female in the front yard."
Access Fred's torreya webpage: Cleveland, Ohio.

October 2022/ Connie Barlow / Two new articles show our pioneering of "assisted migration" is becoming mainstream

   In the OCTOBER 2022 section of the lengthy "Assisted Migration Scholarly Links" webpage on this website, I posted links and excerpts for two really important articles:

"Last Resort: Moving Endangered Species in Order to Save Them" by Zach St. George, in Yale Environment 360. This is the first substantive news report of a historic proposal in June 2022 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to amend its regulations in order to expressly authorize "assisted migration" as a tool for not just "protecting" relict species in place but to enable full-out "recovery" by moving them to habitats where they can thrive. (See the August and June entries below on this page, where I excerpted the regulatory proposal.) In this new article, the work of Torreya Guardians is mentioned: "A group of private citizens planted the endangered Florida Torreya, an evergreen in the yew family that is native to riparian areas in Florida and Georgia, far to the north, throughout the eastern United States."

"Potential for Assisted Migration of Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) to Vancouver Island", by Richard S. Winder et al., was published by Natural Resources Canada. I point to it here because, if we are considered too radical, then what about this professional proposal to move California redwoods to Canada?! (Also, I am referenced in the article for my video documentation of thriving horticultural plantings in the Seattle area.)

October 2022/ Mike Heim / After two winters and summers, two torreya seedlings have appeared

Mike Heim took photos of two new seedlings that emerged from seeds planted directly into his forest (within a fenced deer exclosure). He wrote: "It's taken 2 winters for them to germinate. Probably more on the way next year." More information on Mike's Hayward, Wisconsin Torreya page.


October 2022/ Connie Barlow / Info on a wild forest in China containing 2,800 Torreya

A 2022 news report, China: Wild, ancient Torreya Forest in Hunan, China:

   EXCERPTS (of English translation): ... It is the city tree of Ningxiang City.... Yueshan Village occupies more than 68% of the forest land, and more than 2,800 wild Torreya trees are hidden in the depths of the forest. They were discovered by the forestry department for the first time around 1990.... A thousand-year-old Torreya tree came into view. The diameter of the trunk was so thick that it took six adults to hold hands to surround it. In the passage of time, it has stood quietly here for more than a thousand years.... The torreya tree likes a humid, low-light and cool climate, and the mountainside with less direct sunlight is the best habitat. The wild ancient torreya community is located in the mountain forest at an altitude of 200 to 500 meters in Yueshan Village, and the villagers living in the surrounding area are not familiar with it.

September 2022/ Bob Miller / Joyful discovery of a torreya (from seed planted May 2015) by a log while removing invasives

   Email from BOB MILLER (Torreya planter near Cincinnati Ohio) to Connie Barlow:
"An upside of removing invasive plants from our woods is that I find interesting things. This Torreya is on the south-facing hillside across from the front of our house and is the first I've found there. Looks very happy!"
Editor's Note: We have long postulated that the poor success rate of the May 2015 free-planting into wild forest may owe to shallow seed-planting that led to rodents detecting seeds, large local numbers of deer nipping off newly emerged seedlings, or the simple fact that seedlings are difficult to spot amidst fallen leaves. Did this seed (or seedling) benefit from a treefall that kept it hidden?

September 2022/ Fred Bess / Torreyas at Ohio State University's arboretum doing well.

   FRED BESS writes:

"I visited Secrest Arboretum Friday and walked around with the new curator Jason Veil.

He took me to see the two Torreya taxifolia trees they have planted out (photos left.)

Jason is thrilled with the opportunity to get more seeds, either from me or from other sources. I will be sharing a fair number of my tree's seeds with them."

Editor's note: Fred Bess donated 20 seeds to Secrest Arboretum in 2011. (Visit the Secrest Arboretum Torreya page.) Fred is one of our most successful Torreya planters and the first to have his plantings produce seeds as far north as Ohio. Visit his photo-rich Torreya page: Cleveland, Ohio, Torreya.

September 2022/ Clint Bancroft / Proof that a basal sprout will form on the rooted cutting of the apical tip of a basal stem cut from another torreya

   Email from CLINT BANCROFT (Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee) to Connie Barlow:
"We have wondered if a rooted apical basal sprout will eventually form its own basal sprouts. This PHOTO shows a basal sprout which has formed on a rooted apical cutting from one the Highlands, NC trees. My tag says it is from a cutting I took there in October 2017."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Finally, we have confirmation that not only will a rooted cutting of the apical tip of a basal stem grow into a tree-like (rather than shrubby) form. Now we know that it will also grow basals of its own! This assures us that, as with its wild cousin California Torreya, Florida Torreya grown from apical basal cuttings will indeed be capable of manifesting the tree form again and again — no matter what injury may kill the main stem itself. Nobody has tried to guess whether the rootstock itself may endure for perhaps millennia because annual growth rings do not form below the soil. (Even the well-studied Coast Redwood has not had this mystery answered.)

August 2022/ Connie Barlow / I filed a comment on the proposed federal regulation to eliminate "historical range" as the sole locus for endangered species recovery

   Comment time for this proposed regulation ended August 8, with a total of 553 comments — including the COMMENT I POSTED, drawing upon my experience with Torreya Guardians.

I attached a 5-page pdf that, after voicing a YES to the proposal, offered RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION:

1. Create implementation frameworks and policies that are distinct for plants.

2. Encourage nongovernmental entities to use the ESA "exception" for plants.

3. Follow the lead of the USDA Forest Service [in their own "assisted migration" terminology and actions.

4. Facilitate respectful dialogue and understandings of worldview differences.

Barlow Comment, 5-page PDF here or here

Barlow summary of key institutional comments (10 pages PDF)

August 2022/ Connie Barlow / I spent three weeks improving the wikipedia page on Torreya taxifolia

This revised wikipedia page was a massive undertaking. Over the years, the page had languished into centering on arcane taxonomy and descriptive morphology, while containing factual errors (mostly on noncontroversial topics), and avoiding altogether mention of the central role this species has served in nurturing professional discussion about the merits and risks of assisted migration for climate-stressed plants, especially for "glacial relicts."

   I had earned my wikipedia stripes by creating the topical flow with many scholarly references for the (new in 2021) page, "Assisted migration of forests in North America.

But I also learned that it is very difficult to create an objective wikipedia page on aspects of a topic when one carries a strong viewpoint. Established wikipedia editors along the way very much helped me with those learnings.

Because images are so important in our learnings, you will see that I added many of my own photos and charts into the anonymous media commons for posting on wikipedia.

My greatest difficulty was that, while I (as webmaster) ensure that everything is documented on our website, the actions and assertions of the botanical gardens officially in charge of this endangered species are only loosely documented online or are missing altogether. And if one can't point to an online reference, one cannot include the topic in a citable way in a wikipedia page. While one can present the documented actions by one side of a controversy (notably, our documentation of historic groves, our northward plantings, and what we have learned about best planting practices), value statements and arguments must present both sides or not be included at all. Because of the degree of controversy, I usually selected actual quotes rather than attempting to objectively summarize an argument. Finally, a huge benefit of posting information on a wikipedia page (as is also the case on our own Torreya Guardians pages) is that it is ever-after correctable and updatable. Scientific papers published in journals are not.

August 2022/ Mike Heim / List of S. Appalachian plants growing on my land in WISCONSIN

   Florida Torreya is one of many plant species in North America whose historical native range is south (sometimes, far south) of Wisconsin.

Mike Heim's page on the Torreya Guardians website where he reports on his plantings of FLORIDA TORREYA and FLORIDA YEW is here.

We post another photo-rich page, as well, on Mike's experiments with planting species native to the Southern Appalachians and his "Tertiary Rewilding" project (Ginkgo and Metasequoia) here.

IMAGE LEFT: We just posted this tabular list of the species Mike plants for his "Southern and Eastern Assisted Migration of Tree Species" experimentation in Wisconsin. (Larger versions of this image are on both of the webpages linked above.)

July 2022/ Clint Bancroft / Visits torreya seedling he donated to Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, Chattanooga TN

   CLINT WRITES: "I went to Reflection Riding Arboretum in Chattanooga today and was able to get someone to show me where they planted the Torreyas I gave them 2 years ago.

There were 6 trees donated, and they already had one which was still in a one-gallon pot.

They were only able to locate two of them today, but promise they will locate the remaining trees.

Both the ones I got to see looked sweetly content. One had a new vertical and also had 2 basal sprouts which were not there when I donated the trees. The second had 4 new lateral branches with no vertical growth so far."

PHOTO of Clint alongside one of the picture-perfect torreys at the arboretum. Visit his extensive torreya page at his forested home and land east of Chattanooga.

Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is near downtown Chattanooga, TN.

July 2022/ Peter Bane and Julia Chambers / Torreyas survive winter and browsing on the east shore of Lake Michigan

   NEW PAGE created for the 2022 photos and reports of both sites.

1. MUSKEGON (Montague) - Peter Bane and Keith Johnson are permaculturalists who received from Connie Barlow 40 seeds in September 2014, from the 2013 harvest. All were germinated in a hoophouse, and the survivors outplanted. As of July 2022, 3 were still alive (heavily browsed by herbivores) in nearly full-sun settings.

2. LUDINGTON (Fountain) - Julia Chambers lives in a forested rural landscape, with a great many deer. Her immediate area is mostly forest, with several small lakes nearby. To the west is mostly farm fields, with some woodlots. To the east is national forest. She received and planted one newly germinated seedling from Connie Barlow in July 2015. She received 40 freshly harvested seeds in November 2015, and she free-planted them outdoors, but either none germinated or rodents found and ate them all. The one seedling planted out of pot is still alive 7 years later, July 2022.

July 2022/ Fred Bess (Cleveland, OH) / "My cutting-grown female has outdone herself!"

   FRED BESS REPORTS (Cleveland, OH): "My cutting-grown female has outdone herself! I have counted close to 100 seeds just on 3 branches (pics of two of them attached). I also find it humorous that the bulk of the seeds are on the side facing the male which, as you know, is a fair distance....

I'm not sure about elsewhere, but I have seen no issues whatsoever with squirrels beating me to the seeds. The squirrels and chipmunks leave the seeds on my trees completely alone. I allow the seeds to fully ripen and harvest without issue. In fact, I missed a half dozen or so Torreya seeds when I harvested last fall and found them under the female trees early this spring. I�ve stuck those into the ground of the front hill. Will keep you posted if they show up this or next spring! My Gala apple is not so lucky. As soon as the apples get half-dollar size, I have to deter the squirrels."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fred is not only one of our longest-term Florida Torreya planters. He is the record-setter for seed production in the northern states — and he regularly photo-documents his progress. Visit Fred's Cleveland OHIO torreya page.

LEARNING: Because torreya seeds appear nearly full size (and round shape) in early July, even professionals may be fooled into harvesting the seeds too early, in their attempt to prevent squirrels from snatching any. Fred will be waiting another 3 to 4 months before these seeds are harvested. The casing of the seed shell is hidden — and it must fully harden before the seed is removed.

June 2022/ Connie Barlow / Proposed federal regulation no longer restricts endangered species to recovery only in "historical range."

   FWS Press release quote by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland:

"Climate change and the rapid spread of invasive species pose an ever-increasing threat to native biodiversity. The time to act — and use every tool at our disposal — is now.... The growing extinction crisis highlights the importance of the Endangered Species Act and efforts to conserve species before declines become irreversible. This effort to update proven conservation tools will help ensure species on the cusp of extinction can recover and thrive for generations to come."

June 7 a proposed revision of the regulations (not the law) of the Endangered Species Act was published in the Federal Register. The above link includes how to submit comments until August 8.

Torreya Guardians, being an umbrella group for citizen planters, does not submit "group" comments — but any of us may do so on our own.

For example, I, Connie Barlow, submitted (as an individual) a "Petition to Downlist" Florida Torreya from endangered to threatened, September 2019. The agency published its decision in September 2021. Scroll down to an October 2021 entry on this page to see highlights of the decision, including the key statement that dismisses the relevance of our own successes in northward plantings:

"Ultimately, the relative reproductive success of the outplanted groves does not ameliorate the threats currently affecting the species in its historical range (i.e. low population number, rarity of habitat, and disease, USFWS 2010)."
You will notice in the image above that "historical range" is being eliminated as the sole locale for effecting species recovery. That would seem to be a good thing. However, because the ESA necessarily focuses on animals (not plants), the steps for undertaking an "experimental population" outside of native range (including for climate change reasons) are fraught with regulatory procedures — much more complicated than the "assisted migration" experimentation that would have been included in the 2010 Florida Torreya recovery plan update, had not the Advisory Board voted it down.

Bottom line: I personally am not inclined to file a comment, as uncomplicated citizen actions such as ours will be able to continue using the "exception" for plants (not animals) written into the act and pertaining to the distribution of horticulturally produced seeds. It remains to be seen whether any of the northward botanical gardens obtaining seeds for "safeguarding genetics" from the seed-rich ex situ plantings at Smithgall Woods and Blairsville preserves in north Georgia will ever be made available for any degree of wild "recovery" other than "preventing extinction."

NOTE: 19 MAY 2022 I had submitted a 2-page "Request" for the (newly appointed) director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to review the citizen accomplishments of Torreya Guardians. Following several paragraphs of background and the history of Torreya Guardians actions and accomplishments, I concluded this way:

"REQUEST: Please have a high-level, policy staff person visit the Torreya Guardians website: From the home page, click on the link titled, "Case Study of Agency Failure." As well, our "Historic Groves" link is intended to be a strong and visually rich survey of how well the climate in the Appalachians and northward supports this glacial relict's health: notably its ability to fight a range of native diseases that have made the species functionally extinct in its historically native range. As well, do take a look at our documentation of what we have learned, especially to educate and guide volunteer planters via our "Propagation" page. Finally, please consult with USDA climate lead, Chris Swanston, who is well situated to educate conservation scientists in FWS about the forestry research scholarship that has welcomed "assisted migration" as a climate adaptation tool for timber management and forest ecosystem services. A well-regarded summary of the forestry science on this topic is a wikipedia page I coauthored in 2021 with a Canadian: "Assisted migration of forests in North America." I look forward to the possibility of Florida torreya becoming a highlighted achievement of FWS for the 50th anniversary of the ESA, instead of a sad example of ongoing climate denial and hostility toward citizen contributions."

June 2022/ Clint Bancroft / Precious Norlina NC cutting of a basal tip has rooted!

   BACKGROUND: December 2021, PAUL CAMIRE photo-documented the NORLINA TREE in North Carolina and took some basal sprout cuttings.

PHOTO LEFT: May 10, 2022, CLINT BANCROFT sent this photo and reported that it had "rooted" (and thus was on its way to becoming a tree). Clint wrote:

"I know it is rooted because I tugged on it GENTLY and got resistance. I would not have tried that this early on except, to my delight, it had put on apical and lateral growth.

"The tiny five buds were present when I received the cutting from Paul, but I really did not expect to see them burst, especially during their first spring.

"This appears to be the only cutting which is apical. However, they have ALL rooted (by tug test) and most have new growth."

SIGNIFICANCE: Visit the OFFSPRING section of the main Norlina Tree page, and you will grasp the significance of establishing a 100% clone of this 160-year-old tree, whose descendants now inhabit many states.

June 2022/ Connie Barlow / Restructured the CALIFORNIA TORREYA webpage

In 2005, I made site visits to both the Coast Range and the Sierras habitats of Florida torreya's California cousin: Torreya californica.

Back then, my sole purpose was to gain (and photo-document) the growth forms and habitat characteristics — so that Torreya Guardians could choose planting sites for Florida Torreya in the Appalachian Mountains that would offer the best chances for success.

Seventeen years later, there is now a second urgency: Climate change is having such an impact in California that ASSISTED MIGRATION should begin for the western Torreya species too.

I spent a whole week restructuring the page (and adding a lot of photos) so that viewers could visually grasp the most important growth characteristics of the California torreya species — which very likely also will apply to Florida torreya when it has the opportunity to "rewild" in various habitats poleward of its peak glacial refuge. Here is the webpage: • California Torreya

May 2022/ Fred Bess / A bumper crop of Torreya seeds growing in Cleveland, Ohio

FRED BESS writes about his 4-specimen grove of Florida Torreyas at his home in Cleveland, Ohio:

   It looks like it is going to be a banner year for seed production here.

See these photos (May 17) of two different branches of the cutting-grown female tree.

I never imagined there could be so many cones on any one branch! It looks like a juniper loaded with cones.

The other two female-cone-producing trees are also showing seed growth, but not nearly as heavily as this tree.

I'll be sure to keep you posted with pictures as the season progresses.

Note: I may have been premature in thinking that one of those trees is monoecious. I was looking at it with a botanist friend. Upon close inspection, all the female strobili are coming from one main trunk of the tree. I got the tree (as you know) from Woodlanders in SC years ago as a seedling. Jason and I now suspect that the seed had 2 embryos and has produced "conjoined" fraternal twins as it were: one trunk male, the other female. I suppose we will never know for sure. See Fred's cumulative Torreya report, Cleveland OHIO.

May 2022/ Connie Barlow / Important to periodically look at the USF&WS official "Reports" page for Torreya taxifolia

   As webmaster of the Torreya Guardians website since 2005, I attempt to ensure that all of our own actions, accomplishments, and learnings are documented here for ourselves and others to see and evaluate through time.

Our "Efforts to Save" webpage, however, provides links to the other actors in this effort (see image left). Within the "OFFICIAL PROGRAM" section, readers are encouraged to click on the link to the USF&WS Data Table: Record of Actions, and to read through the "comments" column to find the most detail on officially sanctioned efforts.

A website update has put the reports in a format difficult to read, and some elements of recovery actions are very out of date....

But I encourage citizens and journalists to periodically check that official tabulation for useful updates. For example, because I recently learned of citizen interest in California to help their own Torreya species migrate northward as climate changes, I found this report element especially helpful to be aware of:

ACTION #34: Conduct grafting experiments: "The recovery plan suggests grafting [asexual propagation where the tissues (vascular cambium) of one plant are fused with those of another] with T. californica. However, T. californica is exhibiting some issues with cankers caused by pathogens with a different Fusarium species which is killing the cambium."

May 2022/ Connie Barlow / Restructured two long pages on this website

   Now that my husband and I are retired in southern Michigan, I have time to make this website easier to use. Two of the most important pages have grown to immense length, given topics and sections added to them over the past dozen years.

The image shows the TABLES OF TOPICS, with internal links, for each of these two pages:

Torreya Natural History

Propagating Torreya

May 2022/ Connie Barlow / Visually detecting signs of PRE-GERMINATION

I added a new, photo-rich section to our Torreya Guardians webpage on best practices for Propagation. The new section is: Visually detecting signs of PRE-GERMINATION.

   Of the 85 seeds that I retained from the 500 seeds harvested in Clinton and Mt. Olive NC that it was my responsibility to distribute, I retained just 85 for further experimentation. Of these 85, only 1 germinated by early May, following winter stratification.

Of the remaining seeds, about 1/3 showed signs of a slit at the pointed tip where germination will occur (PHOTO far left)....

The other 2/3 had no slit, but all had an easy-to-peel-away thin, papery covering that left the region around the tip smooth and a light shade of brown. Visit the new signs of PRE-GERMINATION section for Connie's photos and observations on other features of post-stratification, notably dark indentations aligned with the vertical slit. She plans to continue this experiment through the summer, to discern (a) whether the slitted seeds germinate a radicle, and (b) whether any of the less developed seeds show signs of a slit happening in the months ahead, and whether any above-ground growth (a shoot) emerges this first summer, or whether all growth remains underground as rooting.

April 2022/ Connie Barlow / Finished distributing 2021 North Carolina seed harvest

   Scroll down to NOVEMBER 2021 and you will see photos and summaries of Joe Facendola's seed harvest at two horticultural sites in North Carolina. Joe sent packages of large amounts of seeds right away to our stalwart planters. He then sent 500 seeds to me to distribute in smaller portions — largely to new volunteer planters in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, and Illinois.

By the time I calculated how to allocate the seeds among all 9 volunteer planters, temperatures where I live in Michigan were already heading below freezing. Torreya seeds are "recalcitrant"; they must never freeze or dry out. So I "stratified" them over winter, moving a small cooler of seeds in soil between hallway to porch as temperatures shifted back and forth around the freezing mark. This last week in April, I sent the final 5 boxes on their way.

April 2022/ Connie Barlow / New 5-rule compilation of helping Torreya escape rodent predation

   Over the years, the "Propagation" page on the Torreya Guardians website has become excruciatingly long and complex, as various volunteer planters weigh in on what seems to work best — and worst. This year I've tried to consolidate that page, eliminate redundancies and add photos.

This month while distributing hundreds of seeds from the 2021 seed harvest, I realized I needed to create and highlight a 5-rule section titled, "Beware of Rodents!". This way, our newest planters could quickly learn our "best practices."

Rules 1 through 3 are pictured left. The remaining rules are: (4) When planting potted seedlings, add gravel to make the root zone unattractive to rodents, and (5) Avoid homegrounds of chipmunks, ground squirrels, and woodchucks.

April 2022/ Mike Heim / Florida Torreya and Yew survive another Wisconsin winter

   LEFT: Florida Yew at Hayward, Wisconsin, in early April 2022.

Mike Heim sent 3 photos of his Florida Torreyas peaking through the snow and one of his Florida Yew for posting on his Hayward, Wisconsin Torreya page on April 3.

Mike reported that February 13 marked the lowest temperature: -29F.

April 2022/ Connie Barlow / Fusarium torreyae cannot damage Florida torreya in cooler climes

Encountering a technical fusarium paper this month titled "A Global Risk Assessment of Pitch Canker Disease", alerted me to the fact that it is well known that various species of genus Fusarium become problematic in tree farm contexts only when (a) the tree species is planted in a warmer and/or wetter climate and (b) nursery conditions harm natural microbial symbionts (crucial for resisting diseases) owing to bare rooting seedlings for transport and applications of fungicide.

   This motivated me to finally post not only that information onto the "Endangerment Causes" page of this website, but also to create a new section there that documents and references how Florida torreya does live asymptomatically with Fusarium torreyae if it is planted sufficiently poleward of its peak glacial refuge in Florida. In that new section you will also find 2 slides + transcribed excerpts from a February 2022 webinar in which a Torreya Keepers staff person confirmed that northward plantings of Torreya are indeed asymptomatic.

Nonetheless, the official position is still strongly against "assisted migration" northward, such as conducted by Torreya Guardians volunteers. Their argument now points to lab results at the University of Florida that suggest (a) all plant materials of Torreya taxifolia do carry the fusarium and (b) that fusarium could harm other native tree species. Again, however, there is no documentation that other native trees could be injured by the fusarium within their own native ranges — all northward of Florida. Did the lab in Florida attempt to mimic climatic and soil conditions (including winter freezes) in each tree species native range?

March 2022/ Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians included in Minnesota magazine article

   The current issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (a magazine published by Minnesota DNR) includes an extensive article that can serve as a primer for popular audiences to learn about the three forms of climate adaptation that foresters have begun using, "Resistance, Resilience, and Assisted Migration." TORREYA GUARDIANS is favorably mentioned:

"In some cases, assisted migration aims to save endangered plant species that are isolated and threatened with extinction as climate becomes unsuitable in their native range. A good example is the endangered yew Torreya taxifolia, known as "the rarest conifer in North America." It survived only in tiny areas of Florida and Georgia until the volunteer Torreya Guardians transplanted specimens to sites throughout the Appalachians and Midwest, as far north as southwestern Wisconsin."


February 2022/ Connie Barlow / iNaturalist includes Torreya Guardians discoveries of Florida Torreya

   I looked at the Florida Torreya page on iNaturalist for the first time. I was impressed by the content and extensive references — both old and recent. Torreya Guardians discoveries and achievements are mentioned in several places, including our Historic Groves webpage and our seed production in Cleveland.

As it turns out, the i-Naturalist page is an exact copy of the "Torreya taxifolia" WIKIPEDIA page, as it currently stands.

EXCERPT: "Because the confined native range of Torreya taxifolia, which includes Torreya State Park, is a well known glacial refugium,[10][43] the ecological conditions and plants that it associates with there do not provide the full picture of the habitat preferences of this species at this warming time of the Holocene. For this reason, the citizen advocacy group known as Torreya Guardians[44][45] includes a page on their website titled "Historic Groves of Torreya Trees: Long-Term Experiments in Assisted Migration."[46] "Naturalized groves" is the highest category listed, followed by "mature trees producing seeds" and "mature trees not producing seeds." As of 2021, 13 sites of historic groves are listed, described, mapped, and linked, along with three academic papers[47][48][49] that describe the importance of such groves for assessing the viability of assisted migration as climate warms. The northern-most grove producing seeds is in Cleveland, Ohio."

February 2022/ Paul Camire / Florida torreyas in another Michigan winter

  Paul Camire sent 10 PHOTOS of his within-forest plantings of Torreya at the woodlot on his farm in Capac, MI.

LEFT: Recovering from a deer-browsed leader.

RIGHT: All torreyas are now caged, and this one is lucky enough to never have been browsed.

February 2022 / Nelson Stover / Report of the 2013 free-planting seed project in Greensboro, NC

November 2021, Nelson and Elaine Stover photo-documented another year of growth on each of the seedlings that sprouted and established from seeds planted (3 inches deep) directly into the soil of the deciduous forest next to their home in Greensboro, NC.

  PHOTO: From seed planted in 2013, and having first shown above-ground growth in either 2015 or 2016, this little seedling is doing well in the company of evergreen Christmas Ferns. The ferns utilize the same group of mycorrhizal symbionts as does Torreya — and they help camouflage this endangered member of the yew family from winter-hungry deer.

GREENSBORO, NC Torreya webpage.

Part 1 of 2021 REPORT.

December 2021 / Paul Camire / She lives! A site visit to the old Norlina tree, NC

Paul Camire is our Torreya planter in the "thumb" of Michigan. He is also our most diligent documenter of old horticultural plantings of torreya — both onsite and as documented (usually archivally) on the web. December 12 Paul (pictured at left) sent an email to Connie Barlow, with photos. Paul wrote:

  "On my way back home from Florida yesterday, I made a major detour and went to find out if the Norlina tree still exists. It Lives!

I was allowed to take a few cuttings that I've already let Jack and Clint know are coming their way."

View PAUL CAMIRE'S FULL REPORT (with photos) at our Norlina NC tree webpage.

Editor's comment: Because I have never seen this pattern of recovery in any tree before, I sure hope somebody with expertise will attempt to discern what calamity happened, and then the details of vegetative recovery.

November 2021 / Connie Barlow / Reddit now has a community on the topic "Assisted Migration"

Torreya Guardians was apparently a key inspiration for a Reddit contributor to create a new community: r/Assisted Migration.

  The originator/"moderator" has well presented the concept in both the choice of title and what already exists on the site's wiki tab. I have great hope that this new site will rapidly evolve into the prime place for supportive people not only to interact, but to create, collaborate, and post actual AM projects.

Today I posted a suggestion to link to an Indigenous project, "Helping Forests Walk" and to the U.S. gov Climate Resilience Toolkit website that also points to this Indigenous title for assisted migration.

November 2021 / Sara Evans / November 2021 photos of 2008 plantings at Waynesville, NC

  Photos by Sara Evans. Caption by Connie Barlow.

July 2008, Torreya Guardians planted 31 potted seedlings on the steep forested property of Sara Evans, a bit west of Waynesville NC.

From the early years, and continuing today, the two lushest and healthiest trees have been the two planted nearest to the "weeping wall" waterfall: "Maxilla" to the left of it and "Celia" to the right (and upslope).

Sara Evans took several photos of these two torreyas, mid November 2021.

PHOTO LEFT: The "Celia" Torreya, named for Celia Hunter.

Visit the Waynesville Torreya webpage for all photos.

November 2021 / Joe Facendola / 1,480 seeds collected from the Mt. Olive NC torreya trees

JOE FACENDOLA, for the third year in a row, continues his late-October / early-November seed gathering at private homes in Clinton NC (see report immediately below) and Mt. Olive. Joe reports that Mrs. Bullard also authorized his collection of 3 seedlings this year, as well.

November 2021 / Joe Facendola / Seeds, seedlings, and basal cuttings from the Clinton NC tree

JOE FACENDOLA, for the third year in a row, continues his late-October / early-November seed gathering at the homes of Mrs. Kennedy in Clinton NC and Mrs. Bullard in nearby Mt. Olive.

In addition to 670 seeds, Joe also collected this year 13 seedlings (photo below left) from where squirrels had kindly buried seeds into non-mowed sections of the front yard in Clinton NC.

  New this year, he cut tips and lower segments of the vertical stems of basal sprouts (photo) — which are the only parts of the plant that will carry forward the tree form when carefully rooted.

This year Joe photographed the two largest regrowth torreya trees on the property — which may be vital for ensuring a pollen source for healthy genetics of the lone seed-bearing tree.

Visit the Clinton NC torreya page for a photo-rich chronological history. There you will also see photos of the two regrowth torreyas that may be crucial providers of pollen.

October 2021 / Fred Bess / 168 seeds collected from his grove in Cleveland, Ohio

  Fred planted his trees from potted seedlings in 2009. Because he planted in his front yard, in full sun, he started getting a few seeds in 2017.

Now, in 2021, he reports an astounding 168 seeds.

More PHOTOS and commentary at the Cleveland, OH Torreya webpage.

October 2021 / Clint Bancroft / 64 seeds collected from century-old grove near Highlands NC

For the second year in a row Clint Bancroft led the effort to harvest seeds at this old horticultural planting. This year the owners are new. CLINT writes:

  "The new owners are aware of the trees and their rarity. They are doing a lot of landscaping work and have cleared a significant space on the north and east of the existing grove.

So the Torreya grove is now exposed to much more light. It will be interesting to see if seed production will be greater next year if we are allowed to return next year.

I am sending pictures of the grove as it appears now. All of the trees appear in very good health."

More PHOTOS and commentary at the Highlands Torreya webpage.

October 2021 / Sharon Mohney / First germination of free-planted 2020 seeds into Virginia forest

SHARON writes 20 October 2021:

  "I was walking a part of my place today, looking for any burning bush seedlings to pull up, and decided to walk one of my torreya flag lines. Look what I found!"

Ed. note: November 2020, Sharon "freeplanted" seeds freshly harvested from private plantings in Clinton and Mt. Olive, NC.

She placed them alongside an ideal "nurse" plant for Torreya: Polystichum ("Christmas") ferns.

Visit her Buchanan, VA homepage.

October 2021 / Connie Barlow / TORREYA GUARDIANS WIKIPEDIA PAGE is in final form

CONNIE BARLOW WRITES: This summer an experienced, anonymous wikipedia contributor created a new page, Wikipedia: TORREYA GUARDIANS. For controversial topics (such as us) there are wikipedia editors who monitor to ensure that any changes or additions reflect factual reporting of a neutral stance, supported by "third party" references — such as journal articles, newspapers, magazines, and books. Wiki editors are particularly vigilant when someone tries to contribute to or edit a page who is directly associated with that topic. Well, I certainly am!
    For the past several weeks, I have been adding content to the wiki page, with substantial third party references. Sometimes I would find the next day that something I had written had been somewhat changed, maybe even deleted. Interestingly, in all instances, I found myself agreeing with the wiki editor. So I never contested anything.
    The morning of October 17, I found that two entire sections, "Case Studies", and "Interactions with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service" had been deleted (except for one paragraph with its journal reference, which had been moved up into an earlier section). At first I was shocked, but soon I again agreed with the editors.
     Within an hour or so, I realized that I could turn the event into a useful thing: I could add the deleted content to the Torreya Guardians website. Check it out here: "Torreya Guardians Interactions with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service".

  Connie Barlow has been contributing to a new wikipedia page, far left.

A new section she created, including the chronological chart (image left), was deleted by the wikipedia editors.

So Connie added it to our own website: "Torreya Guardians Interactions with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service".

October 2021 / Connie Barlow / USF&WS TORREYA PETITION DECISION reveals agency has no "climate adaptation" policy to aid "recovery" of endangered species

CONNIE BARLOW WRITES: Because Torreya Guardians is an informal organization and does not make decisions nor speak with a single voice, in Sept 2019 I filed, as a lone individual, a PETITION TO DOWNLIST THE FLORIDA TORREYA. (Scroll down to Sept 2019 on this chronological reports page to see my own statement and link to the petition.) On Sept 29, 2021, the USF&WS posted its decision, ruling against my proposed downlisting to "threatened" status.
    My original intention was not to achieve actual downlisting, but to compel the agency to publish a decision that recognized our substantial achievements in documenting northward thrival in historic plantings and our own learnings as to best propagation techniques and choice of planting sites.
    Ultimately, I hoped that such recognition would lead to official embrace of "assisted migration experimentation" — and thence to agency and public pressure aimed at calling out the climate-denying standards established by the two botanical gardens controlling ex situ seed dissemination.
    My continuing hope and advocacy is for the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to be compelled to cease requiring botanical gardens north of Georgia to assent to Memorandums of Understanding pledging to utilize the seeds exclusively for genetic safeguarding. Until that limitation is removed, those of us engaged in poleward planting and experimentation will be barred from accessing the full genetic diversity of Torreya seeds — thus resulting in assisted migration projects unnecessarily burdened by limited (and possibly dangerously inbred) genetics from seeds produced from limited horticultural parents.

   LEFT: Excerpts from the 11-page decision.

YELLOW highlights passages where USF&WS acknowledges the value of Torreya Guardians' contributions in discerning "best propagation practices," "natural history" learnings, and documentation of "localities and conditions of recent and historical outplantings ... seed sources and seed distributions."

PINK highlights crucial passages where the agency reveals an absence of any climate adaptation policy.

See the implications below.



... My aim was not so much to achieve a downlisting, but to get some attention that the policy of "historic range" needs to have a "climate adaptation" update, as pioneered by the National Park Service in April via its new "RAD" policy [Resist-Accept-Direct]. USDA has long been moving in the climate adaptive direction, without a great deal of fanfare. USFS research staff have published tree species range shift projections. As well, the agency is working to make the science of range shift accessible to forest owners and managers in the USA — including some very substantial work with tribal forestry staff. That work is carried out by staff at the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science.
     ... Bottom line: I believe the USF&WS branch of DOI can produce a policy statement that would authorize, on a case-by-case basis, "endangered species" decisions to begin including climate adaptive responses in favor of suitable conditions in "projected ranges" — not just limited to trying to manipulate the habitat of "historic ranges" to enable species thrival again. This is especially vital for any plant species classified as a "glacial relict" to ever achieve suitable habitat in this rapidly changing climate. New habitat poleward is the only chance to ever delist the plant. Otherwise "safeguarding genetic materials" will be perpetual and never enable a full wild presence.

NOTE: This petition decision outcome has also been summarized on the case study page of this website: CASE STUDY: Agency and Institutional Failures in Endangered Species Management of Florida Torreya. It is listed as:

14. FAILURE to include in the agency's PETITION DECISION on downlisting Florida Torreya any climate adaptive policy for enabling species "recovery" to track geographic climate range shifts — rather than being restricted to "historic range."
BARLOW NEXT STEPS: "Because 2 of the 10 authors of the National Park Service climate adaptation policy (published Spring 2021) are staff of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service, I plan to reach out to those staff members and ask for their support in urging F&WS to adopt a similar climate adaptation policy to guide management of endangered species — and to then apply it immediately to freeing up T. taxifolia seeds produced in the official ex situ orchards from current barriers to northward distribution."

October 2021 / Jack Johnston / Update on Torreya planting at Tessentee Bottomland Preserve

   October 25, 2021 Jack Johnston reported:

"Tessentee Preserve, Otto, NC:�Voles killed some Torreyas, which have been replanted.� The site is less friendly to voles now that the grass is cut more.

The tallest trees are the ones with the most sun and are 8 feet tall.� Height of the planting is from 8 feet to 10 inches."

September 2021 / Connie Barlow / SEEDS can adapt to climate only before germination

It makes a difference what climate a Torreya seed experiences during the months (and sometimes years!) while the embryo is slowly maturing, prior to germination of the rootlike "radicle."

   ADVICE FOR TORREYA PLANTERS: If you live in the southern or central Appalachians, it is surely fine for you to purchase and plant nursery-grown seedlings from more southern states (such as South Carolina and Georgia).

But if you live in the northern states, it is important to acquire seeds directly and put those seeds into the outdoor ground ("freeplanting") so that they can experience a full winter at their ultimate destination prior to embryo maturation.


Recent research (as in the research paper above) on commercially valuable conifers turned up surprising abilities of seeds to permanently shift the ultimate budburst timing in the spring and vegetative hardening in the fall. Because this has nothing to do with changes in the seed's DNA, it is called "epigenetic" adaptation, not genetic.
     So, for northern-state planters, if you store your seeds in your refrigerator or germinate them in your basement, or if you purchase potted seedlings from a southern state nursery, your torreya trees may permanently be less capable of thriving in your climate than they would have been had you put seeds directly into their ultimate destinations in your forested property. Genus Torreya might have even more exceptional epigenetic talents than the younger Pinaceae conifers that have already been tested. Click the image above to read the technical science paper.

August 2021 / Clint, Jack, and Paul / Clint Bancroft's injured torreya recovered with 3 tall leaders at the top (Ocoee watershed, TN)

   Aug 28 - CLINT wrote: "Earlier this year, I know not what happened, the growth tip of my oldest Torreya disappeared. I watched to see what it would do, expecting a new vertical leader to form. I was almost right! Since then, it has put up three separate vertical leaders. One is a bit taller than the other two. I have wondered about what is best to do since the tree had perfect symmetrical growth up to this point which I would like to see continue. I don't know how a Torreya with three crowns will look, I suppose one will eventually predominate and the others will kind of be like basals, but five feet up from the base. My thought is to remove the two smaller verticals in October and root them, leaving a single vertical leader. Your thoughts? This is an interesting development, an unplanned experiment, but I was disheartened that my baby (my first and oldest) was damaged and now has funky growth.

Aug 29 - JACK wrote: "The crotch angles between the 3 shoots is too narrow. Two need clipping, which is what I understand you plan to do. Deer rubs continue to be an issue here. I have some cages in place. Last year I had one plant killed to within one foot of the ground due to rubs."

Aug 29 - PAUL wrote: "I like your idea of cutting off the two (weaker) of the three terminals, and rooting them. You clearly want to keep the symmetrical growth of that plant — so do it! Usually this happens here when birds land on the new growth of spruce trees and snap it off. Usually a few shoots compete and if you cut off the weaker competing shoots, then business continues as normal. Clint, the growth for all three is strong. You are going to have two new nice plants after rooting! • Three of the six Highlands NC seeds have sprouted here (Capac MI). I also noticed that my Torreya in full sun had a second sprout of growth in late July, but the Torreya in the woods did not this year. Perhaps the ratio of sun/shade has something to do with this?"

August 2021 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians has a Wikipedia page and is linked from a major page

A new wikipedia page, Assisted Migration of Forests in North America was created in 2021. I noticed it in July, and because it was focused on assisted migration as it applies to climate adaptation in FORESTRY, rather than conservation biology, it was easy for me to add neutral content (required by Wikipedia) with many scholarly references. I have been compiling such academic publications for years in the Forestry section of the "Assisted Migration Scholarly Links" page on our Torreya Guardians website.

    Assisted Migration of Forests in North America
   The wiki editor who created the Forestry assisted migration page, also created a Torreya Guardians page, after I included our group's actions in Section 8.1 - "Assisted migration of forest understory plants."

Because our group has been mentioned in a great number of scholarly publications, as well as newspaper and magazine articles, it was easy for me to add neutral, referenced content according to the structure the editor had already set up for the page.

July 2021 / John Patterson / Out-planted torreyas in Ohio forest seem immune to huge deer population

   • July 2021 - In Loveland Ohio near Cincinatti, John Patterson reports:
"So far, of the nine torreya trees I have moved the last two years into my woods with high overhead canopies all have done well — despite the fact that this year two of the properties near me had seen a group of 18 does in their pastures one day and there are three major paths the deer use crossing my property along with between 9 and 12 bucks. Yet, only one tree has been nibbled on but little damage to the tree.

The 9 remaining trees in my garden are getting big, so I know I will have to dig deep to move them this fall."

Note: This project was started by Bob Miller, neighbor next door to John Patterson, in November 2015. See the photo-rich webpage of their combined effort.

LEFT: Tree #6.

June 2021 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians in article about international efforts to prevent extinctions

   • July 2021 - "Why climate change is forcing conservationists to be more ambitious: by moving threatened species to pastures new", by Sarah Elizabeth Dalrymple, in The Conversation.

EXCERPT: "... But while researchers are using computer models to predict the future needs of threatened species, one group has decided that the time to act is now. The Florida torreya, the most endangered coniferous tree in the US, has been moved north by a group of citizens known as the Torreya Guardians. They exploited a loophole in US law that allows plant translocations on private land by the public but prevents federal conservation authorities from doing the same thing. The species' current range is extremely restricted but was much more widespread before the last global ice age. The Torreya Guardians argue that the specimens of Florida torreya growing across the US provide evidence that the species can thrive beyond its current restrictions."

June 2021 / Lee Barnes and Daein Ballard / New Hampshire Torreya planter featured in regional newspaper

"Mason man works with organization to research new habitats for endangered tree", by reporter Ashley Saari, in Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, 9 June 2021.

   EXCERPTS: Hidden away on a property in Mason, about two dozen seedlings of Torreya taxifolia are quietly growing, watched over by Daein Ballard. They may be the only specimen of their kind in New Hampshire.
     ... So far, since starting the project in 2014, he said the results have been about 50/50 whether the trees survive.
     "It can definitely survive here, but they may not thrive," Ballard said. "They're growing more slowly than they are in the south. It's probably too far north for them here."
     That's OK, he said — at the moment, his results are just a data point for where these trees might do well, and where they might not. And, Ballard said, the success or failure of Torreya taxifolia might inform how the process works with other endangered plants.
     ... Ballard said the [torreya] is a good test case for human assisted migration because it has such a small, niche environment where it grows in the wild.
     "It's a prime example of a tree in a habitat that is no longer suited for it," Ballard said. "But a lot of trees are starting to have that problem. There are a lot of trees no longer in their ideal habitat."

... "Trees grow slower than us and live a lot longer than us. So who's to say? Maybe the climate in New Hampshire 100 years from now will be better for them. It's a long game." Read PDF of full new story.

June 2021 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians actions featured in new video "Helping Forests Walk"

   Retired now to my home state of Michigan, I just launched a new video series that builds upon the foundation laid by Torreya Guardians. I have titled it "Helping Forests Walk", and it is a more reflective series on the topic of "assisted migration" than my 2014-2020 video series filmed across America: "Climate, Trees, and Legacy". The previous series featured field experience and learnings of these native trees: Torrey Pine, Joshua Tree (5 vids), Arizona Cypress, Rocky Mountain Trees (10 species), Engelmann Spruce (2 vids), "Becoming Passenger Pigeon" (eastern USA large-seeded trees), Alligator Juniper (9 vids), Redwoods and Sequoias (9 vids), and my 2015 lecture on assisted migration at Michigan Tech U.

This new VIDEO series will feature traditional natural history ways of observing and interpreting as a possible bridge between indigenous and modern science. The first episode is an introduction to the series. It is 52 minutes long. The section on Florida Torreya and the work of Torreya Guardians begins at timecode 26:51.


2021 END-OF-YEAR UPDATE on this new video series: Click the IMAGES above to watch any of the additional 2021 videos. Of most relevance to TORREYA is HFW 04 on subcanopy trees — as both torreya and pawpaw are featured. In that video Indigenous values are advocated as well as the "natural history" style of observation and interpretation — which is the foundation of western science.
    "Thinking Like a Yew" will be very useful for any Florida Torreya planter who is also planting Florida Yew — or wishes that this glacial relict could receive the kind of attention and support that its Florida co-resident, Torreya, has achieved. Anyone interested in the technical history of the assisted migration debate in forestry will find value in HFW 02, which is a reposting of Connie Barlow's 2015 presentation at Michigan Technological University.

June 2021 / C. Barlow / Video short by Verge on assisted migration includes Torreya Guardians

EDITOR'S NOTE - This is an extraordinarily well-written and illustrated short video on "assisted migration" as a climate adaptation tool. Two scientists provide the faces with quotes. The first is Angie Patterson, a plant ecophysiologist at Black Rock Forest in New York. She's the one who gathers data by shooting leaves off the full-sun tops of trees. The other is Jessica Hellmann, University of Minnesota ecologist and an author of academic papers on "managed relocation" for many years. Torreya Guardians has a cameo role, too. (See below.)

   EXCERPTS OF VIDEO NARRATION: "... At first, assisted migration was controversial in academia. In fact, one of the most well known efforts was carried out by a loose collective of citizen-scientists called the Torreya Guardians. They've been trying to save the critically endangered Florida Torreya. A fungus blight brought on by environmental changes has pretty much wiped them out.

... Human-induced climate change has irrevocably altered the planet.... We have to make pragmatic decisions about what is worth saving and why. And then we probably do have to intervene.... Indigenous perspectives are incredibly important too."

June 2021 / Connie Barlow / 2018 Video presentation by staff of Atlanta Botanical Garden reports 13,000 Torreya seeds produced at the Blairsville ex situ planting in the mountains of north Georgia

Note by Connie Barlow: Periodically, I revisit the Torreya taxifolia pages of the key institutions that are working with this critically endangered tree. Here in the USA, the main institutions are U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, Atlanta Botanical Garden, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and the Center for Plant Conservation. Any significant new postings of theirs (or others) I then list and link on our own "Efforts to Save" webpage. The 2018 powerpoint VIDEO featured here was posted back in 2019, but I only encountered it this week. Here is the documentation of seeds produced in ex situ plantings for which, just five weeks before Dr. Coffey's talk, I had submitted an FOIA data request March 2018 in order to find out. The agency (Fish & Wildlife Service) required to produce such documentation, found none for the years I asked for: 2007-2017. Yet here, a relatively new staff member of Atlanta Botanical Garden (Dr. Coffey lists her start date as June 2017 on her Researchgate page), reports the number publicly, for her first harvest season with the ex situ plantings. The revelation that 13,000 seeds were produced in one of the north Georgia sites — and the implication that some 8,000 seeds may have been uncollected and undistributed that year (and ongoingly?) — breaks my heart. We Torreya Guardians plead for seeds for our own experimental "assisted migration" plantings on private properties (and botanical gardens) in northward states. Owing to an exception just for plants in the U.S. Endangered Species Act, we have been acquiring seeds from horticultural plantings in North Carolina, but most of these sites have sorely limited genetic diversity. An opportunity to strengthen these northward ex situ plantings with broader genetics (and vastly greater numbers) would be a blessing not only for us, but for future generations trying to stave off plant extinctions as the climate crisis worsens.

   PHOTO LEFT: Here is a slide from timecode 04:11 drawn from a video posted of the May 2018 presentation made by Dr. Emily Coffey, of Atlanta Botanical Garden, at the national meeting of the Center for Plant Conservation. The linked title of her 10-minute presentation:

• VIDEO: "What's New for Torreya taxifolia, North America's Rarest Conifer?"

EXCERPT: "So this year [Fall 2017] we actually had a bumper crop. We had 13,000 seeds that we collected from our Blairsville site.... The biggest issue is that they are recalcitrant so that the only way to store them is through somatic embryogenesis. We have cryo storage but 13,000 seeds is a lot of seeds. So we were not able to obviously utilize all of those seeds. But we have been able to distribute a large number of them."

Note: Barlow collected a half-dozen screenshots, with spoken word excerpts, and posted these images and excerpts of Dr. Coffey's VIDEO on a new webpage.

May 2021 / Fred Bess / Rooting success of branch cuttings plus documentation that Torreya is facultatively monoecious

   PHOTO LEFT: Fred Bess of Cleveland, Ohio, sent this photo of success in rooting branchlet cuttings, from the tree at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fred Bess also reports young seeds forming on both of his female trees, but what is also exciting is that he sent a photo documenting one of his "male" trees forming seeds on a branch right next to another branch producing pollen.

This is the second photo-documentation contributed by Torreya Guardians establishing that this dioecious genus is facultatively monoecious. The first was by the late A.J. Bullard, among the torreyas he planted at his home in Mt. Olive, NC.

Note: After we reported Bullard's documentation of male and female cones on the same individual, the WIKIPEDIA entry on Torreya taxifolia did shift to calling it "facultatively monoecious." But the page has shifted again, and in many ways now seems to be rather strange. So our webpage here does not link to it.

May 2021 / Connie Barlow / "Assisted colonization" paper in Science signals need to call out agency and institutional failures

While our What We Have Learned webpage offers a chronological (and linked) annotated list of our achievements, there was no single page on this website where people could find and assess for themselves the agency and institutional decisions and actions that have stood in the way of helping this beleaguered relict species move north. So when Science journal published a forum piece, "Global Policy for Assisted Colonization of Species", by Jedediah F. Brodie and 7 coauthors, and because it was critical of our "unregulated" actions, Barlow decided it was time to publish the history of agency and institutional decisions and actions that she interprets as thwarting effective implementation of the Endangered Species Act in this time of rapid climate change.

    • Access Barlow's May 2021 CASE STUDY: "Agency and Institutional Failures (13 identified failures).

   PHOTO LEFT: Connie Barlow with Fred Bess in Cleveland Ohio, October 2018. They are examining the tallest of Fred's 4-specimen grove of Florida Torreyas, which he planted in his front yard. Nearby is a female, which bears 19 seeds.

To comply with the ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT prohibition of interstate commerce of designated plants, Fred had to drive to South Carolina to purchase the potted seedlings at a nursery in 2009. That's a distance of 780 miles, as the Passenger Pigeon would fly.

May 2021 / Connie Barlow / Connie Barlow retires to Michigan and launches Pawpaw study

This is a note for our TORREYA VOLUNTEERS:

My husband and I retired to my homestate of Michigan to help out with a new grand-daughter. Torreya will always be my top priority in how I spend my time. So do keep sending me updates and photos of how your own plantings are doing. But I may be a bit slow in posting them on your site webpage and responding to you. The reason is that I am launching a citizen-science effort here to discern why some wild pawpaw patches produce fruit and others do not. Amazingly, no scientific paper yet establishes who the actual pollinators are (vs. casual visitors that don't effectively pollinate the blossoms). If you are curious — and especially if you have access to wild or horticultural plantings to spend time observing insect visitors —then do visit my Pawpaw Ecological Survey in Michigan webpage.

April 2021 / David Buckner and Connie Barlow / Baby photos of seedlings north of Asheville NC

David Buckner free-planted Florida Torreya seeds in March 2017, which were donated by Frank Callahan from seeds he germinated and then planted in Medford OR more than two decades ago. This month David sent Connie photos of two seedlings now visible in his forest. So Connie created a new webpage for David's Torreya site north of Asheville, NC here: Mars Hill, NC webpage. Look carefully at the photos of the two seedlings below and you will see in each an evergreen frond of native Christmas Fern — indicative of a superb planting site for torreya. Connie also added the Mars Hill site to our list of old and new plantings in North Carolina.


April 2021 / Connie Barlow / Long-form essay places Florida Torreya in context of people, place, and history

   A half dozen Torreya planters made sure I was aware of this beautifully illustrated, literary, and evocative essay by Martha Park:

"This Is Paradise". It was published in the April issue of The Bitter Southerner. The tagline summary:

"The rare Florida torreya tree grows only in the wild along a narrow stretch of the Apalachicola River. In the 1950s an eccentric lawyer named E.E. Callaway declared it was the gopher wood tree from which Noah's Ark was built. Today the Florida torreya is on the brink of extinction. Can the story of this tree and the people who love it help bridge the gap between science and faith?"

LEFT: Illustration from the essay, captioned "Chris Larson admires a Torreya tree at her property at Mossy Head" [FL].

Chris Larson (pictured with one of her torreyas above) bridges the usually contentious positions of residents of the deep south who are determined to keep their struggling native tree in place and Torreya planters farther north — who have been helping this left-behind glacial relict return northward since 2008. Chris owns land due west of Torreya State Park that has its own spring-fed steephead ravine. While she is determined to keep this ancient tree alive on her property as long as she can, she also says, "Assisted migration is necessary." Learn more about Chris and Robert Larson's torreyas at Shoal Sanctuary, FL. As to the essay overall, it helps us all to understand the inherent conflicts. It features the in-place dedication to historic range of scientists associated with the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Nature Conservancy. The essay also features landowners who love their torreyas but are wary of the ways of the scientists. For an overview (with references) of the various positions, visit our own Efforts to Save webpage.

April 2021 / Connie Barlow / Update on USF&WS official pages on Florida Torreya

Every time there is a change in federal administration, it is crucial to take a fresh look at the official page and the updated tabular report of actions pertaining to Florida Torreya as an officially listed endangered species. The image below entails the General Information section as it appears this month:

Crucially, the information in the image above signals a return to the long-standing official assessment that a variety of pathogens, none of which is categorized as non-native, entail the proximate cause of species decline. Crucially, "environmental stress" is mentioned, too. However, "glacial relict" status, which was mentioned in the draft EIS, endangered listing of 1984, and the first (1986) and second (2010) recovery plans, is not yet restored in this single paragraph. Even so, it is possible that stances of the previous administration that forced agency staff to retrench on mentioning "climate change" may continue to be rolled back. Certainly, if Florida Torreya can be recognized as a left-behind glacial relict, a rational response would be for the federal government to insist that this endangered species be offered poleward "managed relocation" before any other species is offered that level of conservation and/or climate adaptation action.
     For those who remember the "Torreya Symposium" of March 2018, co-sponsored by University of Florida, Florida State Parks, and Atlanta Botanical Garden, and especially the various reportage on its results, not only was a genetic engineering proposal announced, but warnings were made that past and future translocation actions northward could put several other widespread native conifer species in danger of an implied exotic pathogen, the newly named Fusarium torreyae. Thankfully, the prospect of genetic engineering against a (wrongly) presumed exotic disease may be over. Perhaps one day the governmental staff in charge of "recovering" this species will take seriously the substantial LEARNINGS documented over the course of 16 years by volunteers known as Torreya Guardians, especially our detailed documentation of the health and seed production in horticultural plantings far north of the peak glacial refuge in n. Florida.

Two additional documents merit attention that are linked from the official USF&WS Florida Torreya page:

1. "View Implementation Progress" links to a matrix format, in which the "Comments" column is key. There I learned that "The Torreya Keepers received funding in 2019 and 2020 from Section 6 and FEMA."

2. Under the "Petitions" category, I saw that the "downlist" petition I personally submitted September 2018 is still listed and linked, but no action on it is reported.

POSSIBLE ACTIONS: As my own volunteerism within Torreya Guardians entails interaction with the federal officials, it is time for me to take another look at whether this administration might have more helpful approaches in (a) responding to my Petition to Downlist Torreya to "threatened," (b) removing from the 2020 Recovery Plan update the unjust and slanderous reference to Torreya Guardians as "a religious group based out of northern Georgia," (c) responding more accurately to a renewed pre-FOIA inquiry for documentation of "numbers of seeds and their ultimate destinations" produced each year at the official ex situ "safeguarding" sites, managed by Atlanta Botanical Garden and the State Botanical Garden in Georgia, and (d) expressly recognizing that volunteer citizen-science, such as our documentation of Historic Groves far north of native range, can accelerate moving ahead with scientifically informed climate adaptation projects for conserving native biodiversity.

March 2021 / Connie Barlow / A reminder of how big genus TORREYA can grow

   Ever since my visit in 2005 to 5 regions in the Coast Range and Sierras where Torreya californica grows in the wild, I have maintained a set of site-specific California torreya webpages.

My own photos from 2005 are posted — but also new photos that contributors send to us for posting on this website.

LEFT is one of 3 photos recently contributed by Eric Ettlinger of a likely near-champion torreya north of San Francisco. (Notice the large trunks of Coast Redwood directly behind him.) Visit the photo-essay we have posted of his contribution.

A number of photographs on our "About Torreya" webpage show just how big Torreya species native to California, China, and even the eastern USA are capable of growing.

March 2021 / Connie Barlow / "Helping Forests Walk" is Indigenous term for "Assisted Migration"

  LEFT: Title and section of the 2021 update of this webpage begun in 2008.

Motivated by the covid quarantines in 2020, my husband (Michael Dowd) and I ended our 18 years of living on the road by settling in southern Michigan. Looking around for a local native tree to serve, I have adopted the subcanopy fruiting pawpaw tree....

... In researching what is still a mystery about this tree, I co-founded the "Pawpaw Pollinator Watch citizen science project. Native Americans, I have learned, played a crucial role in assisting the migration northward of this delicious fruit as the glaciers waned. An Indigenous term for what they have achieved: "Helping Forests Walk".

December 2020 / Buford Pruitt / Photo-essay of superb torreya growth, Brevard NC

Editor's note: Here are photos of the two tallest seedlings (from 2011 seed crop) growing in mature forest along Buford Pruitt's driveway near Brevard, North Carolina. Visit the Brevard NC torreya webpage to see the entire photo-essay report that Buford sent to Connie Barlow this month.

   Buford finally finished building his forest home (photo right) and thus had time to photograph and record the heights and sunlight stats of all 14 torreyas.

The two tallest are shown here. Each is 71 inches tall. The shortest (in the driest site) is 13 inches tall.

All torreyas are caged. Buford reports that in his neck of the woods, uncaged trees of this height risk damage by buck deer rubbing off antler velvet. Even though some of the lower branches extend beyond the cages, no browsing is evident on those unprotected leaves.

With this stellar accomplishment of healthy, near-decade-old torreyas "rewilded" into the southern Appalachians, Buford Pruitt's project is now shown as the lead volunteer planting on the North Carolina Torreya webpage. Bravo, Buford!

Photos were taken December 2020.

December 2020 / Russ Regnery / Photo comparison of 2 years torreya growth

   RUSS REGNERY, rural forest site near Cashiers and Franklin NC, rediscovered one of the 6 seedlings that Connie Barlow was able to find two years earlier (November 2018). A careful survey may well reveal the other seedlings too.

NOVEMBER 2018 (left-most): A torreya growing from a seed free-planted 3.5 years earlier is still just a single stalk. By DECEMBER 2020, the same seedling evidences 2 lateral growth spurts.

See the full history of seed and seedling plantings at this site (including videos).

December 2020 / Mike Heim / Winter in northern Wisconsin

   Mike Heim in northern Wisconsin was happy to greet this Florida Torreya (lateral growth, owing to it being a rooted branchlet) during a melt time in early winter.

Mike was one of the recipients of Torreya Guardians 2020 seed distribution (see report immediately below). He planted all seeds immediately, directly into the forest soil of his fenced deer exclosure.

For a long time, he has also been nurturing plant species that used to grow in northern North America during the Tertiary Period, but for whatever reason went extinct with the arrival of the Pleistocene, hanging on in other parts of the world such as Asia — notably, Ginkgo, Metasequoia, and Cephalotaxus. As well, he tests the cold hardiness of plant species native to eastern North America whose ranges are a good deal southward of his home — e.g., Taxodium, Shortia, Magnolia fraseri.

November 2020 / Joe Facendola / Photo-essay of my seed-collecting in North Carolina

   Joe Facendola filed a 14-page PDF of his seed collecting visits (October 31) to Clinton and Mt. Olive, North Carolina. The photo shows the 1,383 seeds collected in Clinton (top bucket) and 1,063 seeds collected at the pair of smaller trees in Mt. Olive (lower 2 buckets). Three first-year seedlings were collected near the Clinton tree (all with landowner permissions).

Editor's note: Connie Barlow converted Joe's photo-essay into a PHOTO-RICH WEBPAGE that she supplemented with the seed-collecting context and photos of prior years. Joe's photo-essay shows healthy growth in full-sun of two torreyas planted by A.J. Bullard in Mt. Olive NC. A.J. died this past spring, and his widow asked that this year our collector trim back the branches encroaching on the driveway. Joe complied. What strange times we live in, when the second most climate-endangered conifer in the world (a glacial relict) is given no help in moving poleward under the official endangered species recovery plan, such that we citizen volunteers have to scramble to do so on our own!

• A Narrative Summary of Torreya's History and Growth Characteristics in PDF was created by Connie Barlow in November 2020 to send to new torreya seed planters. It is 4 pages long, and the most up-to-date (while short) presentation on this website.

November 2020 / Sharon Mohney & Connie Barlow / First large-scale planting within Virginia

   November 2020, Sharon Mohney initiated the first large-scale, within-forest planting within Virginia of freshly harvested Torreya seeds.

The seeds were donated by owners of mature horticultural plantings of Florida Torreya in Clinton NC and Mt Olive NC. (See the report directly below by Joe Facendola, seed collector.)

The photo left shows an ideal landscape for torreya planting, based on what Torreya Guardians have learned thus far: (1) Planting on a slope beneath a deciduous canopy, and (2) planting amidst evergreen Christmas ferns, which offer superb camouflage for torreya seedlings as protection against winter-hungry deer.

Visit the new photo-rich webpage of this assisted migration project near BUCHANAN, VIRGINIA.

November 2020 / Joe Facendola & Connie Barlow / Clinton and Mt. Olive NC mature torreyas yield 2,443 SEEDS this year

   Following introductory phone calls by Connie Barlow to Mrs. Kennedy (in Clinton, NC) and Mrs. Bullard (Mt. Olive NC), North Carolina resident (and Torreya Guardian) Joe Facendola managed to collect seeds (and assist the owners with seedling digging and branch pruning) all in one day: October 31. Both the tall Torreya in Clinton and its pair of mature offspring in Mt. Olive looked very healthy (no signs of canker) and the seeds were abundant and ripe. (Access photos of these sites.)

Joe and Connie then set about distributing seeds via priority mail. Connie had quite a backlog of new recruits because we have had little access to seeds in recent years — yet this website regularly points enthusiasts in our direction.

This year the focus was on mailing large numbers of seeds (usually about 100) to each planter so that the bulk would be "free-planted", a form of "rewilding," immediately within forests. Accordingly, Connie created an easy-to-use PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS CHECKLIST within the otherwise very long "Propagate" page on the Torreya Guardians website.

FINAL DESTINATION STATES: North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Virginia, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

PHOTO ABOVE: Connie randomly sorted out 2 sets of 50 seeds from each of the two NC seed sites and tested them in a jar of water. The average was one "floater" per 50 seeds, with the rest all "sinkers." While Clint Bancroft has noticed no difference in germination success between floaters and sinkers, one still wonders whether harvesting of ripe seeds, followed by immediate removal of fleshy skins and embedding them into moist sphagnum moss, and then immediate mailing might eventually yield one of our most viable seed distribution/planting efforts thus far.

October 2020 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians excluded from participation in Recovery Plan Update

It was a shock this month to stumble on the fact that not only was the 2020 recovery plan update for Florida Torreya finalized and published without our awareness in July 2020, but that the Recovery Working Group met back in April 2019 — and we were not invited. This is in sharp contrast to the invitation we received to contribute our perspective as part of the Recovery Working Group in 2010. (Documentation of our participation in 2010, our written comments, and the comments contributed by well-known scientists we recruited to participate are all filed online here: 2010 Torreya Guardians participation in recovery planning.)
     In the image below I have highlighted my name, Connie Barlow, and that of Russell Regnery, listed as Torreya Guardians. Accordingly, although we two Torreya Guardians were the only ones to vote "yes" in 2010 on including actual experimentation in "assisted migration" (AM) northward in the official plan, nevertheless the plan as written recognized our actions in process and offered pre-approval for collaborating institutions to begin planning for AM experimention — if they so chose. Alas, there is no evidence that any of the officially recognized institutions chose to engage in such planning during the past ten years.

   It is also shocking to notice the degeneration in the official plan itself by comparing the pdf of each available online: 2010 plan and 2020 plan. At the end of both documents, the same staff scientist is credited as "Review conducted by: Dr. Vivian Negron-Ortiz".

My experience is that Dr. Negron-Ortiz is an excellent biologist. Whatever lapses in the usual protocols for endangered species decision-making that found their way into the working group selection, process, and plan writing were therefore unlikely to have originated with her. Notably, there is no way that a scientist of her experience and long familiarity with the goals and actions of Torreya Guardians (as documented on this website) and the diversity of our citizen volunteers would have had her approval to characterize Torreya Guardians as "a religious group based out of northern Georgia" (p. 6 of 2020 plan). Such slighting and slander of well-known citizen stakeholders is a mark of serious degradation in implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

Finally I wish to point out two other substantive/legal lapses in the 2020 revised plan. Because it is apparently pointless to submit any comments or queries to the USF&WS endangered species program anymore, I simply post it below for our own participants, the public, and professional managers and researchers working on climate adapatation plans to be aware of. The 2020 plan revision is degenerate in that ...

Absence of reporting any documentation of SEED PRODUCTION NUMBERS and ultimate destinations in any of the ex situ plantings northward of Atlanta Georgia. Background: In 2018, I (Connie Barlow) became alarmed that because the recalcitrant large seeds of Torreya taxifolia had proven impossible for the botanical gardens to store in viable condition via either dry or deep-freeze of entire seeds (Cruse-Sanders had reported that cryogenesis worked only for extracted and somatically propagated embryos), that the seeds were largely left to harvesting by onsite squirrels. Hence I launched a "FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT" official query whose summary line was: "... As founder of the citizen activist group Torreya Guardians, I would like to know documentation of seed production year by year, beginning in 2007. I am aware that the Blairsville site has likely been producing seeds every year since 2007, yet there is no online documentation of quantities and year-by-year reporting of ultimate destinations of the precious seeds. Please provide me (and thereby our group of citizens) this information." Very few documents were sent my way as a result of this FOIA query. Nonetheless, I compiled and linked all FOIA associated documents and communications onto this website.

No progress in developing a "Preventing Extinction Emergency Plan." Background: After ten years the presence of Torreya taxifolia in its "historic range" is continuing to decline. Nobody disputes this fact. Canopy devastation by Hurricane Michael in October 2018 worsened the slide by (a) suddenly exposing subcanopy saplings to leaf-damaging UV light and (b) reducing ravine capacity to maintain cooler and moister conditions. ESA planning protocol requires attention be given to developing a "Preventing Extinction Emergency Plan." This topic is presented in the 2020 plan on pp. 24-25, but that section should be judged against the more forward-looking 2010 plan (pp. 18-19). Notably, the 2010 plan directed:

A plan should be developed to address guidelines for reintroduction, translocation (and/or managed relocation), and augmentation, a three-step process of planning, implementing and monitoring. Since this species is unlikely to disperse and colonize on its own because current populations are characterized by small individuals that are failing to achieve reproductive maturity, therefore it is a candidate for assistance. Below are preliminary points to be considered:
• Initiate a reintroduction/translocation scheme with disease-free T. taxifolia in environments in which the pathogens are not recognized and/or the habitat has been managed and cleared from the threat that brought the species to endangerment.

Foster a working partnership between the Torreya Guardians, the Service, and other interested parties to help direct their managed relocation efforts.

September 2020 / Mike Heim & Connie Barlow / Wisconsin Torreya planter has 2 hour native tree lecture on youtube

   MIKE HEIM presented a 2-hour illustrated talk July 2020, which you can watch on youtube:

"Forest Trees of the Ceded Territory" (northern Wisconsin)

Torreya Guardians founder Connie Barlow reports,

"Mike excels in offering solid guidance and images — not only for identifying each species, but also its ecological context, historical uses, and deep-time history."
Use this time-coded topical list for accessing specific tree species during this 2 hour lecture.

Connie Barlow continues: "Watching this video, I learned a vital ecological reason why Paul Camire has found in Michigan that RED MAPLE indicates poor habitat for planting Torreya. Instead, one would expect that native trees indicating well-drained rich soils (e.g., beech, sugar maple, basswood) would be good indicators of best potential Torreya habitats in the Great Lakes region."

August 2020 / Paul Camire & Connie Barlow / Found a 1975 photo of Norlina tree in peak health

This month our Michigan planter, Paul Camire, turned up a 1975 photo of the then-national-champion Florida Torreya tree: in Norlina NC (photo far left). Connie Barlow added it not only to the webpage we maintain on the Norlina NC Tree but also to a number of other pages that harbor its offspring.

      As well, she added this photo (and a photo she took herself, near left, in 2018 of the biggest Florida Torreya at the Caroline Nature Preserve in Louisiana) to the Natural History of Torreya webpage — as a reminder of just how big this species can grow in a century.

August 2020 / Connie Barlow & Bob Miller / Southern Ohio proves excellent for Florida Torreya

   Nearing the end of their 4th year after seed-planting in this fully rodent and deer protected garden edge, these torreyas appear to be happy living in southwestern Ohio. All 22 seedlings that initially germinated along this fence are alive today, although 3 have been out-planted into the forest.

The learning here is not only that southwestern Ohio is already a fine climate for Florida torreya.

The learning is also that protecting against seed predation by rodents and early browsing by deer and rodents is vital for maximizing good results.

Access the photo-rich multi-year webpage of Torreya in Loveland in Ohio.

July 2020 / Connie Barlow / New book presents Torreya Guardians as leaders in assisted migration

    Five years ago, a young science reporter, Zach St. George, began sleuthing about a new and divisive controversy in conservation, forestry, and endangered species circles. Now usually called assisted migration, this challenge to native range as the sole geographic locus for saving endangered species was the foundation for launching Torreya Guardians back in 2004. Because our group is citizen-led and relies entirely on volunteer planters and their experimental discoveries, we could jump out ahead of the established conservation groups, institutions, and academics in our determination to offer this Jurassic-age genus a chance to demonstrate viability far north of the Florida refuge where it waited out the glaciations.

With W.W. Norton as distinguished publisher, this book is a fact-checked, page-turning presentation of a new paradigm in applied ecology for this century of too-rapid climate change.

GOODREADS makes the full Introduction and Chapter 1 freely available for reading online, and in much more pleasant to read font resolution than Amazon.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL published a lengthy and very favorable review of the book, titled 'The Journeys of Trees' Review: Giants in Transit. Note: If you cannot access the full review online, you can read read in here in pdf.

A SHORT ESSAY to learn why Zach chose this project and worked on a shoestring to its fruition, read this short reflective essay he wrote for Powell's Books (in lieu of being able to give a talk in a covid-closed bookstore in Portland OR): "Accepting a Changing World".

THE ESSAY BEGINS: I was working on the third or fourth draft of my book, The Journeys of Trees, when a friend pointed out to me what the book is about. It came as a surprise. I was fairly certain I knew what it was about: the future of forests. Thanks to the combined effects of climate change, globalization, and deforestation, the world's forests are in a state of upheaval unlike any since at least the end of the last ice age. In the book, I abandoned the usual view people take of trees and forests, as reliable and unchanging, nearly geologic in their stillness, and instead cast them as mobile, dynamic collections of creatures — which of course they are, if you take even a moderately long view of things. Slipping out of the usual human scale threw into higher relief what is typical about our time, and what is truly unprecedented. That's what the book is about. But, as my friend pointed out, maybe that's not all the book is about. Maybe, he suggested, it's also about acceptance.
     So I went back and looked. Sure enough, it was there, scattered throughout the book. It wasn't even particularly subtle. In the very first chapter, I talked about acceptance with a scientist who studies giant sequoias. As we sat among the ancient trees, high in the mountains of eastern California, he [Nate Stephenson] told me that he'd realized nearly two decades before that climate change would mean that, sooner or later, the ancient trees would die. The place that they currently lived would no longer be suitable for them. He'd fallen into a deep depression. He mentioned a paper by ecologist Richard Hobbs, who wrote that people mourn change in the natural world in a similar way to how they mourn the loss of a loved one. Hobbs had pointed to the stages of grief, famously outlined by Swiss American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying: First comes denial, then anger, then bargaining, depression, and — finally — acceptance. The sequoia researcher told me he'd been through all five stages. "I'm through mourning the loss of an ideal," I quoted him saying. "Now it's, 'What are we going to do about it?'"
     It was just one of several versions of this story I'd repeated in the book. I heard it from entomologists in Michigan, fighting to save another threatened tree [ash species] — a battle they knew they were likely to lose. I heard it from foresters in Canada, who had accepted that their old ways of operating wouldn't work in the climate of the near future. And I heard it from the book's main character, a woman [Connie Barlow] who appears throughout the book, and who pushes the theme of acceptance to its extreme. She believes in the fast-approaching end of human civilization, and has accepted it. Facing this shrunken future, she takes solace in trying to save a rare, isolated species of tree [Florida Torreya]. My friend was right. The book was indeed about acceptance — about people who have journeyed through grief, confronted the reality of what had been or would be lost, and continued to fight for what remained....
AUGUST UPDATE: The Journeys of Trees is now also available as an audiobook. Unlike many nonfiction science books, St. George's writing style is superb for listening — and except for some strange pronunciations of technical terms (Oligocene, deciduous, arthropod) the narrator excels too.

SEPTEMBER UPDATE: The Journeys of Trees got a great book review in The Inquisitive Biologist. Final para of the review:

"...The flap text on the dust jacket mentions that the book focuses on five trees, but the story defies any rigid or chronological organisation, looping round in circles and delightfully intersecting its own narrative in numerous places. Much as I had hoped, The Journeys of Trees ended up being a fascinating sylvan road trip that sets itself apart from the many books written on trees, not least by its deep-time perspective."

July 2020 / Connie Barlow & Daein Ballard / Video of Daein Ballard's torreya plantings in New Hampshire

   Mid May 2019 Daein Ballard took me (Connie Barlow) on a tour of his Torreya experiments in southern New Hampshire southeast TN. A year has gone by and I finally edited the raw video into 52 minutes and posted on youtube. Access VIDEO 34.

For this rapidly shifting climate, it is helpful to learn just how far north this slow-to-disperse subcanopy conifer can survive. Fortunately, Ballard has a diversity of woodland habitats on his property, and he planted torreya with an eye to maximizing the habitat types. Even so, he concludes, "Torreya is probably not going to do well here for now, unless you put it in very particular areas."

July 2020 / Clint Bancroft / A 2018 seed from mature Torreya grove in north Louisiana germinates!

   Clint participated in the November 2018 site visit to Briarwood Preserve in northern Louisiana. The preserve donated 3 seeds to Torreya Guardians, which Clint volunteered to germinate and foster.

Photo left is the first germination.

Experience suggests that this nearly 2 years for germination is fairly typical for this large-seeded endangered tree.

As usual, Clint provides very secure protection against rodents, which are both avid seed predators and occasional browsers of new growth.

July 2020 / Clint Bancroft / Severely stressed transplant from November 2019 site visit to Clinton NC recovers!


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

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

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

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

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

June 2020 / Connie Barlow / New paper reports lab tool for identifying Fusarium torreyae

   A technical paper was published, which includes Jason A. Smith (discoverer of F. torreyae) as a coauthor: "Detection method for Fusarium torreyae, the canker pathogen of the critically endangered Florida torreya, Torreya taxifolia", 2020, Forest Pathology.

I added that paper as a link to our lengthy webpage, "At the Brink of Extinction — Why?", because I suggest on that webpage it will be helpful for officials to test and report "whether Fusarium torreyae is present in either or both of these North Carolina mature, seed-producing groves (Biltmore and Highlands). Test both the originally planted trees and the naturally spawned saplings and seedlings nearby that were evidently dispersed from seed by squirrels."

NOTE: Thus far, this fusarium has not been examined as to whether it can inflict lethal injury to Torreya and other native trees in an actual Appalachian forest context (rather than a lab in Florida). As I suggest on the endangerment webpage,

(3) Evaluate results and consider next steps:
(3a) If the pathogen is present, but nonlethal, then genetic engineering should not even be considered. Instead, the ideal way to free this endangered tree from its current glide toward extinction is assisted migration (see next section). Note: It is recommended that Prof. Jason Smith be queried on this matter, as it is possible that he has already sampled (and perhaps found) Fusarium torreyae in the Biltmore grove — and with as-yet nonlethal consequences.

(3b) If the pathogen is not present in the two oldest North Carolina groves, the question turns to: What is the farthest northward extent the pathogen has reached — and is it problematic there? Notably, is it on the grounds of Atlanta Botanical Garden or Callaway Gardens (southwest of Atlanta)? And has it established even farther northward in any of the ex situ plantings of Torreya in the northern region of Georgia (the southern-most Appalachian mountains). Overall, is there a sense that northward locations reduce or eliminate the destructive (even lethal) capabilities of Fusarium torreyae?

  • March 2020 / Clint Bancroft / More proof that rooted cuttings from basal cuttings produce tree-form

       Clint Bancroft of southeastern Tennessee posted 3 new photographs of rooted cuttings of basal stems that were collected in Nov. 2019 at Clinton, NC. Thanks to these experiments, we now can recommend with certainty that using cuttings taken from the apical tips of basals (which sometimes grow in abundance around the base of mature Torreya trees) and then rooting those will definitely yield a growth form of tree rather than shrub. Clint does not yet have results on whether mid-section cut segments of basals also produce a tree-like growth form.

  • March 2020 / two sources / International Scientists Announce First Plant Translocation Conference and Journal section

       International Plant Translocation Conference" to be held in Rome, Italy (February 2021)

    This month botanists and plant ecologists in Italy and elsewhere in Europe announced the first conference to be held on "plant translocation" in which "assisted migration/colonization" in response to current and expected climate change will be one of the topics. (Summary by Connie Barlow)

    Visit the Committees" tab of the IPTC conference website to access the list of scientists (and their institutions and specialties). There you will see the U.K. plant ecologist, Sarah Dalrymple, who (with forester Richard Winder of Canada) initiated an international PLANT TRANSLOCATION NETWORK several years ago, manifesting as a preliminary webpage with founding membership list. (Torreya Guardian Connie Barlow is on that list and was involved in the early consultations.)
         Dalrymple and Winder together launched a proposal in 2019 to the Journal of Ecology to produce/edit a set of up to 10 papers for highlighting as a Special Feature within a 2020 issue of that journal. Their title: "Plant translocations and climate change: Bioassay, surveillance and solution to a global threat?. Their proposal included a list of authors and paper titles and was accepted February 2020. Read their proposal and you will see that their emphasis on studying existing plant translocations (as in poleward plantings within botanical gardens) can serve as field experiments already underway to (a) assess levels of climate change that plants have already responded to, and (b) obtain on-the-ground confirmation where species "assisted migration" can already be successful. To see how TORREYA GUARDIANS have already been documenting horticultural plantings as indicators of suitable habitats and noninvasivenes, visit our Historic Groves webpage.

  • February 2020 / Connie Barlow / Applying Torreya Assisted Migration Success to California Conifers

    As founder of Torreya Guardians, I have recently expanded my "assisted migration" advocacy for a single climate-endangered tree to apply to "glacial relict" conifers in other regions of the country. California's two species of redwoods (Coast Redwood and Giant Sequoia) are among them. In addition to networking among the redwood researchers, I have undertaken advocacy actions grounded in my experience with assisted migration poleward of Florida Torreya:

       (1) VIDEO DOCUMENTATION OF CALIFORNIA REDWOODS ALREADY THRIVING IN PACIFIC NORTHWEST: In 2019 I posted 3 additional site-visit documentations on youtube (pictured at left), thereby bringing to eight the number of videos on redwoods that I began posting in 2017. Access an annotated list of these redwood videos as part of my larger "Climate, Trees, and Legacy" video series: Assisted Migration Advocacy for California Redwoods

    (2) SEATTLE AREA ADVOCACY FOR PLANTING CALIFORNIA TREES AS FORESTRY CLIMATE ADAPTATION: Advocacy for "Planting Trees from Warmer Drier Climates", comment filed by Connie Barlow re public survey of King County 30-Year Forest Plan (Seattle, WA), February 2020.
         Barlow's Redwood advocacy is, of course, an individual endeavor and does not implicate any other citizen volunteer involved in the assisted migration of Florida Torreya in this extension of advocacy. Even so, it does suggest that the 15-year history of citizen actions within Torreya Guardians can indeed serve as an exemplar for adaptation responses that could benefit other tree species challenged by climate change. See our extensive webpage on History of Torreya Guardians.

    Note: The SEATTLE area already is engaged in forestry climate adaptation by replanting a city-purchased 2012 clearcut with a blend of local genes of native species of Douglas-fir and Western Red Cedar and seeds sourced from native forests in SW Oregon. See: Why We're Planting Oregon Trees in Washington; more detail here.

  • January 2020 / news clip / Shock at Giant Sequoia deaths may help assisted migration for Torreya

    "This is not how sequoias die; it's supposed to stand for another 500 years"

       SUMMARY by Connie Barlow: This lengthy, illustrated article in the January 18 online issue of The Guardian is a tear-jerker. I already knew this past fall of the shocking losses of Giant Sequoias in the Sierras, as I communicated with one of the coauthors of the in-press paper — because I had come upon a newly fallen branch of a Coast Redwood that also showed bark beetle tunnels, despite the "knowledge" that bark beetles cannot attack redwoods. What I see now is that, yes, bark beetles cannot penetrate the thick trunk bark, but the bark on even the most massive branches (of a Coast Redwood) is no thicker than that of a yew. So the beetles kill redwoods slowly, out of sight in the high canopy, branch by branch. In contrast, pines and firs and spruce wiped out in the western USA are killed by bark beetles whose tunneling and fungal follow-up girdle the main trunk. The damage is readily apparent even at ground level.

    PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Christy Brigham, who is responsible for the welfare of the ecosystems in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, stands in front of a suddenly dead Giant Sequoia.

    IMPORTANCE FOR TORREYA: Crucially, because the scientists in charge are shocked by the deaths and because Giant Sequoia is a beloved tree that happens to be the most massive tree species in the world, this occurrence may finally prod the establishment to realize that our own climate-endangered Torreya deserves official approval of poleward assisted migration.

  • January 2020 / multiple sources / Wollemia survives the Australian fires, thanks to humans

       PHOTO LEFT: No, that is not a seedling Torreya. It is Australia's endangered Wollemia nobilis, of the Araucariaceae family of conifers (Torreya is of the Taxaceae family). When, in 1995, it was discovered in a single deep gorge within Wollemia National Park, Wollemia was judged by some to knock Florida torreya out of its presumed status as the most globally endangered conifer tree.

    PHOTO LEFT BOTTOM: Several Torreya Guardians have been corresponding about the tremendous success of the fire-fighting effort that saved the Wollemia from likely extinction in the wild this month. Not all the greenery in the photo is Wollemia, but all of the brown is where the fire burned — and would have burned into the depth of this gorge, were it not for make-shift irrigation, spraying, and chemical retardant.

    • Torreya Guardian Connie Barlow says, "What is remarkable is that no mention is made in media reports of the possibility of assisting the migration of this ancient genus to more suitable climates. Clearly it is a "left-behind" species, whose final redoubt is the coolest, wettest depth of a canyon system."

  • January 2020 / multiple sources / Photos of mature Torreya at Kalmia Gardens SC

    Beginning in 2018, Paul Camire and Connie Barlow attempted to fully document (with photos, where possible) all mature plantings of Florida Torreya, especially in states northward of Florida. As new information comes our way, Paul keeps updating the lengthy pdf, titled Ex-situ specimens of Torreya taxifolia.

         Where photos and important information on long-term survival and reproductive results are available, Connie adds the new information to the Historic Groves webpage.

    The PHOTOS here pertain to the newest entry on the Historic Groves webpage, pertaining to Kalmia Gardens in eastern South Carolina.

  • December 2019 / Clint Bancroft (TN) / Discovery of Torreyas free-planted by a mystery rodent

          PHOTO LEFT, OCTOBER 12: "I was carrying water to a dwarf mountain laurel I had planted. I saw with amazement this new seedling. I have free-planted only a single seed and that was 3+ years ago by the creek."

    PHOTO MIDDLE, DECEMBER 29: "Behold a SECOND strange and wondrous mystery: a second germination I did not plant. This one is about 12 feet from the first. Both are easily 200 feet from my propagation area, which is the only place seeds could have come from...."

    "... These have to be Medford OR seeds I had planted in an outdoor propagation pot February 2017. The pot was wire-mesh covered and should've been safe from squirrels. However something dislodged the wire mesh cover and squirrels got into the pot. All but one of the seeds were pillaged from that pot. If so, this means it has taken them three summers to germinate." FULL REPORT

  • December 2019 / Chris Anderson (TN) and Fred Bess (OH) / Photos of torreya for holiday cheer

    Report Summary by Connie Barlow: December is not a usual time for torreya activity, but two planters sent in photos for posting this month.

    PHOTO BELOW LEFT: A beautiful, herbivory-free torreya free-planted from seed by Chris Anderson directly into his forested property, east side of Cumberland Plateau, TN.


    PHOTO NEAR LEFT: Fred Bess (torreya grower in Cleveland, who is our northern-most seed producer) revisited the lone Florida Torreya in a cemetery near Cincinnati. The neighboring conifers make it difficult to assess the height in this photo, but as Fred reports, "The Cinci tree is still looking good as ever."

  • November 2019 / Mike Heim / Two Florida Torreyas winter in Wisconsin


    Mike Heim writes, "Thought you might like an update on the Florida torreyas way up here in northern Wisconsin. It's all good news."

    PHOTO TOP (Nov 24): This past summer one of the seeds germinated that I planted in situ two years ago in the woods. I find it interesting that the only one to germinate so far did so next to a wild ginger (Asarum shuttleworthii) division that I transplanted from the western North Carolina mountains a couple of years earlier. Just speculating, but perhaps something in that soil triggered germination, whether it be soil fungi/microbes or exudates from the ginger roots. Only time will tell if there's any merit to this idea, when and if the others germinate.

    PHOTO BOTTOM (Nov. 24): This one is from the native Georgia population that has been growing here without injury for several years. Last winter it survived under only a couple of inches of snow at -36F. This fall both of these plants were exposed to -6F on November 12th, which is exceptionally early for such cold. There was no snow whatsoever. As you can see, the torreyas were not fazed by this.

    The full report (with reports and photos from previous years) are on the Hayward, Wisconsin Torreya webpage.

  • November 2019 / Joe Facendola, Clint Bancroft, Nelson Stover / 200+ seeds and 10 seedlings collected at Clinton NC Torreya tree

    Report Summary by Connie Barlow, using emails submitted by the three collectors.


    The single old horticultural planting remaining in Clinton NC seems to still be bearing close to 500 seeds annually. Joe Facendola visited the site first, collecting 208 seeds that had already fallen to the ground. Clint Bancroft and Nelson Stover made a joint expedition there 10 days later. Few seeds remained at that time (squirrels noticeably harvest them, removing the fallen seeds and leaving the hulls right where they found them).
         Fortunately, the owner (Mrs. Kennedy) encouraged the duo to dig up (and thus rescue from the lawnmower) any seedlings that they found. So Clint dug up 10 first-year seedlings and also a much larger one that had escaped mowing by having been buried by a squirrel right next to the trunk of a Camellia. He also collected some cuttings for rooting. Nelson photographed the saplings in the backyard — too big to dig up.

    Direct link to the 2019 UPDATE on the CLINTON NC torreya webpage.

  • November 2019 / Connie Barlow / AUDIO PODCAST on Torreya portrays Fusarium torreyae as present in all tissues — but harmless until [environmentally] triggered

    An hour-long AUDIO featuring Florida Torreya was posted 3 November 2019 in the podcast series titled "In Defense of Plants." The episode was hosted by Matt Candeais and titled "The Fall of the Torreya and What Is Being Done To Save It". The interviewee was Jennifer Ceska, who co-founded the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance from her base as conservation coordinator of the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia.

    This interview offers significant new information on how the Fusarium torreyae is being interpreted. Because is is found "in all tissues" but is usually not pathogenically expressing, this evidence supports arguments in favor of northward assisted migration (to escape environmental triggers that are pathogenic in too-warm climates, including the tree's native range). However, neither Ceska nor the podcast host ever mentions that Florida Torreya is a well-known glacial relict. Absent that understanding, the environmental trigger of disease expression seems to remain a mystery. Indeed, absent a paleoecological understanding that Torreya was already suffering from interglacial warming within its peak glacial reserve when seed-production stopped 60 or 70 years ago, Ceska now fears that her institution's ex situ plantings in north Georgia may actually be threatening nearby native conifers with the disease — and thus may warrant removal and burning (!). Overall, the institutional interpretation of how best to manage Florida Torreya is the exact opposite of what is supported by the strong and growing compilation of evidence gathered over 15 years by Torreya Guardians. The case we make in favor of northward assisted migration is now very strong, as evidenced on our Historic Groves webpage and the lengthy causes of endangerment webpage.

       KEY QUOTATIONS BY JENNIFER CESKA (in pdf) with audio timecodes:

    28:31 JC: [Recent debates about whether "commercialization of endangered plants" was helpful for the plants] ... Torreya was the godchild; you could grow an endangered tree in your garden and it's a beautiful horticulture tree ... that document never saw the light because we learned from Jason Smith at the University of Florida [what the pathogen was]

    30:03 JC: ... We thought we were taking the torreya away from the disease; we thought this was in the soil. We thought it could be introduced or always been there. Well, no. It's in the torreya; it is part of torreya. He named it; it's a fusarium named for torreya. It's in all of its tissues; it's passed from mother to child. And if the tree is healthy, everything's fine; they live together. But if the tree is weak in some way horticulturally, then this fusarium can express and it can spread. And in the lab Jason Smith has learned, he's done inoculations in the lab, that it can jump in the lab to different plant families.

    ACCESS THE COMPLETE TIMECODED EXCERPTS OF J. CESKA'S STATEMENTS, as selected and transcribed by Connie Barlow in pdf. Connie selected excerpts that (a) convey what the official institutional implementers of the Torreya recovery plan have learned about how best to nurture this endangered species in northward ex situ plantings, (b) convey the lack of attention to Torreya's undisputed glacial-relict status as the most scientifically reliable explanation for what triggers the embedded fusarium to become pathogenic, and (c) reveal the degree to which a non-peer-reviewed master's thesis (lab based only, with no testing of the pathogen's ability to survive winter freezes and other ecological limiting factors) is being used to consider destroying ex situ torreya collections — on the off-chance that Fusarium torreyae might be able to infect other native conifers of Georgia and points north. Key excerpts on the latter:

    31:44 JC: We've gone back to our partners [like in Gainesville GA] ... and I said, 'You know that collection you planted 18 years ago as a partner and we were so grateful that you planted that grove of torreya, and it is in a cultivated area, but it is next to your woods: you need to know. And so now their board is. They still have them. But they had to go have a conversation about that. And if they decided that they needed to remove those trees, I would have respected that and understood. Because they have a responsibility to the natural areas that they are restoring and protecting as well.

    32:21 JC: So, yes, the story changed. And, thank goodness that we did track them everywhere that we planted ... that we know whose who and where, that we know the health of those trees, and if we do see a problem we would remove and burn that material.

    For the long history of acceptance of Florida torreya as a glacial relict, consult the excerpts on torreya as glacial relict posted from the 1984 ESA listing, the 1986 original recovery plan, and the 2010 federal plan update.

  • October 2019 / Connie Barlow / NEW VIDEO by Tallahassee Public TV station on Hurricane Michael Damage

    Six-minute video titled Torreya State Park After Hurricane Michael: One Year Later was produced by WFSU, the public TV station affiliated with Florida State University in Tallahassee. The video begins with a look at the two unlikely survivors of the hurricane where the entrance road ends in a parking lot. Both Gregory House and a planted little grove of torreya trees at the lawn edge survived, the tall trees fallen all around them.

       For viewers and readers familiar with the paleoecological foundation undergirding the drive for "assisted migration" poleward of the glacial relict Torreya tree, the video offers a few hints of the steephead ravine ecosystem similarities in the park to habitats now found in the southern Appalachians. The actions of Torreya Guardians are of course not mentioned. But the accompanying essay does say this:
    "In the 1950s, a fungal blight wiped out a population of about 600,000 Torreya taxifolia in the region. The Florida Park Service, Nature Conservancy, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden have been working to revive the Florida torreya, a species whose future may lie in its likely ancestral home of North Carolina, where planted trees have thrived disease free."


    Recent rooting of cut basal tips confirms that vertically oriented basals can turn into actual trees, rather than multi-stemmed shrubs (which is the fate of tips cut and rooted from lateral branches. But if a tree produces some radial-structure, vertically oriented branchlet tips, might cutting these produce real tree structures?

       October 3, 2019, CONNIE BARLOW clips the most vertically oriented branch tips she can find on the two seed-grown trees FRANK CALLAHAN (standing behind) had planted at his mother's home in Medford, OREGON.

    Connie notes that the most vertically oriented branchlet tips she could find were not quite as leader-like in structure as the ones she had clipped from the shrubby, rooted-branchlet "trees" at Hawthorne Park earlier that day. Visit the Oregon Torreya webpage on this website to access photos of the vertically oriented branchlets on the other set of trees in Medford.

    As to BASALS, Connie was at first surprised that there were no really good-looking basal sprouts at the base of either of the two trees (See photos). But then she realized that because both were planted in full sun, the low shrubby branches precluded basals from contributing any sunlight-derived photosynthates, so the trees probably wouldn't bother creating good basals unless they felt stressed and possibly facing death.

  • OCTOBER 2019 / Connie Barlow / F&WS acknowledges receipt of "Petition to Downlist"

    I received via mail an official 3-page letter dated 23 October 2019, signed by Leopoldo Miranda, Director of the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I scanned the letter and have posted it on this website as a 3-page PDF. From what I can discern, no decision has yet been made on whether the 26-page formal "petition to downlist Torreya to threatened" that I submitted last month (September) offers the agency any new information worth considering. However, it appears that the earlier 21-page report I submitted to DOI August 2019 (see below) did not offer any new information worth considering. My sense is that because LAST YEAR (6 August 2018) the service announced initiation of an official "5-year Status Review", consideration of my current petition to downlist will be subsumed within that process already underway, and thus no additional decision as to whether my petition merits substantive attention need be given. Overall, we can all expect an opportunity to COMMENT ON THE PENDING 5-YEAR STATUS REVIEW — whenever that is offered for public review in the future. In the meanwhile, the official letter itself reveals some important insights into the current official thinking of the Fish & Wildlife Service, notably these EXCERPTS (bold as emphasis added by Barlow):

    • "... The Endangered Species Act (ESA) compels us to return all listed species to being viable and self-sustaining in their ecosystems. We recognize the critical role of stakeholders and how important their participation is to help achieve this goal. Recovery is not a fast process. It takes decades in some cases to see progress or to reverse long-standing threats...."
    BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - Official policy is thus more encompassing than some past communications to Barlow that actions underway were limited to "preventing extinction" and undertaking "genetic safeguarding." (Full recovery was not mentioned as a goal of the ongoing official actions.)
    • "... Florida torreya is a critically endangered tree endemic to habitats along the Apalachicola River in Florida and extreme southwest Georgia. Populations once had about 650,000 individuals but crashed in the 1950s due to a fungal pathogen (Fusarium torreyae). Now we have 750 individuals (i.e., re-sprouts from stumps) that fail to reach maturity in the wild. In addition, these re-sprouts from stumps display different degrees of decline such as root necrosis and stem cankers...."
    BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - This is the first time I have seen the newly isolated and named Fusarium torreyae definitively presented as having been the cause of the 1950s population crash (as well as being now the apparently most debilitating cause of ongoing stem dieback, among the multiple disease agents long specified as afflicting Florida Torreya in its peak glacial refuge). To my mind this suggests that, despite more than half a century of disease presence, and despite presumably lax antiseptic practices by official institutions in moving plant materials from the disease-ridden historic range and/or cleansing boots worn in the collecting area (as well as botanic gardens and citizen practices in moving plant materials around well outside of its historic range), there have been no documented lethal consequences of Fusarium torreyae in the Appalachian mountain region and points north. This is highly suggestive that helping this glacial relict species finally be able to "migrate" hundreds of miles north of its peak-glacial historic range is both a practical and a proven method for restoring this species to health.
    • "... The Torreya Guardians' work conducted under the concept of assisted migration has been acknowledged by the Service in the 2010 5-year review, and will be noted also in the 5-year review currently underway...."

    • "... The Service does not have an official policy on assisted migration of threatened or endangered animals or plants, and assesses the needs of species on a case-by-case basis...."

    • "... we urge considerable caution in your efforts to translocate the Florida Torreya outside its native range. We remain concerned that transporting Florida Torreya seedlings, cuttings and seeds outside its native range may carry the fungal pathogen to new areas.... Therefore, we suggest all potential Florida Torreya outplantings undergo health screenings, and the results documented."

    • "... This species needs help from passionate partners such as yourself and the Torreya Guardians, and I encourage further efforts to secure the Torreya within its native range.... If you have any questions regarding the ongoing 5-year review process, or wish to discuss opportunities to engage with the Service in securing the Florida Torreya within its native range please contact Dr. Sean Blomquist, Acting Field Supervisor, Panama City, Florida Ecological Services Office ..."

    BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - It appears that although "the Service does not have an official policy on assisted migration", the closing of this email response strongly implies that with respect to this particular species a decision is already in place to continue the sole focus on recovery taking place "within the historic range." If even this undisputed "glacial relict" (by definition, having been unable to migrate poleward after the ice retreated) is not given an opportunity to excel in a more suitable climate today and into the future, how then could any other listed species be given assistance in migrating to cooler realms in the coming decades of climate disruptions already underway?
    UPDATE: USF&WS added this petition to its official Florida Torreya webpage, as shown below:

  • September 2019 / Connie Barlow / PETITION TO DOWNLIST Florida Torreya submitted

    September 9 I (Connie Barlow), as an individual and citizen, submitted a 26-page formal petition to downlist Florida Torreya from "endangered" to "threatened" status — based entirely on the actions accomplished by various citizen volunteers with Torreya Guardians over our 15 year history.

    In accordance with F&WS policy, I submitted a copy to both of the states (FL and GA) in which the historically native range occurs. The Georgia recipient redirected my petition to Timothy Merritt, Chief, Branch of Conservation and Classification for Endangered Species of the Southeast Region of F&WS. [October 9 Barlow submitted this petition to the Department of Interior, per regulations.]

       In my Sept 9 cover letter to Mr. Merritt, I wrote: "The timing of this petition was inspired by the new ESA regulation clarifying "threatened" status as distinct from "endangered." In this particular case, downlisting to threatened could substantially help an endangered plant move toward full recovery, by making it possible for we citizens to play an even greater role than we have been playing in past years." Access documents:
    Petition to Downlist (26 pages pdf)

    Cover letter to Mr. Merritt (2 pages pdf)>

    Cover letter to Mr. Bernhardt (2 pages pdf)

    USF&WS added this petition to its official Florida Torreya webpage, as shown in this image below:

  • Sept 2019 Barlow also filed a 2-page, "Formal request to document Torreya seed production ex situ 2018 and 2019", available here in PDF.

  • August 2019 / Connie Barlow / Report to DOI: Volunteer Actions of Torreya Guardians Support New Endangered Species Administrative Policies

    August 25 I (Connie Barlow), as an individual and citizen, submitted a 21-page "Report to Secretary of the Department of Interior and Director of Fish & Wildlife Service: Volunteer Actions of Torreya Guardians Support New Endangered Species Administrative Policies".



    1. Suggestions for Florida Torreya Plan Update: Part A - Translocations (p. 2)

    2. Suggestions for Florida Torreya Plan Update: Part B - Actions for DOWNLISTING (p. 4)

    3. Details for updating key sections of the 2010 Recovery Plan for Florida Torreya (p.6)

    4. Details for reinstating sections of the 1986 Recovery Plan for Florida Torreya

    5. Torreya Guardians Citizen Actions Empower Joshua Tree Citizen Advocates (to undertake conservation actions without endangerment listing)

  • August 2019 / Connie Barlow and Clint Bancroft / NEW VIDEO: "Florida Torreya loves Tennessee"

       Mid March 2019 Clint Bancroft took me (Connie Barlow) on a tour of his rewilded Torreya plantings in Ocoee Watershed southeast TN. I just posted the new video, to which I added sections of the March 2015 video for showing how much growth the original plantings achieved in four years. This new VIDEO 33 (50 minutes) offers two key findings, beyond the obvious excellent, disease-free growth.

    (1) No herbivory; the plants are in perfect condition.

    (2) With the help of Jack Johnston, Clint has established a "Torreya Bowl", intended for seed production in a wild setting. Maximizing genetic diversity there is a priority.

  • August 2019 / Connie Barlow / Genus Torreya is both rare and ancient

       Kevin M. Potter, Dept. Forestry and Environmental Resources of North Carolina State University, published a paper in the May 2018 online issue of the journal Biological Conservation:

    "Do United States protected areas effectively conserve forest tree rarity and evolutionary distinctiveness?"

    Connie Barlow added red type and arrows to the original figure, left.

    Notice that the sister species in Florida and California of genus Torreya are among the rarest of 352 tree species native to North America.

    These two Torreya species also are among the most ancient tree lineages.

    Together, rarity and age of origin call out for the highest levels of conservation attention.

  • August 2019 / Connie Barlow / Seed-producing Torreya in Louisiana survives tornado

       May 2019 an EF 1 TORNADO swept through the portion of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve (aka Briarwood Preserve) in which a mature, seed-producing Torreya resided under a deciduous canopy.

    I (Connie Barlow) donated to the restoration fundraiser, and was thrilled to learn in an August 1 email from the preserve steward, Rick Johnson, that:

    "... The Torreya you show here is in fine shape and has produced more seeds this year. Those large trees that were shading it were blown down. Wondering if it will be happier now that it's getting more sun...."
    Full details on the Louisiana page of our Torreya Guardians website.

  • July 2019 / Paul Camire and Connie Barlow / Two-part VIDEO filmed s. Michigan June 2019 and September 2018

    Two-part video of Paul Camire's Torreya in-forest plantings of potted seedlings and also seeds from the 2016 fall harvest in Medford Oregon.

    30-minute video

    28-minute video
       Florida Torreya has been documented surviving (with little or no damage) subzero temperatures before in other states. But this is the coldest: -45 degrees F windchill during Winter 2019. Yet the exposed Torreya branches showed no damage! The biggest problem is deer herbivory: they even push over wire cages.

  • July 2019 / Clint Bancroft / Precious apical cutting of a Highlands NC basal recovers from herbivory

    CLINT BANCROFT writes:

    Regarding my accidental experiment in which a rooted apical cutting had put up a new 6 inch vertical and then all but a few inches of the whole pant was eaten. In just 2 months or so, the eaten-down stump is putting up what appears to be a new vertical leader.


    Note by Connie Barlow: I am reading about Coast Redwood basal growth and propagation now. Genus Sequoia and Torreya, ancient members of Cupressaceae Family, have probably survived this long thanks to their ability to produce new stems from basal growth if the original stem fails (or is logged). The term for what we see in photo left is an axillary bud doing what it evolved to do — produce a new vertical leader.

    Apparently all single leaves produced on the vertical main stem each carry on their upper side a suppressed axillary bud. For redwoods, each of those buds can become either a vertical leader or a root, depending on whether it senses air or soil when hormones direct it to wake up. Apparently Torreya can do the same, so we can actually obtain more than one vertical clone from each basal sprout we cut from.

  • July 2019 / Connie Barlow / Photo of new champion California Torreya shows what Florida might achieve in North Carolina mountains

          LEFT: In 2005 I took a field trip to a half dozen sites of California Torreya growing in the wild. The then-champion tree (at Scott's Creek Watershed north of Santa Cruz) was in decline. Photo left is of me with that tree.

    MIDDLE: In 2012 a new champion was declared just a bit north in Big Basin State Park. Three photos were recently posted, including the photo in middle here. Notice the human for scale. This new champion is 105 feet tall, circumference is 133 inches, average crown spread is 60 feet.

    This compares with the late champion, whose stats when nominated by Frank Callahan in 1993 were 96 feet tall, circumference 251 inches, average crown spread 68 feet. Access lots of photos of California Torreya I took in the field in 2005, via the California Torreya page on this website.

  • June 2019 / Frank Callahan / Update on Florida Torreya seed-producing pair in Medford Oregon

       May 31, 2019 FRANK CALLAHAN wrote: "I was just over to my mother's place for her 95th birthday. The Torreyas are doing well; however there has been little seed production since your visit. Speaking of seeds, how was the germination rates on all the seeds that were sent out?" [from the Fall 2016 harvest of seeds from the two Florida Torreya trees, shown at left with white stars]

    June 12, 2019 FRANK CALLAHAN wrote: "Here are some images of Torreya taxifolia trees at my late mother's property in Medford. Mickey just had her 95th birthday and passed away 6 days later, and her house and property are now up for sale. (I trust we can make a deal to care for the trees with a new owner.) The two trees are doing quite well as you can see. (Connie added the white stars). That is a bluish Douglas fir in the background. The tree on the right is an arborvitae. There is no crop to report for this year."

    Editor's note: Visit the Medford OREGON Torreya page for the full history of seed production and a video of the trees several months after seeds were harvested in fall 2016.

  • June 2019 / Connie Barlow / Article indicates Atlanta Botanical Garden still not considering assisted migration

    A 9 June 2019 online article titled "Atlanta Botanical Garden opens Southeastern Center for Conservation this summer", announces a new multi-million-dollar conservation center at Atlanta Botanical Garden. Both mentions of Torreya, however, fail to indicate that the conservation strategy will yet expand to include assisted migration poleward.

    EXCERPTS PERTAINING TO FLORIDA TORREYA: ... This summer the garden opens its Southeastern Center for Conservation, a $7 million two-story building adjacent to the Fuqua Orchid Center. It was funded through the successful $53 million Nourish and Flourish fundraising campaign, which included $40 million for capital improvements and $13 million for the endowment. The new center will serve as a home for the garden's conservation, education, and experimentation. The building includes a 3,800-square-foot research facility with a molecular lab that lets scientists examine genetic material at the nucleotide level. The cold-storage seed bank is augmented by cryogenic coolers that can preserve the embryos of the Torreya trees as they try to determine why the trees die in the wild before they can become adults.
        ... They also feel the pain when a natural disaster spoils plans. The garden had transplanted 700 Torreya trees to Torreya State Park in Florida, with noted Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, 88, as a guest of honor. Then, Hurricane Michael destroyed the entire stand, dumping hardwoods on top of little saplings. "It can be really discouraging," said Carter. But even if they're not successful now, they retain hope for future prospects, she said. "One thing we're doing is keeping individual genetic material alive," said Carter. "In the future, we hope there is something to be learned from holding on to these plants."

  • May 2019 / Connie Barlow / New paper useful for understanding male/female flexibility in Torreya

    During our site visit to the mature Florida Torreya trees in Louisiana, our guides recounted their experience with the largest specimen beginning as male and then starting to produce some female buds on various branches — culminating in seeds that fell and germinated beneath the parent tree. A 2019 paper on Striped Maple of eastern North America (a subcanopy species, just as is Torreya) can help us understand how to observe and possibly predict an individual's ability and propensity to begin producing seeds. Access full text.

       EXCERPTS: ... Male-dominated sex ratios occurred consistently across study sites and the 4 years that sex expression was monitored. Approximately one-third of trees [studied as single branches cut and grown in a lab conditions] changed during any 2-year period. The five most common transitions were, in descending order of frequency: from non-reproductive to male, male to full or partial female flowering, female to dead, and from partial to full female flowering....

    ... We have shown that in the sexually plastic tree Acer pensylvanicum a variety of factors influence expressed sex. Chief among them are previous sex and the health of an individual. Although the general theory regarding ESD in dioecious plants has indicated that females are often found in relatively better condition and at larger sizes, we find the opposite pattern in this species.... We show that mortality is disproportionately high in females....

  • May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Paper by Alabama professor details Torreya grandis cultivation in China

    Alabama A & M University's Professor Xiongwen Chen has published several papers on the ecology, economics, and social aspects of the more than thousand-years of cultivation of the endemic Torreya grandis. Because of his expertise, it would be ideal for USF&WS to invite him onto the ADVISORY BOARD for the recovery plan update of Florida Torreya, now underway. Several helpful aspects of this 2019 paper:

       1. All Torreya species in the wild (including Florida) bear a bitter seed, except for this thousand-year-old-cultivar of Chinese Torreya — which is reproduced mostly by grafting the tasty-fruited genotype onto wild rootstock in mountain villages.

    2. Planters of the cultivar as a profitable food crop are advised to start the young grafted tree in shade and among diverse trees or crops, not as a monoculture.

    3. The species is also grown as an ornamental in China, owing to its beautiful form. Specimens can live (and continue to produce nuts) for more than a thousand years.

  • May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Photos of March Site Visit to Tennessee Torreyas

       March 18 I visited the home of Clint Bancroft (left) — Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee. I captured a lot of video — which I have yet to edit and upload to youtube.

    Because his plantings are astonishingly vigorous, I decided to grab some stills from the video and post those on Clint's torreya webpage.

    Key observations include evidence that Clint's 18 acres of sloped deciduous forest in southeastern-most Tennessee encourage not just 2 but 3 growth spurts annually.

    As well, the oldest specimen is still heading upward as well as outward and with perfect vertical and radial symmetry. (See photo left.)

  • May 2019 / Clint Bancroft / First germination from Fall 2017 seed harvest at Harbison House, NC

       May 6 email from Clint Bancroft (Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee) to Connie Barlow:
    "Highlands germination! It is being kept in extreme protective custody."

    Note by Connie: October 2017 Clint Bancroft and Jack Johnston ventured to the private grove of century-old Florida Torreyas at Harbison House, near Highlands NC.

    Clint has his seed beds and rooted branchlets outdoors in with a deer-proof exclosure. But a woodchuck apparently had a feast there in the past, so now he puts wire mesh over the tops of the exclosures too.

  • May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Our northernmost Torreya planter reports on harsh winter

    As of 2019, the MAP below depicts all the NORTHERN-MOST successful plantings of Florida Torreya made by Torreya Guardians during the past 15 years.

       Mike Heim is a horticulturalist and science teacher in Hayward, Wisconsin. His location is marked by the orange conifer symbol. He nurtures Florida Yew in his forest as well as Florida Torreya. Heim reports, "I'm waiting for the snow to finally melt off of the T. taxifolia seedling and cuttings. The Taxus floridana all are in perfect condition after a -36F winter with not a whole lot of snow covering them."

    Mike Heim's webpage on Torreya Guardians site includes photos and reports beginning in 2010.

    Editor's note: Torreya Guardians "assisted migration" plantings center on or near the southern Appalachians. However, experimental plantings in northward states help us ascertain just how far north this ancient genus can be planted in advance of expected climate warming this century.

  • May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Two photos show Torreya victorious over fire — and composting

    This week I received 2 sets of photos that feature survival skills of genus Torreya:

    1. ZACH ST. GEORGE (below) admires lush basal growth in a burned-over grove of California Torreya in the coast range north of Napa Valley. April 29 he was hiking in Stevenson State Park. The basal growth followed the 2017 Tubbs Fire.

       2. A. A. CALLISON sent this unusual photo of Florida Torreya germination in Tennessee. He wrote:

    "... None of the seeds came up, so after a couple of years I discarded the contents of the pots in a meadow and made a compost pile there. I was clearing out clover there to plant corn ... and saw a T. tax seedling growing there. This small miracle of life has begun my month of May in a very good mood."

  • May 2019 / Connie Barlow / When plantings decline or fail: Sharing photos and ideas

       SPRING 2019 this arboretum contacted Torreya Guardians for advice on vegetative dieback that suddenly appeared on some of specimens of Florida Torreya within this arboretum in Asheville, NC.

    Michigan Torreya Guardian Paul Camire led the effort in collecting views from the key planters among us. The result led not only to a new page on this website but to a realization that it would be useful to aggregate photos/interpretations of physical problems in this species so as to aid others in the future to interpret the cause(s) — and possible techniques to lessen such problems on existing specimens and, more importantly, toward encouraging BEST PRACTICES in future siting and planting choices.

  • April 2019 / Connie Barlow / Article points to lagging climate adaptation for endangered species

       Note: This article does not mention Florida Torreya, but it does show that other endangered species managed by USF&WS are being considered for assisted migration.

    An April 25 New York Times article features climate adaptation projects in forests of northeastern USA — including assisted migration of native tree species (or populations) northward. Projects include reforestation efforts of city watershed forests in Rhode Island that have been devastated by insect pests moving up from the south. Also featured are two forestry projects in Minnesota. One climate adaptation project is on private land. The other is in the Chippewa National Forest.

    Assisted migration northward of plants supportive of an insect endangered in Michigan (Karner Blue Butterfly) is reported, too.

    The article begins with the FORESTRY projects:

    EXCERPT: ... Foresters in Rhode Island and elsewhere have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt, something that might take decades to occur naturally. One controversial idea, known as assisted migration, involves deliberately moving trees northward. But trees can live centuries, and environments are changing so fast in some places that species planted today may be ill-suited to conditions in 50 years, let alone 100. No one knows the best way to make forests more resilient to climatic upheaval. These great uncertainties can prompt "analysis paralysis," said Maria Janowiak, deputy director of the Forest Service's Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, or N.I.A.C.S. But, she added, "We can't keep waiting until we know everything."
    The article ends with the implication that life forms regulated by the Endangered Species Act are receiving far less climate adaptation assistance than do the common, unregulated species of trees:
    EXCERPT: ... Jason McLachlan, an ecologist at the University of Notre Dame, once spurned the idea of assisted migration, but his views have evolved as the current predicament has sunk in. He concedes Dr. Ricciardi's point about the unknowable risks of moving things around, but counters that doing nothing is also "extremely risky." His broader critique is that classic conservation science risks failure today because it assumes the world is static — and if the world ever was static, it clearly isn't anymore. Consider the Endangered Species Act, he said, a bedrock of modern conservation. It aims to return species to their original habitat. But what if they're now ill-suited to those areas? To deal with the coming upheavals, our very concept of nature and the meaning of conservation needs to become more fluid, Mr. McLachlan said. "We don't have a philosophy of conservation that's consistent with the changes that are afoot." END OF ARTICLE.

  • April 2019 / Clint Bancroft / Proof that cutting of basal leader tip yields tree-form Torreya clone

       April 24 email from Clint Bancroft (Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee) to Connie Barlow:
    "Look at the new growth on this cutting from Highlands, NC! The cutting is the apical tip from a basal of one of the mature trees."
    UPDATED MARCH 2020 with photo of superb root development, as this specimen (far left) is slipped out of its pot for planting into wild forest. Visit the url above for photos and details.

    PHOTO ABOVE LEFT by Clint Bancroft is April 2019 of a rooted cutting (collected October 2017 at Harbison House near Highlands NC) that displays superb vertical growth. PHOTO RIGHT is by Connie Barlow 2006, during a Torreya Guardians site visit to the near-century old Highlands NC Torreya grove. Notice the prolific basal sprouting, of various ages.

    Editor's note: The original cuttings of wild specimens in the Florida panhandle were collected three decades ago (by scientists working for institutions implementing the official recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act) from lateral branches rather than basal tips. Lateral branch cuttings notoriously assume shrubby growth forms. Wild stock was so weak that cutting of basal terminals would not have been appropriate. However, thanks to this report by Clint Bancroft, we now know that when collecting vegetative growth from healthy horticultural plantings in northward states, apical growth of basals are essential for ultimately producing tree forms.

  • April 2019 / Connie Barlow / USF&WS article highlights contrasting management aims for Torreya

    On April 22 Earth Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted an article on their southeast region website, "Saving the Florida Torreya: One goal, two schools of thought on preserving the rare, endangered tree". The theme for this year's Earth Day was endangered species.

       The USF&WS journalist, Dan Chapman, had several phone conversations and many email exchanges with me back in January. He asked very good questions and obviously had read a lot of what we have on our website.

    I am disappointed that our success with seed production in Cleveland Ohio and our multi-state documentation of thrival and non-invasiveness within long-ago horticultural plantings (Historic Groves) were not mentioned. But because the USF&WS depends upon the goodwill of institutional partners (who are not fully compensated by federal funds for their efforts in behalf of endangered species), it is far more important for the agency to accommodate the conservation values and choices made by their official partners, rather than by non-institutional volunteers such as Torreya Guardians.

    Thus, you will see that Atlanta Botanical Garden staff priorities and actions are well represented in this article. The fact that Torreya Guardians is mentioned at all (and that the subtitle presents our work as an alternative "school of thought") is something I am grateful to see gain approval within the agency. Readers will easily grasp that this species is a left-behind glacial relict and that my personal goal of "rewilding" Torreya goes far beyond the official goals of (a) preventing extinction, (b) safeguarding genotypes, and (c) limiting the long-term goal to revitalizing Torreya within its peak-glacial refuge — despite ongoing climate warming.

  • April 2019 / Connie Barlow / Article features Atlanta Botanical Garden perspective on Torreya

       This month, Earther published a lengthy online article by Brian Kahn: "The Race to Save the Most Endangered Conifer in America. The article is very useful for everyone involved in Torreya actions.

    However, Torreya Guardians is mentioned in only one paragraph (and in a derogatory way). My contact information is easily found on this website, yet I was not contacted. Indeed, nothing in this article suggests that the journalist even glanced at the Torreya Guardians website.

    I immediately emailed "corrections" to the author (none were implemented). I first mentioned aspects of the article that are indeed valuable for the record (see below).

    EXCERPTS OF BARLOW'S "CORRECTIONS" EMAIL TO THE AUTHOR: "... Two crucial things you accomplished in that article, for which I thank you:

    1. You documented that Atlanta Botanical Garden does not concur with U Florida fast-tracking of genetic engineering. I have been hoping that is the case, and you are the first to document it.

    2. Your descriptions and your photos of your site visit to the Apalachicola powerfully document what I had only surmised: that Hurricane Michael destroyed the ravine canopy — without which even the beleaguered resprouts of old rootstocks of Torreya cannot survive. Accordingly, I have added 3 of your paras to a crucial webpage on the Torreya Guardians website, where I attempt to link and annotate all important developments in the complex and increasingly politically charged saga of (a) how this endangered tree is officially managed, and (b) how we Torreya Guardians have been utilizing an "exception" for plants that was intentionally written into the Endangered Species Act (which almost was written for protection only of animals). You will find my excerpt of your piece as SECTION 1F of this webpage:".
         You also did a great job in making it easy for readers to understand what we in paleoecology well understand: that Florida Torreya is a left-behind glacial relict, attempting to maintain itself in an ever-warming climate in a locale that served it well in peak glacial. That, of course, is not a fact that Emily Coffey [spokesperson for Atlanta Botanical Garden] would use as supportive of ABG work, but it is good that you found that out yourself and added it. If you would like to access reputable links on its glacial relict status, go to the above url and scroll down to SECTION 3A: "Apalachicola as glacial refugium and Torreya as glacial relict are undisputed."
         Because those above accomplishments are so important to finally have documented in an online accessible form, I would like to suggest some "corrections" you could make elsewhere in your article which are either factually wrong or could lead the reader to an unnecessarily restricted (rather than appropriately nuanced, ideally open and questioning) perspective. So here are my suggestions for FACTUAL CORRECTIONS...."
        Access Connie's full list of suggestions (including a proposed factual correction in the single paragraph in which Torreya Guardians is mentioned) in PDF.

  • April 2019 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians mentioned in long-form essay

    "Send in the Clones" is a long-form essay, personal style, by a journalist describing a site visit he made to a privately owned grove of Giant Sequoia trees in the southern Sierras. Because the topic is a branchlet harvesting visit by Archangel Ancient Tree Project, Torreya Guardians is mentioned as another well documented example of citizens stepping out ahead of the officials in charge in order to help native trees migrate to cooler realms.

       EXCERPTS: ... Activists called the Torreya Guardians, for example, are working to save the Florida torreya — one of the most critically endangered conifers in the world — by planting it far outside of its tiny north Florida range, where the tree has been afflicted by a mysterious fungal blight. The US Forest Service's recovery plan for the tree is restricted to its native but damaged habitat.

    ... I have not felt, these last few years, that there is much hope left for the South Sierra, for my childhood forest in Ohio, or for this world. But if we could make a political project where large numbers of people felt true intimacy with their local landscape — where everyone felt native on this deep level — it seems at least possible to build an environmental movement where people feel less disempowered and hopeless than at least I have these past few years, where it feels possible to actually do something....

  • March 2019 / Connie Barlow / "Endangered (causes of)" webpage is updated and expanded

    Two events in 2018 indicated a reconfiguration was in order: In March 2018, genetic engineering of the Torreya genome was advocated by a University of Florida forest pathologist. And in August of 2018 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that the 2010 recovery plan would be updated in 2019.

       The "Endangered (causes of)" webpage has been online (and periodically updated) for more than a dozen years. However, in 2019 it seemed time to reconfigure the text for ease of use and to distinguish the background, objective summaries (with key links) from my own advocacy sections.

    Annotated access to key documents is sectioned into six parts (image left).

  • February 2019 / Connie Barlow / 2-part VIDEO of January 2019 free-planting success in n. Florida

       31a: Freeplanting Torreya Seeds - Shoal Sanctuary FL pt 1 of 2

    Site visit to Shoal Sanctuary, due west of Torreya's peak glacial refuge in northern Florida. Documentation of 9 seedlings thriving (and remarkably free of herbivory) four years after a total of 40 seeds were placed directly into the coolest, moistest habitats. Distinctions among the sites portend excellent learnings of site preferences in the years ahead.

    24 minutes - filmed January 30, 2019

       31b: Freeplanting Torreya Seeds - Shoal Sanctuary FL pt 2 of 2

    This last half of the video set summarizes the documentation and offers topics for further study — notably, why herbivory was absent at all planting sites. Native Christmas Ferns are pointed out as ideal neighbors for (1) camouflage, (2) its "endo" mycorrhizal network, and (3) as an "indicator species" for identifying best microsites for Torreya.

    31 minutes - filmed January 30, 2019

  • February 2019 / Connie Barlow / 2-part VIDEO of November 2018 Torreya site visit in Louisiana

       30a: Florida Torreya in Louisiana (Pt 1) - Mature Grove with Seedlings

    Site visit to Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve. Of the four long-ago horticultural plantings outside of Florida that produce seeds that have germinated into seedlings nearby (with no human help), this mature grove of Florida Torreya in Louisiana is the first one in which knowledgeable local guides could provide the complete oral history and answer questions posed by Torreya Guardians. This is thus a superb example of why "natural history" observations and inquiry can help the development of best practices for "assisted migration" recovery actions to ensure that this climate-endangered tree does not slide into extinction.

       30b: Florida Torreya in Louisiana (Pt 2) - Mature Grove with Seedlings

    This last half of the video set covers the largest of the three mature trees — the only one that is producing any seeds. Nearby seedlings naturally established are featured, as is the 30-foot-long twin ground-trending branches that achieve photosynthesis by way of horizontal extension, well beyond what the 50-60 foot high canopy can provide.

  • January 2019 / Connie Barlow / Sierra Magazine and National Park Service mainstream assisted migration

    "Can We Help Our Forests Prepare for Climate Change?" - by Madeline Ostrander, December 2018, Sierra Magazine.

       Summary by Barlow: This article focuses on the research and questions happening at Acadia National Park as to whether, when, and which more southerly tree species should be given assisted migration into the park.

    That this lengthy article appears in the national magazine of the Sierra Club and that the author goes onsite to a national park wrestling with the assisted migration question means that, finally, this climate adaptation practice may go mainstream.

    Notably, the author distinguishes between the early focus on single species needing help moving poleward and the new focus on a land management agency wanting to ensure that a forest canopy remains. Joshua Tree and Sequoia Kings Canyon national parks have previously been the epicenter of national park resistance to assisted migration of climate-injured tree species. But those two parks are brand-named for trees; hence they are the last places to be willing to let go of their famous trees and wish them well northward.

    LEFT: Our work as Torreya Guardians is mentioned in the article twice: The graphic left and a sentence in the text. "A group of grassroots activists stirred controversy a decade ago when they moved endangered Florida torreya trees to locations in North Carolina and as far away as Ohio."

    Note: Also read the short introduction to this climate theme issue by the editor of Sierra Magazine, Jason Mark. Excerpts:

    ... The terrible fate we sought to avoid is upon us: Even if humans stopped all emissions today, Earth would keep warming for generations. Which means that even as we stay focused on transitioning away from fossil fuels, halting deforestation, and reforming our agriculture systems, we must also begin preparing for life on a planet transformed. This dual task — managing the unavoidable while working to avoid the unmanageable — poses a huge challenge to the environmental movement. It's not an overstatement to say that it may represent the greatest challenge in human history. As the IPCC report put it, the scale and scope of the changes we need to make have "no documented historic precedent."
         That's why Sierra is publishing this special issue on climate change adaptation. As our reporting reveals, adaptations will have to take a number of forms. In "On the Move", Madeline Ostrander reports that we will likely have to begin some kinds of assisted migration — helping flora and fauna relocate in order to survive.... Action, especially collective action, is the most effective antidote to despair....

  • December 2018 / Connie Barlow / Learnings webpage updated at year-end

       Noting that the 2010 Recovery Plan for Torreya will be updated in 2019, I have made a special effort in 2018 to update and create new webpages that fully document our learnings to date. These are featured as the newest entries on the chronologically organized Torreya Guardians Learnings webpage.

    Entries for 2018 include:

  • Historic Groves of Torreya Trees: Long-Term Experiments in Assisted Migration

  • Summary of Academic Papers Trending Toward Assisted Migration

  • Documentation: Free-Planting Torreya Seeds directly into forest habitats

  • Documentation of Adaptive Growth Forms (10 year results)

  • December 2018 / Connie Barlow / New video shows tenth anniversary results of our 2008 NC planting

       29: Florida Torreya to Lake Junaluska NC - 10th Anniversary, 2018

    Ten years after the 2008 planting of ten potted seedlings as a first "assisted migration" project (reported on by Audubon Magazine), Connie Barlow returns to document ongoing results. The challenges, the successes, and the learnings are all topics covered here and also on the Lake Junaluska webpage. A key learning is how Torreya is capable of adapting its growth form to conditions of shade (horizontal, yew-like form) or abundant sunlight (standard conifer form).

    31 minutes - filmed October 7, 2018

  • December 2018 / Connie Barlow / Site Visit to Mature Torreya Grove in Louisiana

    Two Torreya Guardians, Clint Bancroft and Connie Barlow (along with Connie's husband, Michael Dowd) were guided by the preserve stewards: Rick Johnson and his son David (November 15, 2018). The group visited the 3 mature Florida Torreya trees that had been planted by botanist Caroline Dormon some 70 or 80 years ago. Visit the LOUISIANA TORREYA WEBPAGE to access the new photo-essay of their site visit. (Connie will edit and post video of the site visit soon.)

       Importance of the site visit:

    1. This is the fourth instance documented by Torreya Guardians of torreyas planted before mid-20th-century that are not only thriving outside of Florida but reproducing. As well, some of the seeds are establishing on their own.

    2. This is confirmation, again, that a male genotype Torreya specimen can produce female cones — and viable seeds.

    3. Stewards of the preserve donated all 4 seeds produced this year to Torreya Guardians.

    Photo-Essay of Site Visit   • Site Visit Video

  • December 2018 / Connie Barlow / New webpage to provide summary results for 2019 recovery plan update

    Although Florida Torreya was listed as endangered 34 years ago, not much more than "genetic safeguarding" has been attained by the institutions implementing the official recovery plan (last updated 2010). Meanwhile, Torreya Guardians has been conducting "assisted migration" experiments in northward states, documenting historic groves, and experimenting with how best to plant seeds directly into regrowth forest habitats (while minimizing losses). Because the official plan will be updated in 2019, I created a new PHOTO-RICH webpage of summary results to assist the decisionmakers:

       NEW WEBPAGE: Free-Planting Torreya Seeds:

    • Risks and Advantages of Free-Planting
    • Learnings 1: Seed Harvesting, Storage, Germination
    • Learnings 2: Techniques To Deter Seed Predators
    • Learnings 3: Torreya Recovers from Herbivory
    • Learnings 4: Siting to Minimize Above-Ground Herbivory
    • Learnings 5: Siting to Minimize Antler Rubbing
    • Learnings 6: Siting for Myccorrhizal Connections
    • Learnings 7: Natural Seedlings in Historic Groves

    VIDEO 28: Free-Planting Climate-Endangered Florida Torreya - 2018 Update is the 37-minute field documentation that supports the new webpage.

  • November 2018 / Connie Barlow / Free-planting success: 6 of 15 seeds, Franklin NC

    November 7 I made a site visit to the remote mountain home of Russell Regnery, west slope of Blackrock Mountain (3,800 feet elevation), whose forested property slopes up to the Nantahala National Forest. This free-planting success story is so exciting for me personally that I decided to post a detailed photo-essay showingcasing the "baby pictures" I took onsite (with my preliminary interpretations).

       Because 6 of the original 15 seeds had produced seedlings, this site visit demonstrates that putting seeds directly into forest soil, and with no rodent protection (other than depth), seed losses from natural causes (notably, herbivore predation) need not be exorbitant. (Connie had 1,600 seeds to distribute from the 2014 harvest; it is a lot easier recruiting volunteers to accept large numbers of seeds if potting and wire protection are not required.) LEARNINGS include:

    • As many as 3 summers may pass before the germinating (and root-establishing) seed will show any above-ground growth.

    • This species exhibits remarkable capacities to recover from early stem and leaf herbivory.

    Access the new site-specific FREE-PLANTING photo-essay and VIDEO of the site visit.

  • November 2018 / Connie Barlow / 2018 "National Climate Assessment" update for USA maps climate shift

       An article on a lengthy national report includes a MAP (left) cited from the 2018 climate update, projecting climate shift by imaging it geographically. The USA report is massive, so I haven't been able to locate this map within it. But I wanted to put it on the Torreya Guardians website because it is a powerful visual of what lies ahead.

    The original proposal to conduct "assisted migration" for Florida Torreya (Barlow and Martin 2004/05) was intentionally limited to its being a "left-behind" relict species trapped in its "peak glacial refuge." But this new map shows how even more out of sync this species will be in the decades of climate change ahead if officials keep insisting it must be returned to its "native" range in North Florida in order to meet the "recovery" goals of the Endangered Species Act.

  • November 2018 / Connie Barlow / New discoveries during site visit at Biltmore torreyas

       The Biltmore webpage has been updated with a 2018 section entailing photos and explanations of (1) a new volunteer sapling discovered upslope bearing at least 17 ripe seeds, and (2) documentation of a unique Torreya adaptation: a ground-running branch.

    This brings to three the number of torreya sites with documented ground-running branches. The other two: Harbison House (Highlands NC) and Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve in Louisiana. Evidence suggests that when a Torreya begins life in full sun, but is later overtopped by fast-growing tree species (in the case of the Biltmore, by a Norway Spruce and a Liriodendron), then a living branch low on the trunk will push its growth 20 or 30 feet to reach the sunlight. (See photo left.)

  • October 2018 / Connie Barlow / Torreyas produce 23 SEEDS in Cleveland, OHIO!

    October 2 I visited Fred Bess in Parma, Ohio (near Cleveland) and rejoiced in his Torreya grove producing 23 seeds this year. (Last year was the first seed production: 5 total.) Visit the Cleveland Torreya webpage to see more photos and commentary or watch the 14-minute VIDEO.

       Connie Barlow filmed this 2 October 2018 site visit. The VIDEO features important findings, including:

    1. These trees have put forth leaves well acclimated to severe cold spells in Ohio. On the windward side of the tree, branch tips are occasionally killed, but a ring of new growth results and the tree becomes plusher and thus even more wind-proof.

    2. Seeds are produced only on the branches that receive nearly full sun. (Connie notes from her 2005 site visit to wild California Torreya habitat that this seems to be a standard of the genus.)

  • October 2018 / Earth Island Journal / Torreya Guardians featured in endangered species article
       "Scrappy Group of Citizen Scientists Rallies Around One of World's Rarest Trees", by Sam Schipani, 4 October 2018, Earth Island Journal (1,900 words).

    EXCERPT: ... For a group of scrappy citizen scientists known as the Torreya Guardians, though, the Florida torreya is more than just a malodorous, finicky conifer — it is a tree worth saving. And it is also becoming a symbol of what can be achieved when a group of private citizens puts their hearts and minds towards saving an endangered species. Their radical if controversial approach might end up shifting the future of conservation, particularly in a warming world...."These plants have already shown a lot of spunk when it comes to surviving massive climate shifts, but climate is going to be moving much faster than they can move forward," says Connie Barlow, founder of the Torreya Guardians....

  • October 2018 / Connie Barlow / Recovery Plan for Torreya to be officially updated in 2019
       In October I luckily chanced upon the 6 August 2018 Federal Register notice that the recovery plan for Torreya taxifolia is now under review for updating. I had heard informally through USF&WS that 2019 would likely be the time for an update, as 2010 was the previous update. Russ Regnery (Franklin NC) and I were the two Torreya Guardians who participated in the final phone conference call on the 2010 draft plan — but we had no opportunity to influence formulation of the draft plan itself.

    This time I hope will be different. Missing the deadline for submitting "information" by just one week, I quickly submitted an email, which I then formatted into html code so that it would be visible online. Click to access the information I supplied.

    You will see that I pointed to information on 3 of the Torreya Guardians webpages, plus made 4 requests. Notably, I requested to be added to the "advisory committee" on T. taxifolia, so that I don't miss out again on important communications that others receive.

  • October 2018 / Paul Camire / Report of online research of ex situ plantings of FLORIDA YEW
       "Florida Yew: Ex Situ Specimens" by Paul Camire (Torreya Guardian, Michigan) is now available in PDF.

    Plantings of this threatened species (whose native range in northern Florida overlaps that of Florida Torreya) includes two government outdoor collections in Washington, D.C. Ten other arboretums and botanical gardens, plus six individuals (half of whom are Torreya Guardians), and three commercial nurseries are also listed.

    There are 17 known wild populations on the Florida Natural Features Inventory. 16 are located in Liberty County and one is located in Gadsden County. Florida Yew grows on several private properties in this range.

  • October 2018 / Connie Barlow / Barlow submits comment on proposed regulatory changes, Endangered Species Act.    Access the comment. See also a summary of 2018 events that led to this filing.

  • September 2018 / Connie Barlow / Results of Freedom of Information Act data request WEBPAGE

    SUMMARY OF RESULTS: Barlow used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request documentation of number of seeds produced each year (2007-2017) at the two ex-situ plantings of Torreya taxifolia in northern Georgia (one administered by Atlanta Botanical Garden and the other by University of Georgia's State Botanical Garden). She also asked for "ultimate destinations" of the seeds each year.

       The FOIA inquiry launched March 29 and concluded August 29. A webpage of (mostly chronological) communications documents the entire inquiry process and results. As well, linked and excerpted from that page are Barlow's attempts to use the inquiry as leverage for accessing higher level communications, seeking a "win-win" solution to the conflicts that had arisen between Torreya Guardians and implementers of the offical recovery plan.

    Documentation provided failed to supply any of the numbers/destinations per year for this critically endangered tree species, native to northern Florida. This led Barlow to conclude that ex situ seed production was uncounted and therefore presumably unvalued. As well, failure to document annual seed production holds back scientific understanding of (1) the rate of "recovery" evidenced by annual increases in seed production and (2) the ability of this "glacial relict" tree species to thrive when offered "assisted migration" several hundred miles northward into the southern-most Appalachian Mountains.

    Access WEBPAGE. See also a summary of 2018 events that led to this filing.

  • September 2018 / Paul Camire / Remarkable recovery of young seedling from apical herbivory

    PHOTO SEQUENCE OF NIPPED SEEDLING RECOVERY: Below left to right: July 19, August 23, September 6.


  • September 2018 / Paul Camire / Online research yields expanded list of historic plantings.

    List of all EX SITU PLANTINGS (since 1850), 24 pages in PDF, by Paul Camire, 2018.

       Types of plantings/sites documented, 25 pages in PDF:
  • Historic Nurseries that sold Torreya taxifolia: 11
  • Current Nurseries with occasional inventories for intrastate sale: 9
  • U.S. government collections: 3
  • State government / Public Grounds: 6
  • Private homes / gardens: 23
  • International Collections: 14
  • Torreya Guardians seed production (private lands): 2

  • Note: There are likely many more mature Torreya taxifolia in existence. Over the years there have been many promoters of the species. Burl Turnage, A.J. Bullard, Bill Alexander, Lee Barnes, Jack Johnston and Frank Callahan have distributed seeds/ seedlings widely in order to save the Florida Torreya. After Croom's discovery of the species in 1833, it became a desired plant at several Victorian-era estates, in the north, from at least 1840. There are bound to be more discoveries of plants in the future, and any additions should be made to this list. Contact the author or Torreya Guardians.

    See the entry below for an interpretive webpage (by Connie Barlow) of ten of the most important plantings.

  • August 2018 / Connie Barlow / New webpage on Historic Groves of Florida Torreya.

       NEW WEBPAGE - Historic Groves of Torreya Trees: Long-Term Experiments in Assisted Migration

    Two things prodded me to spend a couple days aggregating the info and photos for this new webpage. First, Paul Camire sent me photos and a report on his site-visit to the farthest-north mature Torreya trees documented thus far. (Paul's report on the Gladwyne PA trees is announced directly below.)

    Second, I've spent the last several weeks updating and improving various webpages in anticipation of writing my own personal "comments" for suggesting ways the Fish & Wildlife Service can improve how it implements the Endangered Species Act. (Comments are due September 24.) This mature-groves project has taught me that our efforts to document and learn from historic groves can provide a powerful case to finally move the official recovery plan to join with us in assisted migration. These mature trees, collectively prove:

    1. Torreya can not only thrive northward of Florida, but it can produce seeds — and volunteer seedlings sometimes show up.

    2. Torreya, clearly, is non-invasive.

  • August 2018 / Paul Camire / Pair of mature torreyas photo-documented near Philadelphia.

       NEW WEBPAGE: Two Mature Torreya trees at Gladwyne, Pennsylvania

    The two torreyas on the grounds have been surviving in Pennsylvania since Mary Henry planted them in the 1940s to 1950s. One is believed to have been grown from seeds and the other was brought in as a seedling.

    The purpose of my visit was to take photographs and measure the circumference of both trees, so I could share the information with fellow members of Torreya Guardians. I believe these trees are significant examples of how well Florida Torreya can grow in northern climates and thrive near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

    The two Torreyas are located on a southeastern-facing slope, partially shaded and protected by trees on their northern side. I measured the circumference of each trunk (both have multiple trunks)....

  • August 2018 / Connie Barlow / A west-coast good news story of citizens moving climate-impacted trees north

    Citizen-launched project that is moving California Redwoods up to Seattle moves into phase 2.

    I regularly visit Seattle, where I lived in the 80s. In December 2016 I began collaborating in a citizen-led project (initiated by Philip Stielstra, the elder below) that is a joint venture of 3 citizen groups: "Moving the Giants to Puget Sound", Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, and a children's group (Plant-for-the-Planet, Seattle) that has kids (including the two below) teaching other kids to join them in becoming "climate ambassadors" and to take action in planting trees for "carbon sequestration."

       I am posting this short report of their joint Redwood assisted migration project because it restores my hope, for the reason I communicated to Stielstra in an email:
    "I just received from the Archangel mailing list your Dear Friends letter, which included crucial links on your new website. Your work on this project is so professional — and media savvy. The emotional depth you reveal in the media quotes are precious.

    I look forward to the day when I can speak that way too; after 14 years I still have to limit myself to objective science speak. This is because our Torreya endangered species project has been subject to increasingly harsh negativity by the professionals in charge of implementing the official recovery plan — although our volunteer planters are grateful for what we citizens get to do, free of the limitations the institutions in charge would like to impose on us."

  • August 2018 / Connie Barlow / Free-planted seedlings emerge on conservation easement, Michigan

       VIDEO 25: Assisted Migration of Florida Torreya to Michigan - Leelanau Peninsula

    Germination success in planting seeds directly into a rich forest habitat is show-cased during a field visit to our northern-most planter in Michigan (near Traverse City). Liana May is a professional botanist who, in April 2017 planted 100 seeds (from the fall 2016 harvest of Torreya taxifolia in Medford OR). She "free-planted" the seeds directly into the conservation easement on her 40 acres of forested property. Thankfully, by the time she received the seeds, other Torreya Guardians had confirmed an ideal way to foil rodent predation: plant the seeds 4 to 6 inches deep. Liana followed those directions, so we are expecting a satisfying proportion of the seeds to produce seedlings by fall of 2019.

    UPDATE 18 OCTOBER 2018, by Liana May: "We now have about 12 seedlings, 1 to 3 across most of the plots in the Echo Valley forest."

  • July 2018 / Connie Barlow / Journal article highlights Florida Torreya's rarity and evolutionary distinctiveness

    U.S. Forest Service scientist Kevin M. Potter, published a paper July 2018 in the journal Biological Conservation that specifies both the rarity and evolutionary distinctiveness of Florida Torreya (and, to a lesser extent, its more widespread sibling California Torreya):

       "Giant sequoia had the highest REDI [Rarity and Evolutionary Distinctiveness Index] score (156.95 MY), which was not surprising as it ranked highly for both RI and ED. Other species with high REDI scores included Florida yew (134.86), both Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) and California torreya (Torreya californica) (104.24 and 99.57, respectively), coast redwood (103.59), and bristlecone fir (94.25).... In general, the species with the highest overall REDI scores were gymnosperm species with small distributional areas contained entirely within the United States, such as giant sequoia, Florida yew, Florida torreya, coast redwood, and Santa Lucia fir, but angiosperm exceptions included Joshua tree, American holly (Ilex opaca), Osage-orange (Maclura pomifera), loblollybay (Gordonia lasianthus) and sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum).

  • July 2018 / Connie Barlow / Free-planting success (when seed is 4" deep) by 2 Michigan planters

    "Free-planting" is a later phase of assisted migration experimentation by Torreya Guardians. It can be done only in years in which we need to find "good homes" for hundreds or thousands of seeds.

       While many volunteers have the time and equipment to plant a dozen or two Torreya seeds in rodent-protected pots or soil plots protected by wire mesh, some of our volunteers are eager to plant a hundred seeds directly into their wild forest patches (especially if they have a lot of acreage). In this way, we not only propagate Torreya northward, but also (1) offer this species an opportunity to partner with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal symbionts as soon as the first root begins its downward exploration, and (b) launch field experiments in which Torreya is placed in a range of micro-climate and ecological habitats on the same property and sourced from the same parent trees.

    Within the last two weeks of July, two volunteers in Michigan (who each planted 100+ seeds directly into the soil of their forest acreage) reported exciting results. Although each reported only 3 tiny seedlings, those emerged about a month earlier than is customary for seeds that had experienced just two winters. Both volunteers planted seeds in mid-April 2017. The seedstock was donated by Frank Callahan of Medford OR (from his autumn 2016 harvest of seeds produced by a pair of Torreya taxifolia trees he has been nurturing for nearly 3 decades).

    As customary when results and photos are provided by new volunteer planters, I will soon post a beginning webpage for each. [UPDATE: Access the TORREYA WEBPAGE FOR PAUL CAMIRE and the WEBPAGE FOR LIANA MAY.] August and September should be when the bulk of the seeds emerge this year, and then another increment will emerge in the spring growth flush or the Aug-Sept growth spurt in 2019. By then, we'll have a good idea as to whether their experimentation with seed planting no less than 4 inches deep might be the key to easy rodent deterrence. Of course, once above ground, the seedlings are extremely vulnerable to a new cast of herbivores: deer and rabbits. Sampling is all that these herbivores do, but if the sampling is severe and before the first lateral branch emerges (usually the second or third growth spurt season), then the seedling may not have enough photosynthetic capacity to grow a new leader upward from the remaining stem. Thankfully both planters intend to add some above-ground rodent protection to some or all of the seedlings as soon as they spot more emerging.

  • July 2018 / Connie Barlow / Summary of papers (2010 - 2016) identifying the lethal disease of Florida Torreya
    Because the published reports of the Torreya Symposium (see March 2018 entry below) did not mention whether the assisted migration experiments launched by Torreya Guardians volunteers were officially considered as having any role to play in the recovery of the endangered Florida Torreya tree, and because Trulock 2012 (masters thesis) implicated Torreya Guardians as possibly spreading the Fusarium disease northward and thereby possibly endangering native Fraser Fir and Eastern Hemlock with a putative new exotic disease, I felt it crucial to make the series of papers accessible online: Recent Papers on Stem Canker Pathology. There are five publications listed chronologically, the first having been published in 2010. Prior to 2010, there was no published statement that any of the known disease agents attacking the species in Florida might be non-native. As part of that linked list, I have included key excerpts from the publications. In several places I have made editorial comments that I hope the involved officials and journalists will consider before assuming that those of us involved in assisted migration (especially of seeds derived from specimens far outside of the native range of the disease) are endangering Florida Torreya or any other plant native to North America.

  • July 2018 / Connie Barlow / Confirmation of a mature Torreya taxifolia in Louisiana
    Garrie Landry, Herbarium Curator of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, sent me an email that brought this single specimen to our attention. Upon googling, I found not only a wealth of information on its famous naturalist planter (Caroline Dorman) but also that it is now within a protected area: Briarwood Natural Preserve. The significance of this tree is threefold:

       1. Confirmed example of a Torreya taxifolia that was male in its youth, but then also began to grow female cones that became viable seeds.

    2. This is only our third example of a specimen "naturalizing" (establishing seedlings) into the surrounding forest outside of Florida. The previous examples are at Biltmore Gardens (Asheville, NC) and at Harbison House (Highlands, NC)

    3. This tree is likely a distinct genotype, and thus important for us to duplicate by rooting its branchlets and (ideally) sending seeds of different genotypes to be planted nearby in order to improve genetic diversity within the developing "grove".

    This mature tree is so important to document and study that I have created a new webpage for it Torreya taxifolia in Louisiana.

    UPDATE AUGUST 2018: Torreya Guardian Paul Camire discovered online in university archives a paper by Ms. Dorman that describes her acquisition and rooting of branchlets from the property of a local farmer that she cut from Torreya trees on his property during her site visit to Torreya State Park. (View that paper in the August entry of the chronological page listed above.)

  • April 2018 / Connie Barlow / Video-documentation of large-scale FREE-PLANTING / REWILDING experiment on Cumberland Plateau
    Video-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

    Video 24a - 24 minutes (Seedlings #1 - #17)

    Video 24b - 23 minutes (Seedlings #18 - #34)

    See also the Torreya Guardians webpage dedicated to cataloging continuing reports of this Cumberland Plateau project.

  • April 2018 / Connie Barlow / New webpage by U.S. Forest Service on Assisted Migration
    "Assisted Migration", 2018, prepared for USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center

    EXCERPTS: Evidence suggests that species have responded individually during historic periods of dramatic climate change through geographic migrations to and from unique glacial refugia. Recent research has demonstrated that many tree species are already undergoing distribution shifts in response to climate change, with different studies highlighting species that are moving poleward and higher in elevation, or moving east-west to track changes in moisture availability. Despite the complexities of forecasting species range shifts into the future, the underlying challenge still remains that many species will face extinction or local extirpation if they do not acclimate, adapt via natural selection, or migrate to new suitable habitats as conditions change.

       EXCERPTS cont: Given the observed and projected rates of change, there is a substantial risk that some species will be unable to migrate quickly enough to track change. Natural migration over long distances requires several generations, and this process is slow because trees require several years to get to reproduction age, and regeneration opportunities may be limited for a variety of reasons. Recent estimates indicate that post-glacial migration rates for many tree species were 100 to 500 meters per year. Recent rates of change for particular locations in the US have been even more dramatic, with rates of change from 1,000 to 10,000 meters per year for large areas of the Midwest, Great Plains, and Southeast, as well as isolated locations in the western US. These distances are a function of climate change rates ("climate velocity") and spatial climatic variation due to topography.
         For species with very specific habitat needs or ranges limited by physical barriers, such as fragmentation or geographic features, this may mean that the entire species could be at risk of extinction or extirpation due to climate change....

    ... Studies involving reciprocal transplants of different species along large gradients have demonstrated the potential for assisted migration to benefit tree species and local populations. For example transplant studies of white spruce in Quebec showed that physiological traits such as photosynthetic rate and stomatal conductance were relatively plastic between populations and suggested that southern seed sources might be used in northern locations to increase growth and productivity without sacrificing seedling survival. Promising results have been demonstrated for species with more restricted ranges as well. Trials with whitebark pine demonstrated that seeds can be successfully germinated and grown large distances (800 km, 500 miles) to the north of the current species range boundary — seed sources from Oregon and Washington performed well in locations in northwestern British Columbia . These studies, and others, have demonstrated that assisted migration is a reasonable option to help populations and species occupy areas of projected suitable habitat under climate change. Furthermore, assisted migration doesn't necessarily need to be implemented as a widespread action to be successful. Even if small founder populations of individuals can survive beyond existing ranges, they may contribute genetic diversity associated with warmer climates to native populations such that the native populations might have a better chance to adapt through natural selection....
         Within the USDA Forest Service, Regional Geneticists have recommended a "no regrets" approach to considering assisted migration and seed transfer as a climate adaptation strategy in the 2012 report "Genetic Resource Management and Climate Change: Genetic Options for Adapting National Forests to Climate Change."...
         This USDA report links to: "Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change.

  • 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, Tallahassee Democrat, 05 April 2018. (Note: Grenrock is a "public relations specialist" at University of Florida; the Tallahasee Democrat article is drawn from her blog on the UF site.) 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.

    "Saving the Torreya: Workshop Brings Scientists and Conservation Leaders Together", by Sarah Farmer, in USDA Southern Research Station, CompassLive, 8 May 2018.

    "Travels of a 'Real Naturalist'", by Rob Nicholson, Botanical Collections Manager, Spring 2018 in Friends of Wellesley College Botanic Gardens, 1 page pdf where Nicholson reports on his speaking at the Torrey Symposium in March, including his role in collecting and rooting branchlets of wild specimens, beginning in the 1980s.

    "Saving the Endangered Torreya taxifolia", by Adam Black, article in March 2018 newsletter of Peckerwood Garden Conservation Foundation, multi-page illustrated report of his experience at the Torreya Symposium.

    2020 UPDATE BY CONNIE BARLOW, founder of Torreya Guardians: A section of the above 2018 journalistic report caused me alarm, but in November 2020 a new pathology paper on which Jason Smith is a co-author clarifies that this 2018 interpretation reported by Marinelli was overstated:

    Marinelli wrote: "Although a number of fungal diseases were found to be afflicting the trees to some extent, the lethal pathogen remained elusive. But in 2010, Jason Smith discovered the culprit, Fusarium torreyae, a fungal pathogen new to science. Evidence suggests that it was introduced from China. If no action is taken, the tree will go extinct along the Apalachicola, 'probably in 50 years,' Smith says."

    IN CONTRAST, the November 2020 paper refrains from speculating that F. torreyae may have a non-native origin, and does not conclusively state that this pathogen was the cause of 1950s torreya blight in Florida. Access link and excerpts of "Detection method for Fusarium torreyae, the canker pathogen of the critically endangered Florida torreya, Torreya taxifolia", by Tyler J. Dreaden, Tania Quesada, Jason A. Smith, 2020, Forest Pathology.

  • 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.

    Part 1 (25 minutes)   •   Part 2 (27 minutes)

  • 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:

    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".

    SCHEDULE (at Gregory House in Torreya State Park):
    March 1: lectures; hike by Ed Wilson, Torreya planting, conservation discussion

    March 2: Assembling the Torreya Tree of Life (sampling and field work)

    See also how this program is listed at University of Florida School of Forestry site.
    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 12/13/17 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 receiving seeds from the Blairsville ex situ Torreya orchard — 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.


       VIDEO 16b: Florida Torreya to SW Ohio - preliminary report (Nov 2017)

    Documents progress in all 3 elements of this experiment led by Bob Miller: (1) free-planting of seeds (shallow burial, no protection) into wild regrowth forest; (2) shallow burial outdoors in a rodent/deer impenetrable exclosure; (3) planting into regrowth forest of two potted seedlings (one rodent-damaged).

    15 minutes - filmed November 12, 2017

  • 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.

    VIDEO of 2016 and 2017 site visits to Dayton OH posted on youtube August 2018 (15 minutes).

  • 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. A 2012 scientific article that includes Cruse-Sanders and Determann in the coauthor list is "Somatic embryogenesis, plant regeneration, and cryopreservation for Torreya taxifolia, a highly endangered coniferous species".

  • 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 Guardians
    A 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.

    Go to their Greensboro NC Torreya webpage and access the report there, or access it directly here.

  • 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 change
    I 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".

  • February 2017 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians is featured in report by a libertarian think-tank

        In a February 2017 report, "Saving Endangered Species: Voluntary Solutions to Conservation", Torreya Guardians is one of 6 non-governmental groups recognized as helping endangered species recovery without using taxpayer money. The report was published by Strata Policy, well known for its libertarian leanings, and criticized by some for accepting funding by the Koch Brothers.

    EXCERPT: ... Even though their efforts have proven successful, the group still faces opposition by those who oppose the use of assisted migration. Some conservationists believe that assisted migration will result in the tree becoming an invasive species in its new environment.

    The Guardians argue that the likelihood of this is very small. Despite being protected by the ESA, many less charismatic species like the Torreya taxifolia are overlooked by conservation efforts and funding. The work being done by the Torreya Guardians is an example of private individuals helping to fulfill these conservation needs. (pp. 11-12)

  • January 2017 / Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians "Learnings" section updated for 2016
    I 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.)

    See one of the magnificent early Torreya plantings in the uplands area at timecode 01:38 and see one of the newly sprouted seeds directly planted into the cool, moist ground of the ravine at 07:08.

    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


    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 BELOW 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.

  • Wikipedia entry
  • Video (in full) on youtube
  • DVD via Amazon

  • 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....

  • October 2015 / by Connie Barlow / 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

    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: "Citizen Science Project Seeks Tennessee Climate-Forestry Volunteers".

    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.

  • September 2015 / by Connie Barlow / September 2015 USF&WS magazine has page on Torreya

    "Conservation Outlook For Florida's Threatened, Endangered, and At-risk Species" (p. 29 is Florida Torreya), USF&WS Magazine, September 2015, (photo left is a segment).

    As usual, no mention is made of the tree's well understood "glacial relict" status and thus its exceptional vulnerability to ongoing climate change. No mention is made of the ongoing assisted migration experiments in northward states by Torreya Guardian citizen volunteers.

       Finally, no mention is made whether the "new species of canker-causing fungus" is present and causing lethal damage in existing specimens of mature Torreya growing in locations north of Florida.

    Accordingly, no mention is made of exploring whether assisted migration northward might be a viable (and inexpensive) way of escaping the apparent lethality of the disease agent(s) by relocating the relict tree species northward, where (a) the fusarium might be less virulent owing to colder winters and/or (b) the tree itself might be healthier, such that it can withstand canker attacks.

  • 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 change
    Although 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:



        WESTERN USA: "Plant Species and Climate Profile Predictions". 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.

        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 Welle CONCLUDING 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 efforts
    October 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 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 taxifolia
    NOTE: Connie Barlow is posting this correspondence for historical reference:

    September 1, 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).
        September 2, 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.

    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."

    On September 2, I received these responses to the above email:
    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 change
    AUDIO 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 Torreya
    Torreya 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 changes
    Torreya 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 taxifolia
    On 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 Mountains
    This 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 interest
    EXCERPT: 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 DEER
    I 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 panhandle
    The 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 forests
    Following 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. taxifolia
    While 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" tree
    I 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 Apalachicola
    I 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 Guardians
    In 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 et al. confirms legality of Torreya Guardians actions in assisted migration
    In 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 harvest
    Seeds 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 region
    Zev 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, Ohio
    Summary: 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 2013
    On 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 Report
    Chapter 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:
         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:
         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 PROPAGATION page.

  • November, 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 2012 Torreya seed harvest distributed to 4 existing landowners plus 1 new participant — all in North Carolina
    Following our usual protocol, 4 of the landowners received 20 seeds each, while Zev Friedman received 200 for the second year in a row. Zev is a permaculture and forestry consultant in the Asheville NC area, who is collaborating with many private forest owners in the region for testing Torreya taxifolia as a possible (once-native) replacement for dead and dying hemlock trees in the region.

  • November 2012 / by Connie Barlow / 31 science co-authors publish report on "managed relocation" of species, following 4 years of study

    A free online (technical) policy paper is essential reading for everyone involved in the assisted migration debate. Torreya Guardians work is mentioned in the report, and the lead author (Mark W. Schwartz) is himself an expert on Torreya. "Managed Relocation: Integrating the Scientific, Regulatory, and Ethical Challenges" by Mark W. Schwartz and 30 coauthors, BioScience August 2012 (12 pp in pdf)

    NOTE: Connie Barlow posted COMMENTS and RECOMMENDATIONS on this policy paper.

  • November 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ "Revive and Restore" new organization and website promotes 'de-extinction'
    Thanks to our paleoecological colleague David Burney (who collaborated with one of the key Torreya Guardian founders, the late Paul S. Martin, on a classic paper, "Bring Back the Elephants") I just learned about an exciting new project: "Revive and Restore". Funded by The Long Now Foundation, top-notch geneticists, paleoecologists, and conservation biologists are coming together to share ideas, best practices, and ethical considerations about using advanced genomics to (a) recover actual DNA from the preserved bones and skins of recently extinct vertebrates, and then (b) to implant the DNA within ova of of the most closely related living species (in the way of "Dollie" the sheep cloning). Current emphases include using band-tailed pigeons as surrogate mothers for implanted Passenger Pigeon DNA, and in similar ways "bringing back" Tasmania's large carnivore, the Thylacine.

  • October 2012 / by Connie Barlow / IUCN Redbook listing of "Critically Endangered" Torreya taxifolia concludes "extinction within its native range is inevitable."
    Checking up on the current status of T. taxifolia in the global databank of endangered species (IUCN Redbook, of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature), I noticed that the 2011 update draws an alarming conclusion about its prospects for survival (and I amended the "At the Brink of Extinction" page on this website accordingly. The IUCN concludes:
    "The most significant current threat to T. taxifolia is the continued reproductive failure associated with fungal pathogens. Individuals do not reach reproductive size before being top-killed. . . . Augmentation plantings within the natural range have proved to be susceptible to infection: no naturally resistant clones have been identified to date. Population viability analyses indicate that extinction within its native range is inevitable."

  • September 2012 / by Jim Clark / Healthy grove of Torreya californica discovered in Marin County, CA
    "For years I have been running a trail at King Mountain Open Space and finally noticed a grove of Torreya californica. It is on the north-facing slope above the city of Larkspur. It is at about 400 feet elevation, adjacent to oaks and redwoods. . . ." Click for a photo-essay of this discovery.

  • August 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Dolly Ballard discovers two mature Torreyas bearing lots of seeds in Madison Florida
    In 2012 Dolly Ballard, a long-time resident and garden club member of Madison Florida, began to inventory the half-dozen mature Torreya trees on private properties in Madison, Florida. Apparently, in August 2012 she discovered 2 female Torreyas covered with lots of ripening seeds in a cemetery in Madison. Her nephew, Ben Duval, posted on YouTube a VIDEO of Dolly talking about the trees, and then (at 11:05) interviewing Park Ranger Mark Ludlow, on location in Torreya State Park, about the plight of the trees.

  • July 2012 / by Buford Pruitt, Torreya Guardian/ 2 of 10 seeds from the 2011 harvest have germinated
    "As you can read in the link, which is my blog's latest post, torreya does much better for me in NC than in FL, so NC is where I'll plant the new seedlings." Editor's note: See more details on Pruitt's work with Torreya at the North Carolina webpage and the Propagation Advice page. ADDENDUM: As of February 2013, the cumulative germination of autumn 2011 seeds has been 9 of 10; see his blogpost with photos.

  • June 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 15 Torreya seeds planted at the Waynesville rewilding site
    Following the photo-documentation during the site visit made to Waynesville (and Junaluska) in late May 2012, 15 Torreya seeds from the 2011 harvest were individually planted by Connie Barlow in favorable habitats upslope of the 21 seedlings introduced on the Evans property in 2008. Access a photo-essay of the 2012 seed planting.

  • June 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Site visit in North Carolina offers new understanding of Torreya's preferred habitat.
    In late May 2012 Connie Barlow and Lee Barnes (along with Sara Evans) made a site visit to the 21 seedlings planted in 2008 on the Evans property near Waynesville NC and the 10 seedlings planted in 2008 in Junaluska NC. Connie took many photographs and has updated both the Waynesville main page and the Junaluska main page, along with the webpages focused on each specimen. She also has posted, for the first time, an aggregate status report of WHAT HAS BEEN LEARNED to date about Torreya taxifolia habitat preferences, and what questions remain.
  • April 2012 - Torreya Guardians assist Boy Scouts in planting seedlings in a new North Carolina preserve
    [excerpt from the April 2012 newsletter of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee River "On a beautiful spring morning, Boy Scouts from Troop 235 recently helped plant 31 seedlings of "Stinking Cedar" (Torreya taxifolia) at LTLT's Tessentee Bottomland Preserve (in North Carolina). Naturalist Jack Johnston provided the seedlings, which he grew from seed at his home in northern Georgia. The Scouts, Dylan Ford and Joel Rogers, worked under the direction of Jack and LTLT's Dennis Desmond. Scout leaders Conda Bradley and Peggy Pyeatt also assisted, as did LTLT member Russ Regnery. Jack and Russ are part of a loosely organized group who call themselves the Torreya Guardians. The group is working to move this tree species to cooler climates. Known more commonly today as the Florida torreya, the conifer is poised on the brink of extinction in its tiny native habitat, the sharp-sloped ravines along a short stretch of Florida's Apalachicola River and its headwaters just across the Georgia border. To learn more about this species, visit The hope is that these planted trees will grow and produce seed for further propagation of the species."

  • April 2012 - Torreya planting in report of April issue of Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (River)
    "On a beautiful spring morning, Boy Scouts from Troop 235 recently helped plant 31 seedlings of "Stinking Cedar" (Torreya taxifolia) at LTLT's Tessentee Bottomland Preserve. Naturalist Jack Johnston provided the seedlings, which he grew from seed at his home in northern Georgia. The Scouts, Dylan Ford and Joel Rogers, worked under the direction of Jack and LTLT's Dennis Desmond. Scout leaders Conda Bradley and Peggy Pyeatt also assisted, as did LTLT member Russ Regnery. Jack and Russ are part of a loosely organized group who call themselves the Torreya Guardians. The group is working to move this tree species to cooler climates. Known more commonly today as the Florida torreya, the conifer is poised on the brink of extinction in its tiny native habitat, the sharp-sloped ravines along a short stretch of Florida's Apalachicola River and its headwaters just across the Georgia border. To learn more about this species, visit The hope is that these planted trees will grow and produce seed for further propagation of the species."

  • February 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ USDA updates its Plant Zone map; zones have migrated north
    In a move that signals the importance of assisted migration well beyond the needs of the endangered conifer, Torreya taxifolia, the U.S. Department of Agricculture has issued its long-awaited update of the northward movement of official plant zones.

  • February 2, 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Torreya Guardians in news story: "8 Wild Proposals to Relocate Endangered Species"
    Brandom Keim, reporting for Wired Science includes Torreya taxifolia and the work of Torreya Guardians in his survey of "wild" proposals for assisting endangered species by way of assisted migration and rewilding. Online access to his illustrated article is available here.
  • December, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Forestry Chronicle authors feature scientific decision-making by Torreya Guradians
    "Review of science-based assessments of species vulnerability: Contributions to decision-making for assisted migration", by Tannis Beardmore and Richard Winder, provides the most detailed academic review of the impetus for citizen volunteers in moving Florida Torreya north. The Torreya section includes this table and the text below it.

    Ecological standards for assisted migration developed for Torreya taxifolia.
        The Torreya Guardians are a volunteer conservation group consisting of botanists, naturalists, and citizens with an interest in conserving Florida Torreya (Torreya taxifolia Arn.). This group has four primary goals: (1) to save this species from extinction; (2) to test the utility of assisted migration for this and other threatened plant species; (3) to provide a model for possible activities to help mitigate the impacts of climate change; and (4) to foster collaborations with the public and appropriate professions (Torreya Guardians 2004). Florida Torreya is a small tree in the yew family (Taxaceae) with a very limited range in the southeastern United States; it is native to Georgia and Florida. Florida Torreya is federally listed as critically endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1986). Within its native range, this species has been decimated by a fungal disease (Godfrey and Kurz 1962) reported to be a novel species of Fusarium (Smith et al. 2011), which remains the largest threat to this species' survival.
         The Torreya Guardians developed "Ecological Standards" as a tool for assessing vulnerability, identifying whether this species was at risk, and determining if assisted migration was an appropriate mitigation strategy (Tables 1 and 2). To assess vulnerability, two factors are used: "neediness" and "irreversible problems". The assessment identifies whether the species is endangered, and whether ecological or climate change is a major threat. Four factors then consider whether assisted migration is appropriate (Table 2), including considerations pertaining to historical information, evaluation of whether assisted migration will decrease the risk of extirpation or introduce new threats to the recipient areas, and determination of whether unassisted migration is still feasible.
         The Torreya Guardians identified Florida Torreya as being highly vulnerable and incorporated this information into their management plans, where they have developed and implemented assisted migration as a conservation strategy using their own resources (Torreya Guardians 2004). They have established plantings of trees across a 600-km range, predominantly in the southern Appalachians, using readily available seed stock (Camacho 2010). This material is being planted on private lands, with full support of the landowners. Thus, there is no involvement of government oversight, nor has it been legally mandated.
         There have been concerns that limited biological information has been used in this assessment and that assisted migration may result in unintended negative ecological consequences (McMahan 1989). These concerns include the introduction of non-native species and their potential to become invasive. However, no negative ecological consequences have been identified. This group has created an extensive online information resource for their activities (Torreya Guardians 2011), which was most likely used to assist in this decision-making process. This work has raised important questions concerning the level of information needed to determine the level of a species' vulnerability to climate change. Furthermore, how does one address the absence of information in the presence of uncertainty? Please see the papers by Aubin et al., Ste-Marie et al. and Winder et al. in this issue that further discuss these issues.
        This example of assisted migration has raised the issue of authorization and oversight as the official federal recovery plan does not identify assisted migration as a conservation strategy for Florida Torreya. The momentum that this group has created resulted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considering whether assisted migration is an appropriate strategy for this species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2010). It is yet to be seen if official plans will include a more thorough assessment of the ecological impacts of assisted migration, or more extensive monitoring programs. Nonetheless, this is a very interesting example of how a grassroots organization can propel assisted migration into the forefront, causing a governmental agency to consider the use of this strategy.
  • November 7, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 2011 distribution of approx 700 seeds harvested by Torreya Guardians
    Approximately 700 seeds from the Fall 2011 harvest were distributed by Torreya Guardians to private landowners in two categories: (1) those who already are growing T. taxifolia on their lands: Clayton GA, Waynesville NC, Lake Junaluska NC, Spencer NC, and Cleveland OH, and (2) those who will begin to grow T. taxifolia by using this seed distribution: Brevard NC, Bat Cave NC, Watauga County NC, Asheville (multiple landowners), and Nashville TN. In addition, a landowner in Apopka FL with native gopher tortoises on his large property is testing (a) whether the tortoises choose to swallow the flesh-encased seed, and (b) if they do, whether tortoise digestive juices yield earlier germination (first spring instead of second spring). Access full distribution list of 2011 seeds

  • October 7, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Webpages created to track success of Torreya Guardian plantings in Georgia, Tennessee, and Ohio (as well as the half dozen sites already tracked in North Carolina)
    Check out the new link on our homepage that now has distinct pages for these three additional states. If you click on Ohio, you'll learn that T. taxifolia ("Florida Torreya") easily made it through -13F temperatures in Cleveland in the winter of 2008/2009. We believe this is the farthest north T. taxifolia site in north America.
  • October 7, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 2005 seed distribution by Torreya Guardians produces first next generation seed
    A private landowner in Spencer, NC, who received 10 seeds from Torreya Guardians from the 2005 Biltmore harvest reports: "Of the ten Torreya taxifolia seeds harvested in the fall 2005, I had 4 come up — all in 2007." All four are still alive and well, and one even produced its first seed this year (a single seed), after having been treated with gibberellic acid foliant spray.

  • July 27, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Tribute to Paul S. Martin, 1928 - 2010
    Connie Barlow just posted a webpage tribute to Paul S. Martin, the Pleistocene ecologist who co-authored with Connie the 2004 advocacy essay, "Bring Torreya Taxifolia North — Now". On this tribute page you can find links to Paul's advocacy of rewilding and his ground-breaking evoluitonary ecological work with Dan Janzen on anachronistic fruits. Connie also edited and posted audio/video recordings she made of Paul speaking about his Pleistocene ecology work in 1997 and 1999. Note: Torreya Guardians rewilding of T. taxifolia in 2008 included naming one of the 21 trees "Paul S. Martin." Unfortunately, that particular seedling died for unknown reasons in the winter of 2010. Photos of that seedling and its demise can be viewed here.

  • May 21, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Photos of 2011 new growth on 2008 Torreya plantings at Site 2 in Waynesville, NC
    Chuck Dayton sent me 4 photos he took of fresh growth this spring on Torreya specimens there. Click and scroll to the bottom of each page to see the four (as well as previous photos of each specimen) Joanna Macy Tree, Maxilla Evans Tree, Charles Darwin Tree, Julia Butterfly Hill Tree

  • February 11, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Summary arguments IN FAVOR OF ASSISTED MIGRATION for Torreya taxifolia
    Connie Barlow (with assistance from Russell Regnery) has posted a short, and definitive, summary essay that aggregates the data and develops strong scientific reasoning in favor of assisted migration for Torreya taxifolia. It is: "Paleoecology and the Assisted Migration Debate: Why a Deep-Time Perspective Is Vital".

  • January 27, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Torreya Guardians highlighted in Nature report as prime example of "unregulated, but legal" access to U.S. endangered plants
    A groundbreaking "Comment" paper in one of the top science journals combines data analysis of 753 threatened or endangered PLANTS in the USA with policy and legal analysis of the as-yet largely unregulated trade in seeds and seedlings cultivated in private gardens and nurseries outside of the official native habitat. Coauthors Patrick Shirey and Gary Lamberti have produced a very readable and thought-provoking exposition of pros and cons of business as usual, now that climate change is motivating conservationists (individually and in groups outside of government) to consider whether the imperiled plant species that they love might benefit from, or even require, their assistance ("assisted migration") — given that governmentally agencies are still hesitant to (and in some cases, prohibited from) expanding locations for conservation programs beyond so-called native range. The work of Torreya Guardians is highlighted, including a 2010 revision in the official ESA management plan for Torreya taxifolia, directing plan managers to attempt to coordinate activities with Torreya Guardians, where possible. The authors conclude: "Although the redistribution of plant species around the world is nothing new, the ease with which people can now obtain and transfer specimens is unprecedented. This, combined with a growing interest in assisted colonization, makes it more important than ever for federal and local governments to wrest control of illegal Internet trade, develop a policy for hybrids and ensure that genetic diversity is considered when propagating plants. "Regulate Trade in Rare Plants" is 3 pages in PDF, available only for purchase online.

    NOTE: Torreya Guardian founder, Connie Barlow, posted a general response to the Shirey and Lamberti paper, and the wider issue that generated it, here in PDF: "Assisted Migration (Not Assisted Colonization) for Endangered Torreya". Barlow was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, explaining the rationale for the 2008 assisted migration of T. taxifolia from Florida to the mountains of North Carolina undertaken by Torreya Guardians, "It's not in its correct habitat right now. It should be in the Appalachians." She also strongly advocates against replacement of the original term "assisted migration" with the newer term "assisted colonization". The history of that debate over terminology can be accessed online here: "Assisted Migration or Assisted Colonization: What's in a Name?".

  • October 25, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Photo-essay of September 22 visit to Jack Johnston's Torreya taxifolia propagation effort near Clayton, Georgia
    On September 22, 2010 Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd visited the rural home of Jack Johnston in the NE corner of Georgia, which is the southernmost expression of the Appalachian Mountains. Jack has successfully planted seedlings purchased from a nursery, and has successfully germinated seeds. He is still working on techniques to successfully root and outplant cut branchlets of the tree. Click for Photo-essay of that visit.

  • October 14, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 86-page Yale Journal of Regulation article advocates strongly for assisted migration and covers the Torreya Guardians genesis and effort
    I have an automatic "google search" for "assisted migration" and today got notice of a paper accepted for publication that went online in May of 2010. It is the most expansive piece of professional advocacy for assisted migration yet, putting assisted migration into the context of needing to entirely rethink ecological management issues in a time of rapid climate change. Brings the need for ethical considerations (and updating of ethics) and venues for public discussion and involvement into the mix. By clicking on the download option above the paper title, you can freely download the whole pdf: "Assisted Migration: Redefining Nature and Natural Resource Law Under Climate Change", by Alejandro E. Camacho, 2010, in Yale Journal on Regulation, vol 27, pp 171-255. To find all the occurrences of Torreya Guardians, do an internal "find" for "Torreya." You will note that the author cites various pages on the Torreya Guardians website as the sources. For those who don't have time or interest to scan the whole article, start reading at page 243.

  • October 11, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Photo-essay of September 22 visit to 2008 Torreya plantings near Highlands NC
    On September 22, 2010 Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd visited the 10 Torreya taxifolia trees that had been planted as seedlings in August 2008 by Russ Regnery on his own rural property (4,000 foot elevation) near Highlands NC. Photo-essay of that visit requires you to scroll down on the page until you see pictures. Only one tree has died thus far, and that was because of a phosphate-rich fertilizer supplement.

  • October 4, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Important papers on the ethical pros and cons of assisted migration (managed relocation)
    "Move It Or Lose It? The Ecological Ethics of Relocating Species Under Climate Change" has just been published in the journal Ecological Applications. Authors Ben Minteer and James Collins do a great job of summarizing the concerns, as well as posing this new argument in favor: "But it could also be asserted that MR [managed relocation], as an adaptationist strategy, has an important role to play in bringing the complex and intangible risks of climate change into sharper relief for citizens and policy makers; a role that could eventually pay dividends for public support for climate mitigation. Ecologists' and conservationists' concern about species survival under global warming, and subsequent proposals to move them under a program of MR, could focus critical media and public attention on observable harms that help bring the complexities of climate change science down to earth; and into living rooms."

    This paper, as with all the others, neglects the crucial distinction implied by the term "assisted migration", which has recently been superceded by the term "managed relocation." Thus far, none of the papers (you can access scores of papers online via this link) have included a deep-time perspective. That is, none have explicitly looked at the merits of such assistance from the standpoint of previous glacial/interglacial biotic dislocations. In my own experience, as soon as one adopts "deep-time eyes," it is clear that moving Torreya taxifolia seedlings hundreds of miles northward, as we Torreya Guardians have already done, is simply assisting with a natural migration pattern that has happened repeatedly in the past. Hence, my personal preference for the term "assisted migration" rather than "managed relocation." Refer to the 2004 paper by myself and Paul S. Martin for the deep-time arguments in favor of assisted migration at this peak interglacial: "Bring Torreya taxifolia North Now". A forum on terminology ("assisted migration" v. later names) is also accessible on this website.

    Overall, this paper is a must-read. The lead author is an environmental ethicist, and their advocacy in favor of radical interventions is the strongest I have encountered thus far in any professional journal. Consider his final paragraph: "If we value wild species and wish to bequeath a significant fraction of global biodiversity to future generations, radical strategies like managed relocation may well be our last best chance. Although risky, such bold efforts to preemptively move threatened species to new environments may offer the only hope to keep them from moving into museums and zoos—and haunting our ecological conscience."

  • September 30, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ All but one "rewilded" original tree healthy at Waynesville NC Site 2
    On September 23, 2010 Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd visited the 21 Torreya taxifolia trees that had been planted as seedlings July 2008. Only one tree has died thus far. It was a full-sun day, and Connie photographed each tree between 11 am and 2 pm, so the photos are great for seeing how mottled the summer sun is. You can see the captioned photos by clicking on each of the individual trees at the summary webpage. Connie surmises that deciduous full canopy is excellent drought protection in summer, and seedlings grow well in full sun of early spring and late fall. Also, oaks were masting, so the huge acorn crop suggested to Connie that Torreya seeds buried by squirrels in an oak mast year might escape predation during the winter and spring.

  • September 16, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Founding Torreya Guardian Paul S. Martin dies at the age of 82
    On September 13, 2010 Professor Paul S. Martin, emeritus professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona (Tucson), died peacefully at his home in Tucson. Paul was the co-author, with Connie Barlow, of the 2004 science advocacy article that led to the founding of Torreya Guardians. Connie posted online a eulogy of her collaboration with Paul: "Tribute to the Man Who Gave Me Deep-Time Eyes: Paul S. Martin". Josh Donlan and Harry Greene published a tribute to Paul in PLoS Biology: "Paul S. Martin (1928 - 2010): Luminary, Natural Historian, and Innovator"

  • September 10, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ USF&WS issues official Recovery Plan Update on Torreya taxifolia
    In 2010, the USF&WS initiated an update for the original (1986) recovery plan for Torreya taxifolia as an endangered species. You can access in PDF the existing official USFWS plan (updated in 2010) for managing this endangered species. Do an internal word search in that document for "translocation" to see how it addresses the new issue of assisted migration. Search for "guardians" to see the places in which the plan begins to coordinate with the work of Torreya Guardians. Much more can be accessed about the 2010 review process (the agenda and some of the pro-assisted migration comments) at the Torreya taxifolia Recovery Plan page on this website.

  • June 14, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Comments filed on USF&WS official Recovery Plan Update on Torreya taxifolia

    In May 2010 USF&WS staff overseeing the recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act for Torreya taxifolia gathered a meeting of researchers, managers, and landowners to review their actions to date and recommend future actions for an update of the recovery plan. Though not active within the terms of the management plan, Torreya Guardians was invited to participate, so Russell Regnery and I (Connie Barlow) listened and shared our thoughts by phone call-in during the day-long conference. We felt welcome and well heard. Afterwards, I decided to follow-up with print commments of my own and to alert several scientists with expertise in this realm of the opportunity to send in comments as well. Two did so. I have added a new page to this website titled, Torreya taxifolia Recovery Plan Under the Endangered Species Act: Spring 2010 solicitation of comments on assisted migration, which contains six links, including: Comments by Connie Barlow; Comments by Prof Sarah Reichard; Comments by Josh Donlan (of Advanced Conservation Strategies).

  • June 11, 2010/ by Mike Heim, Torreya Guardian experimenting with Wisconsin rewilding / Photo-essay and report of "Tertiary Rewilding in Wisconsin" posted

    Mike Heim's photos with captions and his accompanying essay in PDF on his "Tertiary Rewilding in Northern Wisconsin" have now been posted on this website. Genera being tested onsite include Torreya, Taxus (floridana), Taxodium, Ginkgo, Cephalotaxus, Shortia, and more. Heim takes a deep-time perspective in assessing which genera might have been "native" to northern Wisconsin in past interglacials and even more distant warm times.

  • June 5, 2010/ by Jack Johnston, Torreya Guardian nurturing T. taxifolia seeds into seedlings / Report of seed and seedling progress in NE Georgia, USA

    During the winter 2009/10 one Torreya dropped needles and died after a growing season in the ground. Three had roots eaten away by voles and toppled due to the rootless condition. None of the Biltmore fall 2009 seeds have germinated to date. [Jack is stewarding 50 of those seeds on his property in NE Georgia. Torreya seedlings commonly require 2 winter season before they will germinate.] A few rooted cuttings from last fall are green but have no new growth. I expect some to grow later. The total count of seedling trees here is 24. The tallest tree is about 2 feet. [Editor's note: Jack Johnston's work with Torreya is feautres in the May/June 2010 issue of Audubon Magazine, in the article titled "Guardian Angels".]

  • May 12, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ My participation in the T. taxifolia recovery group conference yesterday and submission of recommendations

    Yesterday I participated by phone in an all-day meeting initiated and led by USF&WS staff in charge of updating the official recovery plan for Torreya taxifolia under the Endangered Species Act. Russ Regnery and I were the two Torreya Guardians who accepted the open invitation from Vivian Negron-Ortiz (at USF&WS) to voice our views and listen to the others. From what I heard, none of the other invited participants were advocating that the existing management plan be changed to include "translocation" to North Carolina or anywhere else beyond Florida and Georgia and the ex-situ locations of the potted seedlings and parent materials housed in other institutions. My sense was that, lacking a deep-time perspective, this resistance was to be expected. Thus I submitted an 8-page document with the primary intent of cataloging the arguments and giving the published citations and quotations for the USF&WS to adopt an entirely updated standard of what "native range" and "native habitat" can be re-interpreted to mean, in order to do justice to the deep-time perspective -- which, incidentally, may be vital for conservation to retain allegiance to "native" geographies even as climate shifts. Anyone can access this report in in pdf online now: "The Torreya taxifolia USF&WS Recovery Plan Process: An Opportunity to Shift to a Deep-Time Perspective of Native Habitat"

  • May 5, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ May/June issue of Audubon Magazine features Torreya Guardians assisted migration work

    "Guardian Angels" is the title of Janet Marinelli's article, published nearly two years after she accompanied a half dozen Torreya Guardians on our "rewilding" efforts in North Carolina of 31 seedling Torreyas. Here is how I summarized her report on the assisted migration links page of this website:

    In-depth exploration of "the biggest controversy in contemporary conservation science." Engagingly written for both a popular and professional audience, journalist Marinelli draws from her interviews with leading scientists, horticulturalists, and activists to present the core arguments for and against assisted migration. A site visit to an endangered plant breeding facility (the Atlanta Botanical Garden) is paired in the article with Marinelli's eye-witness description of "eco-vigilante" action, when the loose-knit citizens group Torreya Guardians intentionally planted into forested landscapes of mountainous North Carolina 31 seedlings of the highly endangered Florida Torreya — an assisted migration of some 400 miles northward of historically known native habitat.

  • April 26, 2010 / by Michael Heim, science teacher at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe High School, Hayward WI / All Torreya taxifolia planted in N. Wisconsin in 2009 died by spring 2010

    All of the Torreya taxifolia ended up dying and the parts of Taxus floridana exposed at -12F did get killed. Funny it took until now to show up. Anyway, it was a good learning experience and shows that these highly endemic spp. became that way for a reason during the Pleistocene or perhaps even before. On the other hand, maybe their northern populations were eliminated by environmental change and only the less hardy southernmost ones survived. Guess we might never know. The good news is that several Torreya nucifera came through in perfect shape! The BOX HUCKLEBERRIES also came through splendidly. My biology students collected baseline data on them last week and I'm thinking they'll put on lots of new growth & runners this summer if the drought doesn't stay too severe.
        EDITOR'S NOTE: See Mike's initial emails below of March 17, March 5, and February 12, 2010. See also his 2-page report on this Tertiary Rewilding project in Wisconsin and Heim's photographs with captions of this project.

  • April 7, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ posting of 1986 USFWS official plan for managing T. taxifolia

    "I just linked several pages of this website to the official 1986 management plan of the USFWS for managing Torreya taxifolia as an endangered species. Two points within it especially interested me. First, Torreya Guardian Lee Barnes is cited in the references of that management plan for his 1983 and 1985 PhD work on clonal propagation of this species. (See p. 20 of the PDF report.) Second, on p. 4, habitat description, the Japanese species of genus Torreya is listed as growing as 'an understory element of beech forests in Japan.' This gives me great hope for the success of the 31 seedlings of T. taxifolia we planted in July 2008 near Waynesville NC, under a high deciduous canopy."

  • April 5, 2010 / by Vivian Negron-Ortiz, botanist USFWS, Panama City FL / 5-year status review of endangered Florida Torreya due July 10; working group solicited

    "The Service would like to assemble a recovery working group of those currently working on, and knowledgeable about, the natural history of Florida Torreya. The goal of this working group would be to provide input and recommendations to prevent the extinction of this species and work toward recovery. Recommendations from the working group will be incorporated into the 5-year status review which is due in July 2010. This working group would discuss past, current, and planned activities and their relationship to the recovery actions stipulated in the Recovery plan. This is important to evaluate so we don't duplicate recovery efforts. If you are interested in participating in this working group, please respond to me by 21 April 2010. Also, please advise me of other persons who should be included that I have omitted. I'm hoping to finalize the participant list by the end of this month, and propose to meet here at the Panama City Field Office in mid-May (May 11 or 12, or both if needed)." Editor's Note: Torreya Guardians is seeking to find a nearby representative who can attend this important meeting. The existing USFWS management plan for T. taxifolia (dated 1986) can be accessed via USFWS site or the TorreyaGuardians website here.

  • March 27, 2010 / by Jeff Zahner, horticulturalist, Cashiers/Highlands NC / Torreya taxifolia doing well

    "I just received a link to the Bob Zahner tree [at the Waynesville NC Torreya site planted in 2008] from my mom. It's such a pretty tree and it made me happy. I wanted to thank you for all you are doing to help the Torreya and wish you well for the coming Spring — it's finally here! Here at 4000 ft our Torreya are healthy and were missed by the ice-laden pine branches crashing around them. The littlest ones were completely covered with snow for five weeks straight but seem to be fine."

  • March 5, 2010 / by Michael Heim, science teacher at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe High School, Hayward WI / Notification of journal article authored on "rewilding" evergreen Box Huckleberry of eastern USA to its presumed pre-glacial habitat in nothern Wisconsin

    EDITOR'S NOTE: The photo-rich, 2-page article was published in the Winter 2010 issue of and titled, "Return of the Ericads: Students Dig and Reestablish a Prehistoric Species". Heim's project is bold and apparently exciting to the tribal students for the deep-time perspective that suggests this "eastern" USA plant may be deeply native to their own tribal lands. The article is posted here on this website in PDF. Species name is Gaylussacia brachycera.

  • March 17, 2010 / by Michael Heim, science teacher at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe High School, Hayward WI / Preliminary report of winter survival of Torreya taxifolia, Taxodium, and Taxus floridana plantings in nothern Wisconsin

    EDITOR's NOTE: See Feb 12 comment below for the context of this report. Click here for a PHOTO-ESSAY WEBPAGE OF MIKE HEIM'S TERTIARY REWILDING PROJECT IN WISCONSIN.

    "I checked [the Torreya taxifolia rooted clones] yesterday (the snow just melted off them) and they didn't do as well as I'd hoped. The foliage is fine, but many appear to have rotted or broken off at the base. The best-looking one though was planted far from the rest in a richer soil on a hardwood north slope above a frog pond and it appears okay. Strange, but the Taxus floridana with the torreyas are all doing extremely well with no winter damage, even though they grew much larger than the torreyas.
       "Okay, here's something else. Taxodium had a much more widespread range during the Tertiary (and somewhat during the last interglacial) than at present, probably due to its floating seeds which naturally disperse downstream. Well, I've planted over a hundred seedlings (seed from IL) again last summer in our creek, since the older ones have done extremely well in our beaver meadow (seedlings were underwater for a year and subsequently grew just fine!) and our small sphagnum bog. I'm planting another flat of them out this spring. Should look quite antediluvial some years from now, eh?...especially with long strands of Usnea lichen hanging from the branches (the lichens really love baldcypress)."

    MARCH 18 UPDATE: "Yesterday after work I took a good hard look at the torreyas. I think that a couple more are fine, as they popped right up from being pressed down to the ground from the snowpack. I also took a good hard look at the Wollemia and it looks good...certainly no foliar damage from being exposed to 0F before being covered by snow for 3.5 months! Still, these observations are pretty premature and I wouldn't hazard to say definitively who is alive and who is dead for another couple of weeks.

  • February 12, 2010 / by Michael Heim, science teacher at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe High School, Hayward WI / Torreya taxifolia and Taxus floridana clones rewilded into tribal forest of nothern Wisconsin

    "I planted out seven clones of T. taxifolia and one of Taxus floridana (rooted cuttings obtained with the help of a friend) up here in the northwoods of Wisconsin this past spring [2009]. All grew vigorously over the summer. When winter came they were exposed at 0F and since then have been covered deeply with snow. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that at least some of them will turn out to be hardy here as low shrubs. I'm wondering if Torreya grew here before the Pleistocene. Guess I might find out!"

  • February 11, 2010/ by Lee Barnes, Torreya Guardian in charge of seed distribution / Report of Distribution of 300 T. taxifolia seeds collected at Biltmore Gardens autumn 2009

    Click for the detailed Report of 2009 Seed Distribution filed by Lee Barnes.

  • February 2, 2010 / by Connie Barlow / Reviving Dehydrated Torreya Seeds by Hydrating

    While preparing the 300 Torreya taxifolia seeds from Fall 2009 Biltmore harvest for shipment, Lee Barnes strove to rehydrate the 'floaters', since advice is that the collected seeds must not be allowed to dry out before planting (see the propagation instruction page for more on this topic). Lee reports, in an exchange with the Arboretum de Villardebelle (which specializes in world conifers) "I rechecked my remaining floaters when first cleaned and now 15 out of 17 non-distributed seeds are sinkers. They had been stored in moist sphagnum moss in a refrigerator while in the process of being distributed. Dr. Ed Croom mentioned good germination of floaters from Florida sources but I've sent out sorted and labeled 'floaters/sinkers' to have folks observe any germination differences. I did have one seed fall behind a container and discovered it two weeks later. It was dry and the seed 'rattled' when shaken. There was an obvious drying of the seed and separation from the woody seed coat. You reinforce the need to never let seeds dry after collection and the benefit of soaking seeds prior to storage in moist media."

  • February 1, 2010 / by Arboretum de Villardebelle (SW France) / Photos and statistics of 2009 Biltmore Seeds Sent to Arboretum de Villardbelle added to online page

    "Here is the updated page with the seeds you sent me: [Note, scroll to the bottom of the page to get to the 2009 photos.] I added the statistics about the sizes of the seeds. Imo this should be done more often to have as precise data as possible, for instance for comparison with other origins or other species. When I received the seeds, I soaked them in water. All sank. After manipulation for scanning and measurements, one seed was floating. When you sent me the floating seeds were they all still floating? Usually floating seeds mean that they began to dry. Thereafter if sinking, they could take the water again and they should be ok." [In a follow-up email he added, "The seeds of Torreya californica are much bigger [than Torreya taxifolia]."]

  • January 30, 2010 / by Connie Barlow / The importance of deep-time thinking

    I forwarded the message by Patrick Shirey (January 10 comment below), to Josh Donlan (lead author of the Pleistocene Rewilding papers) and to several journalists who have been following the assisted migration issue. In my email I made this plea:

    What I feel is most lacking in conversations about assisted migration outside of our Torreya Guardians group and outside of the Pleistocene Rewilding conversation is a willingness to look at what is native habitat from a deep-time perspective. It's like almost all wildlife biologists are still stuck in the (Starker) Leopold Report conclusions of the 1970s, when Leopold was commissioned by the National Park Service (as I recall) to come up with a benchmark time (just prior to Columbus) that parklands would be managed for. Time for a new perspective! I have spent a lot of time with Paul S. Martin, Pleistocene ecologist and one of the coauthors of the Pleistocene Rewilding papers, and he really taught me to see thru deep-time eyes � and how thoroughly mixed up species cohabitations were at the height of the glaciation and then in the huge variations in species recovery of northern ranges � basically the community model (which his own work 5 decades ago had helped establish!) got thrown out and the opportunistic species frame came in (thanks in large part to the work of palynologist Hazel Delcourt).
       Overall, once one steps into the deep-time perspective, it becomes utterly rational to think of northward introductions not as moving outside of native range, but as really keeping pace with native range as extant species (by definition) have always had to do! Torreya was moved by us not into new habitat, but returned to its deep-time habitat (the southern Appalachians) which most likely was central (or even southerly) to its range for tens of millions of years prior to the onset of the Pleistocene.

  • January 10, 2010 / by Patrick Shirey / Symposium: Species Introductions and Reintroductions 2010

    I thought you might want to know about a species introductions and reintroductions symposium at Mississippi State University in April. It seemed like something that might interest the Torreya Guardians. I am considering submitting an abstract.

  • January 14, 2010 / by Lee Barnes / All but 1 of the remaining Torreya seedlings still surviving in Waynesville plantings

    I went by Sara Evan's property on Eagles Nest to check the Torreya. All but two looked great. The snow did not knock over the plants quite as much as at the Bryan Nature Garden. I'm guessing the snow was not as "wet" at the higher elevation. My friends at Grass Roots nursery near Junaluska measured lows of 0 degrees F., but I don't think it was quite as cold at Lake Junaluska. I measured 9 degrees F. as a low on the porch at my house in Waynesville. By the way, Lake Junaluska is mostly frozen over; I think I've only seen that 2-3 times in the last 30 years.
         The dead plant was the runt of the plantings and has looked pretty weak since the plantings. (Click here for more detail and photos of the tree, alive and dead.) It might resprout from the base in the spring, but I doubt it. I'll look closer at it next time I'm up there, maybe next week. The other weak plant was the second smallest transplant; it does have green needles at the base and I do expect it to leaf-out in the spring. Both of the plants were in the sunnier location.
         All in all, I think we had excellent survival rates with no care after first month of hand-watering during a drought. The rest of the plants look firmly established and I expect all to grow and prosper. This proves to me that Torreya can be successfully rewilded as transplants. Time will tell if they will successfully reseed themselves at our two plantings. (Torreya seeds have been spread hundreds of feet from the mother trees by squirrels at Biltmore Estate for many years.)
         I am saving some of the seeds from the Biltmore Estate to grow seedlings for a couple of years prior to transplanting at these two sites to try to introduce some genetic diversity (seeds from Biltmore and Woodlanders Nursery are from different sources, as well as the plant "Celia" that Connie got from Atlanta Botanical Gardens and carried across the country and back.) Same with seeds to Jack Johnson to add to his established plantings in North Georgia. We received 301 seeds from Biltmore Estate just before Christmas and I'm in the process to sending them out to Botanical Gardens and individuals at locations farther north. I want to get them to folks who can "ground stratify" them, exposing them to natural alternating day/night temperatures that greatly improve their germination based on Atlanta Botanical Gardens experience.

  • January 11, 2010 / by Lee Barnes / Distribution of 301 T. taxifolia seeds from Biltmore Gardens

    I just cleaned 301 seeds that are ready for distribution. There were 115 "floaters" and 186 "sinkers." I've downloaded Connie's list of Torreya Volunteers and also will look at my list of geographically important volunteers and Botanical Gardens that were sent poor quality seeds in the past (we really need folks with facilities to germinate and raise seedlings for several years prior to transplanting into the wild.) I'm wanting to get seeds out so that folks can stratify in situ, fluxuating day/night ground temperatures (per Determann's recommendations). I'm a little concerned about the large number of "floaters" (seeds that float in water), but personal communications with Dr. Ed Croom indicates his contacts with Maclay Gardens (FL) who had good germination with floaters.
        I'm wanting to keep some seeds for planting with our Waynesville sites: (I'm set-up to ground stratify seeds and grow to transplant size) so that we can increase genetic diversity here. I also want to send a good number of seeds to Jack Johnston who has had good germination procedures. I'm thinking 25-50 seeds for Waynesville and same for Jack.

    Access a full report of distribution of 2009 seeds.

    UPDATE: We received notice that of the autumn 2009 seed crop from the Biltmore that we distributed, 4 of the seeds distributed to an arboretum in Switzerland germinated in the spring of 2011. Among those 3 had been "floaters" and 1 was a "sinker."

  • December 20, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / Barlow interview of A. J. Bullard on the history of the Clinton NC Torreyas and their offspring

    In December 2009 Connie interviewed A. J. Bullard on his experience collecting 5,000 seeds in 1995 from 2 Torreya taxifolia in Clinton NC, believed to have been planted around 1850. In 1998 a hurricane killed one of the two, and in 1997 A. J. rescued 75 seedlings that squirrels had planted in nearby hedges and flower beds and a vacant lot that was scheduled to be mowed. Contact Connie Barlow (Connie at TheGreatStory dot org) if you wish to learn where those 75 seedlings may now be found, and A. J.'s experience with squirrel-Torreya symbiosis and his observation of how individual Torreya trees will produce both male and female reproductive structures, thus ensuring fertile seed production even in isolated lone trees (including the Norlina NC champion Torreya and the lone Clinton survivor or reproductive age.

  • December 20, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / Biltmore Gardens donated 2009 T. taxifolia seed harvest to Torreya Guardians

    This week Lee Barnes picked up some 300 seeds of Torreya taxifolia from Forest Historian Bill Alexander at Biltmore Gardens (Asheville NC), which has a grove of such trees that was planted more than 80 years ago. Distribution will happen soon to individuals that have the land, the commitment, the expertise, and the correct geography/climate to participate in assisted migration for this highly endangered conifer tree. Contact Connie Barlow (Connie at TheGreatStory dot org) if you wish to participate.

  • December 17, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / Important paper on the history, science, legality, and regulatory options for assisted migration

    Finally, a scholarly paper has been published that explores the gamut of considerations from an historic and objective standpoint. Titled "Assisted Migration Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act," it is so much more than that. It is the foundational paper for serious students or activists on this topic to begin their education. To find it, go to our annotated list of links on assisted migration on this website and scroll down to the note in red that calls attention to this crucial scholarly work:

  • November 30, 2009 / by Bill Alexander, Forest Historian of Biltmore Gardens NC / 300 T. taxifolia seeds collected at Biltmore Gardens autumn 2009

    "We collected 300 (more or less) seeds from our Torreya trees this fall." [Note: Connie Barlow and Lee Barnes responded in the affirmative that we are interested in distributing those seeds.]

  • November 28, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / Advice on stimulating reproductive activity in conifers

    Connie Barlow received this email advice from Claire Williams: "I work on conifer reproductive biology and have watched your group's effort to save this Torreya with great interest. The failure to reproduce is disturbing. But I have a question: have you tried any methods for stimulating female and male strobili using giberellins and other "stimulation" methods that work well with other conifers? If this holds interest, then Prof. Michael Greenwood at the University of Maine would be a good contact. He is the world's expert on when and how to stimulate strobili on any number of conifers."

  • November 18, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / More T. taxifolia in North Carolina reported
    A 2009 issue of the magazine Wildlife in North Carolina contained an editorial correction by Greg Jenkins titled "More N.C. Torreyas." It reads: "Mount Olive botanist A. J. Bullard called to inform us that some information was missing from our story "Rewilding a Native" by Sidney Cruze in the Aug 2009 issue. When we asked what was missing, Bullard blew our minds by revealing that there is another living Torreya taxifolia tree in North Carolina that is well over a century old. This tree was one of the two that were planted in Clinton in the 1850s, around the same time that it is estimated the state champion tree in Norlina was planted. A storm in the late 1990s knocked down one of the Clinton Torreyas, but the other survives today. Bullard also explained that the researchers had traced the Norlina and Clinton trees to a single source. Pomaria Nurseries, an antebellum outfit near Columbia, SC, sold a tremendous variety of native and exotic fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers during that era. Scientists made the connection because Osage orange trees were planted near both Torreya sites, and Pomaria sold both types of trees. Bullard and his late cousin, Bob Melvin, verified the identity of the Clinton trees in 1995 and collected 5,000 seeds from the trees, which they distributed to botanists across the state for attempted propagation. Seeds were planted at sites from Meredith College in Raleigh to Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. Perhaps the most surprising fact Bullard provided was that, contrary to botany textbooks, Torreya is not dioecious — that is, having male and female reproductive structures on separate plants. Rather, it is monoecious, because both the Norlina and Clinton trees are producing viable seeds with no other Torreya around. Bullard knows this firsthand because he ha two Torreya trees on his own property — both bearing fruit."

  • November 3, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / Torreya californica work in Placerville

    Brian Austin of Placerville CA sent Torreya Guardians this email: "I love your site. I don't really know of anyone around me that is as interested in this tree as I am. I live in Placerville, CA. Our climate is hot and dry during the summer. I have found Torreya only in deep, shady ravines. The trees are small, and seeds are apparently rare. I collected 6 seeds a couple of years ago (a fraction of what the trees produced that year). Four of them germinated this spring. I now have four seedlings that are perhaps 6" tall. They live in a shady spot where my ferns are happy. Whenever possible I educate others about this special tree. I admire the work that you all are doing. Species like Torreya are gems of the forest. Many of these gems are rare now in Placerville due to misuse of the forests, and sprawling development. Keep up the good work and I will do the same."

    Connie Barlow responded: "It is great to hear that you are caring for California Torreya in your local area. You might go to the Plant Guardians website, start a Torreya californica group, and see who shows up. I sponsored having the site created last year, but had to make is pretty much self-serve, as takes up as much of my volunteer time as I have. Here is the link:

  • October 16, 2009 / by Jack Johnston / No germination from (under-ripe) seeds collected at Smithgall Woods Torreyas autumn 2009

    Final report is that no Torreya taxifolia seedlings germinated for 2009. I lost one of last year's small seedlings (from 2008 seed harvest) to voles. All other seedlings (from 2008 harvest) are prospering.

  • August 24, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / New companion website:

    I have instigated a companion website: that, unlike, should be largely self-running. Its purpose is to enable networking and rudimentary communications among citizen activists who want to discuss the needs and possible actions in behalf of other imperiled plant species or geographically unique populations.

  • August 10, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / August 2009 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine has article on Torreya Rewilding

    An article by Sidney Cruze reports on the assisted migration issue in the context of the actual plantings of "Florida" Torreya that Torreya Guardians did in North Carolina (Waynesville area) exactly one year ago. Access the full article in pdf, "Rewilding a Native."

  • June 23, 2009 / by Lee Barnes / All Torreya seedlings on Waynesville No. 2 site doing well; photodocumentation of the 3 losses at Waynesville No. 1 site.

    I finally got up to the Evans property site to check on the 21 Torreya taxifolia seedlings we planted there July 2008. All look great, including the "runt" of the original transplants. I'm enclosing some photos of the Torreyas there, including the seedling named Celia, who just missed getting hit by a fallen branch. In general, the plants at this location were with 2+ inches of new growth, a bit less than growth at Lake Junaluska (site number 1 of the 2008 Waynesville seedling plantings), presumably due to higher elevation and slightly later bud-break.
         I've attached photos of the 3 Torreya seedlings (of the 10 planted at the Lake Junaluska site) that died during their first winter: Chauncey, Asa, and Croom. These three were all at the lower end of the Corneille Bryan Native Garden. If you look closely at the photos, you can see gnaw marks by relatively small paired teeth, which confirms my belief that this was vole damage. I carried hardware "cloth" wire to Janet to make wire cylinders to protect the remainder of plants at the Gardens and will run by and get pictures of the barriers. Editor's note: Click to access the photos and ongoing status report tree by tree: Chauncey Beadle Tree, Asa Gray Tree, Hardy Croom Tree, Celia Hunter Tree

  • June 10, 2009 / by Lee Barnes / Three of ten rewilded seedlings at Lake Junaluska lost to voles during winter.

    I'm sad to report that we have lost a total of 3 of the ten Torreya seedlings at Lake Junaluska [planted as seedlings July 31, 2008]. The loss appears to be from voles eating the bark. I'll send some photos when I get a chance. We are placing short wire-cages of 1/2 inch hardware cloth/rabbit wire around the remaining plants there. I'll try to get up to the Evans property set of trees in the next few days to report and get some photos. The remaining plants at Lake Junaluska have flushed out with 3-4 inches of new growth. The plants in the sunny area are doing the best, or at least seem to have the thicker foliage.

  • April 24, 2009 / by Lee Barnes / Why moving Torreya is the best way to save it.

    Editor's note: Torreya Guardian Lee Barnes recently responded to a journalist's email inquiry this way: To answer your question, "Why moving Torreya is the best way to save it?", I wish that we could reestablish Torreya back into its historical range (Appalachicola watershed drainage, FL-GA) but that may not be possible due to the human influence by introducing Phytophora root rot into the southern US along with the extensive cultivation of cotton along the Gulf States. There appears to currently be little to no natural seed reproduction in that area. Drought cycles may be becoming more extreme with global climate change.
       We proposed a logical solution that plantings within the deep time range shown in fossil pollen records (including WNC and over the entire northern hemisphere) are needed to produce additional seeds and evaluate new areas for establishment. Establishing seed producing populations of Torreya in diverse areas should act as a buffer to total loss due to unpredictable climate change. Many rare and useful plant species now only exist outside of their historical range (Franklinia, Metasequoia, Ginkgo, and many others) due to human concern for the survival of an individual species. We truly need to focus on protecting entire plant and animal communities, but when that is not possible due to habitat loss, we need to focus on short-term propagation and protection just to keep the species alive.

  • April 23, 2009 / by Jack Johnston / Report on T. taxifolia seeds planted fall 2008.

    Torreya taxifolia [planted as seedlings] are expanding buds here [mountains of NE Georgia]; all seedlings planted in the ground survived the winter. I added lime before heavy April rains, and that may have helped them. I have been told that the seeds I have in the ground were picked much too green, so it remains to be seen if any come up from last fall's harvest. I have three screened seed flats and have had a vole in one of them so am concerned. The vole came up from underneath. I'll try to drop a note to let you know when germination occurs if it happens in spring. Last year nothing germinated until summer.

  • March 25, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / Michelle Nijuis' article "Taking Wildness in Hand" (on Torreya taxifolia assisted migration controversy) has been selected for the 2009 edition of Best American Science and Nature Writing.

    The anthology will be published next fall by Houghton-Mifflin. The guest editor, New Yorker environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert, selected Michelle Nijhuis' story published in the May/June issue of Orion magazine, called "To Take Wildness in Hand," which describes the promise and perils of "assisted migration" of species, with Torreya taxifolia being the species focus. Congratulations Michelle! (The article can be accessed in full online at

  • January 3, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / Report of T. taxifolia seedlings planted in Highlands August 2008

    I have just posted on this website a new webpage in which Russell Regnery reports on planting 10 Torreya taxifolia seedlings on his property near Highlands, NC in August 2008. Click here.

  • December 5, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Professional Responses to my query about keeping 2 Torreya species physically separate

    I recently received a query from a plant nursery owner in Oregon who wanted to participate in our program of propagating the eastern species of genus Torreya, the highly endangered Torreya taxifolia. I responded:

    "Thank you for your interest in helping this endangered species. Torreya Guardians has received one other offer of private lands for growing Torreya taxifolia along the Pacific (that was in California) and, while we appreciate the offers to help, we are careful to work with landowners only east of the Mississippi or on a separate continent. The reason is that Torreya californica is the Torreya species on your side of the continent, and we don't want to encourage any mixing of pollen types. Its northernmost outpost in the Coast Range is not far from the Oregon border, so in the decades and centuries ahead, California torreya may be looking up in your direction."

    I then sent off an email query to the professionals who have published or managed on the assisted migration controversy, and asked whether this was an important policy guideline for us Guardians to follow. All three concurred with my response:

    MARK SCHWARTZ: "Connie, You are not being paranoid about pollen mixing. It would be VERY BAD to mix pollen. This is what caused the de-listing of the Dusky Seaside Sparrow: the pure genotype was lost (owing to intentional cross-breeding because of there being 6 males and 0 females). Nonetheless, if a listed species is hybridized out of existence, then the species will be delisted. That is not good. We KNOW that some nurseries are not as careful as they should be. We have no idea what interested collectors do. This is why I think it is very dangerous to advocate volunteer citizen groups to take on the task of translocating species for conservation and why I am opposed to what Torreya Guardians does. I think that, despite good intentions, these efforts can result in more harm than good. I am not so worried about Torreya Guardians, per se. But the promulgation of these efforts to other species can have disastrous effects on biodiversity. Please be very careful about who you suggest what to in this regard. I, for one, do not want free-wheeling interest groups for all 5000 rare taxa in the US." [coauthor of April 2007 paper on assisted migration, journal Conservation Biology and specialist on Torreya taxifolia]

    CHRIS THOMAS: "Dear Connie, Whilst I do not know anything specific about the Torreya species, I think that your initial response is appropriate. One of the key questions in Hoegh-Guldberg et al. 2008 Science paper is "Do benefits of translocation outweigh the biological and socioeconomic costs and constraints?" When translocation would increase the potential for future (given future climate change range shifts) genetic introgression and competition between related species, and translocation would involve movement between biogeographic regions (E and W USA count as separate in this case), the answer will in almost all cases be no. Given that there are other opportunities in the East, the answer to this question should be no with respect to transfer to the western USA." [(coauthor of the July 2008 Forum on assisted colonization, journal Science]

    VIVIAN NEGRON-ORTIZ: "I appreciate the conservation efforts in the recovery of T. taxifolia. However, interspecific hybridization should be avoided between these two species (or other species in the genus); their genetic integrity should be maintained. I don't recommend translocating T. taxifolia to the West; the native range of T. californica should be completely avoided. If T. taxifolia 'migrates' due to climate change it should be toward the East. Also, species introduced into non-native areas may disrupt 'native' species assemblages that are already impacted by environmental change. Preferable, a careful reintroduction scheme should be followed." [Botanist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Panama City FL]

  • November 20, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Autumn Progress Report on Waynesville-2 Rewilding of Torreya seedlings
    In mid-November 2008, Lee Barnes and I visited the site where we had planted in July the second group of Torreya taxifolia seedlings. the only ones that looked stressed were the three planted in the driest hottest part of the south-facing mountain slope (3,400 feet). The others looked great. On our Nov 13 visit, the oaks still had their leaves, but by Nov 18, almost all the oak leaves were down. That meant that the Torreyas now had full sun for photosynthesis. Because the forest closed canopy here is entirely deciduous, we envision that the Torreyas will thrive here by photosynthesizing mostly in spring and fall. Meanwhile, during the hottest and driest part of the summer, they will be protected by shade.

    I also just finished adding a separate web page for each individual tree planted (a total of 31 new webpages). All the photos (including grid photos Lee Barnes took of each in August) that pertain to that tree, and all reports of progress or setbacks, will henceforth be posted on those individual pages. Those individual pages are easily accessed from the Corneille Bryan Native Garden main page and the Evans Property main page.

  • November 7, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / Torreya seeds at Smithgall Woods, GA site
    Just a word on the Torreya at Smithgall--held seeds until I picked the final ones Nov. 5. I think they survived because squirrels are scarce this year. A broken branch with a point of attachment was cut away from the parent bush (female) and cuttings from it were stuck. We'll see if they take. The age of the cuttings is such that if they root the plants should flower in a few years.

  • October 23, 2008 / by Brian Keel / Posting of chapters from my "Assisted Migration" PhD thesis
    I have noticed the term assisted colonization showing up in several sources. I feel that assisted colonization and assisted migration are two similar but separate concepts. The attached document is part of chapter one of my dissertation that may help clarify the difference. [Editor's Note: Click for "Defining Migration" chapter or "Assisted Migration" chapter].

  • October 22, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Assisted Migration Public Talks I've Given this Month in Wisconsin
    In the past 4 years I have on several occasions presented a digital slide program on the need for assisted migration of Torreya taxifolia. This month marks the first opportunities I have had to present illustrated talks on our actual assisted migration action this past July. The first one was at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, north of Milwaukee WI. About 25 staff from 2 nature centers attended, mostly staff who teach visiting school classes. The second opportunity happened earlier this week, when I presented this program to 30 college students at Edgewood College in Madision WI, at a required "Intro to Natural Science" course.

  • October 22, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / 2008 Smithgall Woods seeds planted in my outdoor seed bed
    Finished planting [2008 Smithgall Woods] Torreya seeds just before dark today. The seeds are somewhat smaller than 2007 seeds. I suspect the drought was the problem. We need to communicate about germination next summer. I am using my old seedbeds to save time, so they are packed with seeds. If there is good germination next summer it will be from 2007 seeds. Some of the seeds aborted before maturity this year [on the Torreya taxifolia trees at Smithgall woods]. They probably fell off due to drought.

  • October 17, 2008 / by Bill Alexander, Landscape and Forest Historian, Biltmore Gardens, Asheville NC / No Seed Production from T. taxifolia at Biltmore in 2008
    There will not be any available seed from the Torreyas this year. Any seed formed were either aborted due to the drought or squirrels got to them before we could. Some of the trees are looking very weak and experiencing some dieback and loss of limbs. I hope it is a temporary condition, but they seem a little weaker each year. I am working with our arborist to see if we can do something to help them. He also reported finding no seed on the trees when he checked a month or so ago. That may have been a good thing for the trees in that they needed to reserve their energy in order to survive the drought. I have seen years in the past with few or no seeds followed by a bumper crop the next season. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a good 2009 season!

  • October 16, 2008 / by Didier, Arboretum de Villardebelle, France / 2005 Biltmore seeds germinated and doing well in our arboretum
    You can follow the development of the seedlings at the usual site: Any new germination will appear on it, too. This year the seedlings from 2005 Biltmore seed showed an amazing growth: they resumed growth 3 times, while T. californica is growing once and stops.

  • October 16, 2008 / by Robin Jamie, USA / 2007 Biltmore seeds not yet germinated
    I received 10 seeds in the most recent distribution. Unfortunately, I have had no germinations, but I will keep them for another winter and see if I get anything in Spring 2009. I remember the website mentioning that best germination results were achieved when the seeds had been exposed to fluctuating cold and warm temperatures. By the time they arrived to me, Spring had pretty much started and there was not too much temperature fluctuation, so maybe that was the problem. Do you happen to know of any examples of seeds germinating after two years when they have not germinated in the first year? [Editor's note: Scroll down to the June 14, 2007 comment below, to learn of 2005 Biltmore seeds beginning to sprout in June 2007!]

  • October 12, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / 21 seedlings sprouted from 2007 Smithgall Woods seeds planted in my yard
    Today (Oct. 12) 21 Torreya taxifolia were planted in my yard [hills of northernmost Georgia] in a location that will provide sun. The seedlings are in red clay soil which has been amended with lime. Germination was in mid summer and the seedlings averaged about 5 inches tall. Two seedlings died (root rot suspected) in the germination bed. All 21 seedlings were from seeds harvested in late Sept. 2007 [from trees at Smithgall Woods, NE Georgia, with manager's permission]. The first group was planted immediately last fall without removal of seed coats. The second group was allowed to stay in a warm basement until the seed coats softened. The seed coats were removed and the seeds were washed in soapy water and rinsed. In the two beds there was somewhat better germination when the seed coats had been removed. The harvest date of late Sept. was chosen to get seeds before squirrels. Ideally it would have been better to wait until an October harvest date [for fully ripe seeds].
        Torreya taxifolia [purchased from Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken SC] and planted at 5 years of age and now in the ground two years withstood 22 days without rainfall and water this summer. Following a rain event of 5 inches, three of seven plants showed a few twigs with brown needles. I suspect lack of lime due to leaching by rainwater.

    Smithgall Woods 2007 seed harvest sprouting
    in northern Georgia (home of Jack Johnston).
    Torreya sprouts. (Mesh deters squirrels from seeds.)

  • September 26, 2008 / by Lee Barnes / Treefall at Waynesville rewilding site
    I went up to check the Torreya Wednesday and all look well. I've photographed them and will sort and distribute those photos in the next few days. We have received enough rainfall the last two weeks that I have not had to water the plants for three weeks. I'll continue to monitor the plants and look forward to showing them to Sara. There was a large tree that fell beside one plant, but no damage. The tree was sawed and I counted 110-120 tree rings in a middle section. One can see the growth release (wider growth rings for about 5-10 years) when the chestnut trees died about 70-80 years ago.

  • September 3, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Genetic heritage of the seedlings rewilded in August 2008
    Seedlings No. 1 through 30 were purchased from Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken, South Carolina. The nursery owners wrote, "I believe all of the Torreya we have propagated and distributed in recent years (including the ones you refer to) were seedlings from plants here in Aiken. Years ago on a nearby estate we planted two female trees and a male. The females were cutting-grown from the famous old Torreya in Norlina, NC and the male was cutting grown from a specimen at the Henry Foundation in Gladwynne, PA."

    Seedling No. 31, "Celia," was donated by Atlanta Botanical Garden. It grew from one of many seeds produced by the Garden's "potted orchard," which was grown from branchlets harvested in 1991 from living original, wild trees in the Apalachicola pocket reserve. The branchlets were cloned, so this particular seedling represents the first generation of captive produced seeds from the original wild genotypes.

  • September 3, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Assisted Migration and Torreya Guardians reported in online edition of Nature journal

    "Moving on Assisted Migration" news report by Emma Marris, Nature, online 28 August 2008. One of the top journals in science reports on the special session on assisted migration at the Ecological Society of America meeting in August 2008. Torreya Guardians is presented as taking the action lead in pressing for a rethinking of how biodiversity is best protected.

  • September 2, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Review of Hazel Delcourt's Forests in Peril posted on

    My 5-star book review begins, "Forests in Peril is the book that launched our citizen naturalists group on the internet: Torreya Guardians. In reading Hazel's book (2002), I was struck by how important the "pocket reserves" were to the preservation of rich forest species during the peak of the last glacial episode some 18,000 years ago (as well as all the previous glacial episodes). One of those pocket reserves runs along the edge of the Apalachicola River in the Florida Panhandle. And it is here that the most endangered conifer tree in the world, Torreya taxifolia, is gravely imperiled."
        I strongly encourage those involved in the assisted migration controversy to read this book, in order to gain an essential deep-time perspective.

  • August 3, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / 31 Seedlings of T. taxifolia REWILDED IN NORTH CAROLINA!
    Wow! On July 30, Torreya Guardians undertook the first truly "assisted migration" of the highly endangered conifer, Torreya taxifolia. We planted 31 potted seedlings on two forested sites near Waynesville, North Carolina. This "rewilding" effort was documented by a writer and a photographer commmissioned by Audubon magazine. The article will probably appear in the March 2009 issue. Meanwhile, sample our journey via:




  • Lots was happening leading up to that historic event. You can gain a sense of the preparation by viewing the CHRONOLOGY of events leading up to the rewilding action.

  • July 19, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Assisted Migration/Colonization advocated in Science journal

    POLICY FORUM: ECOLOGY: "Assisted Colonization and Rapid Climate Change" by O. Hoegh-Guldberg, L. Hughes, S. McIntyre, D. B. Lindenmayer, C. Parmesan, H. P. Possingham, and C. D. Thomas, in Science 18 July 2008: 345-346. Because this influential paper uses the term assisted colonization, rather than assisted migration Connie Barlow has added a webpage to seek comments on pros and cons of the two competing terms: "Assisted Migration or Assisted Colonization: What's in a Name?"

  • July 2, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / Picked up 30 seedlings of T. taxifolia from Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken SC
    I am just returned from Woodlander's Nursery and have 30 Torreya taxifolia in one gallon pots in my yard. The round trip was 406 miles. It took a lot of time, but I had a nice visit with Bob McCartney. He had additional plants if anyone wants more. I would guess he had about 10 that were a touch scruffy from this seed lot, then about 10 more that looked great but were younger, and a big pot of seedlings that represents another 15 plants maybe.
         He took me to see his seed plants which are on a private estate. There are 3 cutting grown plants, one male and 2 females. One of the females was smashed by a falling oak limb and has not recovered. The two females are only about 3 feet tall and sprawl since they are cutting grown. The male is twice that size. It is so dry that the one female with seeds is aborting most of them. Since Bob has no way to water it, there may not be seeds this year, or certainly only a few.
         I'll share a bit of info regarding setting out the plants. I have found it best to get rid of all the material in the pot and try to get the roots in contact with dirt. Once the plant is in the ground it is difficult to water through the bark mix used for growing. I lost a plant last summer even though I was watering. When I pulled it up to examine the roots it was readily apparent that the water was not penetrating well, and that the plant had died from lack of water.
        Also, I am concerned about these 30 plants being planted in the shade. It is probably easier for the plants to survive the dry weather with shade, but I know they will not prosper unless light reaches the crowns. I have ample evidence of how important light is due to observations of Stewartia ovata that I grow. The plants put out leaves and grow a little in the shade, but given sun they grow fast. I think it is the same with Torreya.
        It is interesting to compare the seedlings I brought back today with the ones I have had in the ground for two years. The ones in the ground are not much taller, but they have a larger stem diameter. I asked Bob how long he thought it might take for seedlings to flower. He seemed to think about 10 years. However, the seedlings are already 3 years old, and given good conditions maybe less than 10 years?

  • August 17, 2008 / by Russell Regnery / 10 more T. taxifolia planted SW of Waynesville NC
    Dear Connie,
    I planted 10 of the Woodlanders' Torreya within a week or so after I helped with the Waynesville plantings. In general, all that Woodlanders had left were smaller plants (a season younger?) than what we planted as a group, so it will be hard to compare the fate of the two groups, at least for the first couple of seasons. I used approximately a cup of hydrated lime per planting. Until we had rains from the tropical storm Faye, I was watering my 10 plants every couple of days. But now at least there is considerably more naturally occurring moisture in the ground and I have cut back on the hand watering. These 10 are either along a forest edge or grouped further out into the sun of an old pasture/meadow. It will be interesting to see which do better.
         All ten are showing at least some new growth, some more than others but it is too early to make any generalizations re edge vs open. All ten have wire 'cages' to help me identify where they are and to keep the occasional animal from running over the seedlings. I clothes-pinned rectangles of fiberglass window screening to the southwest quadrant of the cages to moderate the late afternoon sun until they harden off. I'm glad you have a little more info on the origin of the Woodlanders parent plants; something I was missing. Keeping my fingers crossed for the future!

    Editor's Note: Russell will be sending more information and photos of the site and plantings, so that we can put up a webpage dedicated to following events at this additional new site for assisted migration.

  • August 7, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / Squirrels fully harvest seeds at Smithgall Woods
    Note: Connie Barlow had asked Jack if he plans to harvest T. taxifolia seeds at Smithgall Woods (NE Georgia) this autumn, just as he did in 2007 (after having received permission to do so). His response:

    Squirrel pressure at Smithgall is tremendous. They will take every seed. I'll try to harvest seeds, of course, but it is hit or miss as to how many and how ripe they may be. I must harvest early due to squirrels.

  • August 7, 2008 / by Janet Manning / Bryan Native Garden Torreya seedlings doing fine!
    The seedlings look great, and I had fun checking out all their names. I watered them Monday [August 4], and will keep watch. [Janet Manning is director of horticulture at Corneille Bryan Native Garden.]

  • August 5, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / Four more Torreya seedlings to be rewilded
    Hi Connie: Now that you have visited my home [in NE Georgia] you can imagine seeing me carry water up the hill to the Torreya plants and to the new seedlings coming up. Still no rain. I looked at the photos on the website [of the July 30 action in North Carolina] and realized that anyone seeing it would sense a spirit of playful purpose in doing what we did. Nice touch.
        I go to see Russell Regnery at his home [in North Carolina] on Thurs. He was able to purchase a few Torreya at Woodlander's Nursery. 4 I think. I left a note for Bob McCartney to send me some too, knowing they would be smaller than the ones we planted. I do not know how many. I hope to get them to Jeff Zahner [in Highlands, NC]. I'll have enough from the seedlings that are coming up. I pick up the plants on Thurs. Maybe Bob had a half dozen.

  • August 5, 2008 / by Lee Barnes / The Waynesville migrated seedlings look great!
    I was just at [the site of the 3400 foot] property this morning and the Torreya seedlings look great (!) despite only scattered rain this last week. None were wilted nor showed any signs of shock. I watered each plant with about 3/4 gallon of water and will water them once a week if we do not get regular rain. I'll try to get by Corneille Bryan Gardens tomorrow to check with Janet [Manning] and folks about those seedlings. I now have a white measuring stick and intend to photograph each plant to document its initial height, double check labeling and confirm the names Connie has detailed and do mapping. We should probably want to document height growth each year.
        Thanks for everyone's help.

  • June 12, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Rewilding of 31 T. taxifolia to NC July 30 2008!
    Torreya Guardians will be planting 31 potted seedlings on two privately owned forested habitats near Waynesville North Carolina. July 30 is the date set so that Torreya Guardians Connie Barlow, Lee Barnes, and Jack Johnston, as well as a reporter and photographer sent by Audubon Magazine, will all be able to converge at the sites. For more information, contact: Connie Barlow.

  • June 10, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians featured in May/June 2008 issue of Orion Magazine
    Orion Magazine now has available online a long article that poignantly highlights the controversy over assisted migration of plants in a time of climate change, and Torreya Guardians are the featured group in this effort. Click here for "Taking Wildness in Hand: Rescuing Species", by Michelle Nijhuis. (You can also post a comment there online.)
  • 03/05/08 / by Lee Barnes and Connie Barlow / Distribution of Fall 2007 seeds donated by Biltmore Gardens

    Subject: 2008 Torreya Guardians Seed Distribution

    Dear Torreya Guardians,
        We are pleased to again offer packets of Torreya taxifolia (Florida Stinking Cedar) seed from the 2007 seed harvest at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. We thank Bill Alexander and his staff for collecting and sharing seeds for this grassroots distribution project. We are releasing 20 packets, each with 5 male and 5 female seeds to allow for better pollination. We are first offering seeds to the 2006 Distribution volunteers since most of them experienced low germination rates from refrigerator stored seeds. Seeds are currently being stored under natural temperatures but should be requested as soon as possible due to my recovery from hip surgery in mid-March.
        Thanks to Connie Barlow for her detailed notes taken during her site visit in December 2007 to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Ron Determann's generous sharing of their highly successful germination procedures is available from our website Connie also has provided additional photographs and additional information on rooting cuttings, as well as, more info on site selection, shading and need for periodic liming. I will provide copies of this information with each mailing.
        Key to successful germination is cold stratification to duplicate nature's cycles in ground beds that get the full range of daily temperature cycles (freeze/thaw) vs. constant 40-45 degree F. temperature storage in a refrigerator. The seeds to be distributed have only been partially stratified so you will need to plant them in protected beds where they receive natural temperatures for a month or two. Simple wire screening is recommended to protect from squirrels.
        Please email your requests to me and provide complete shipping information. Connie and I are donating all mailing and packing costs and ask that you occasionally report germination status, and plant growth, fruiting, and seed production. Volunteers need to be committed for 10-15 years before good seed production is expected and be willing to further distribute seeds.
        Thank you for your interest in preserving our national botanical treasure Torreya.
        Happy Trails, Lee

    PS from Connie:
        1. This summer, Orion Magazine will be publishing a feature article on Torreya Guardians work in a time of climate change.
        2. Watch the
    rewilding page too, especially the July 2007 post I made there about Atlanta Botanical Gardens looking for INSTITUTIONS to send seeds and seedlings to. They've got a huge inventory. Unlike Torreya Guardians, they cannot send seeds to individuals, but nature centers and botanical gardens should contact Ron Determann at Atlanta Botanical Garden directly to participate.

  • 01/17/08 / by Sylvain Meier / Swiss Arboretum experience with genus Torreya
    I'm Sylvain Meier, a freelance forest engineer from Switzerland involved mostly as a volunteer in the development of the dendrological collections of the Swiss National Arboretum. I'm also in charge of rebuilding a Forest Model of the Pacific Northwest (2.5 ha). It includes a few California Nutmegs! We have a collection of different Torreya species including Torreya taxifolia. Unfortunately those trees come mainly from nurseries and don't really have the value such a collection should have. Checking the plants two years ago I noticed plenty of nuts under the supposed Torreya taxifolia. I realized that it is certainly not a Torreya taxifolia as nuts are much more like those of Torreya nucifera from Japan and Korea. Seeds are long and in no case a little bit rounded.
        To improve the value of our collection and test the right species under our relatively mild climate we would very much appreciate a few seeds or cuttings. Is it possible? California nutmeg is growing very well in Switzerland (it exist in parks in the lowland). In Geneva they regularly produce sound seeds. Japanese nutmeg is more seldom but apparently quite hardy too. I have been to Japan last spring and have seen very often the Torreya nucifera var radicans that is growing in snowy areas of the west side of Honshu. I'm not really sure Torreya taxifolia is actually growing in Switzerland...
    Thanks again for your promising work.
    Sylvain Meier
    c/o Arboretum National du Vallon de l'Aubonne
  • 12/18/07 / by Connie Barlow / Advice on Propagating T. taxifolia from seeds or cuttings

    In early December 2007, I visited Ron Determann and David Ruland at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and toured their Torreya taxifolia propagation facilities. Most impressive! I have added to this website a catalog of advice for propagating this endangered tree from seeds and from branch cuttings, and have embellished the page with lots of photographs.

  • 11/1/07 / by Connie Barlow / Papers Debating Assisted Migration

    I have posted a new page and I keep updating it to keep track of the "assisted migration" debate that heated up January 2007, with the lead story of the January issue of Conservation magazine. It was a prelude to the April 2007 publication in Conservation Biology of "A Framework for Debate of Assisted Migration in an Era of Climate Change" by Jason S. McLachlan, Jessica J. Hellman, and Mark W. Schwartz, Conservation Biology, April 2007, Vol 21: 297-302. Torreya Guardians was prominently featured in both pieces. To keep up on this debate, visit the assisted migration compendium of papers page on this website.

  • 7/30/07 / dialogue bt anon and Lee Barnes / Legend of the Biggest T. taxifolia Tree in Norlina NC

    Anon asks: The Norlina site is in Granville County, near the Virginia line. I spent a whole day there, and scoured the town in search of a Torreya taxifolia. I even contacted the Agricultural Extension agent, and he knows of no such tree in or around Norlina. I would like to think the legend is true, but I tend to think that if there were once a T. taxifolia, it has either been forgotten or removed by newer homeowners.

       Lee Barnes answers: I've been to the Norlina Torreyas in mid-1980s. [Photo to left was taken by Lee of the Norlina tree at that time.] There was a very large torreya (notably a Champion so must be other records on girth/height/etc.) and many smaller trees that appeared to have been transplanted/moved around the landscape. Bill Alexander at Biltmore Gardens knows of the tree; his wife was a roommate with a woman who was "related" to the tree, possibly a daughter of the landowner. He can give you more info. As I remember, the tree was given to a NC Senator, but I cannot remember details of over twenty years ago! I remember the tree had numerous basal sprouts(many dozens in a clump) that would make good cutting material. I recommend dormant cuttings after a few hard frosts in the fall. Good luck on the hunt for cuttings... Happy Trails, Lee

  • 7/27/07 / by Connie Barlow / Seeds and seedlings from Atlanta Botanical Garden are available to institutions!

    This month I received inquiries from 2 print journalists and 1 radio journalist who wanted to learn more about our efforts to rewild Torreya taxifolia. It seems that with the new interest in assisted migration in a time of global warming, journalists are looking for some actual instances of people actually intentionally doing it, in behalf of a species. Well, we are the closest it comes — and yet we aren't quite doing it yet either. With the little seed stock of this highly endangered plant that we have access to, we are still at the stage of passing seed on to individuals and institutions who commit to nurturing groves of this species. Not until those groves start producing seed themselves will we have enough seeds to gamble on planting some in wild forested landscapes on private lands, where they can grow (or not grow) as circumstances allow, and so that squirrels can become natural dispersers of the 3rd generation seeds, rather than us.
         Besides the Biltmore Gardens, where squirrels have, for decades, been engaged in planting seeds on their own, I wasn't aware of any place where rewilding was somewhat occurring — with the possible exception of Smithgall Conservation Area in the southernmost Appalachians of northern Georgia. So I called Ron Determann at Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is superbly successful at producing T. taxifolia seeds from their "potted orchard" of trees cloned some 15 years ago from remaining vegetative tissue from struggling plants in the Apalachicola "native" range. Here is what Ron (who has been working with T. taxifolia since 1989) told me:
         First, the Smithgall plantings are not rewilding, because they are planted as a grove and tended in a botanical garden setting there. Technically, rewilding won't happen until the species is returned to wild or semi-wild forest settings and starts distributing from there on its own (via squirrels). Atlanta Botanical Garden actually has an excess of torreya seedlings they would love to provide reputable institutions (at cost of shipping and handling) for safeguarding in a variety of climate settings where they will grow — as a safeguard against species extinction if problems persist in the "native" range, especially because, as with the Apalachicola, "the climate in Atlanta isn't that great for Torreya either." They also have surplus seeds from "indeterminate females", and these they are especially willing to give away. Unlike Torreya Guardians, they are not open to sending seed to individuals in private land settings. But we Torreya Guardians can spread the word among enthusiasts to try to recruit local botanical gardens or nature centers to volunteer to take seedlings, and then we ourselves can volunteer at those centers to nurture those plants.
         Also important, Ron told me that Atlanta Botanical Garden has almost 100% success with germination of seed they produce there. Here is how they do it.

    TIPS FOR GERMINATING SEED: Remove the flesh around the seed and immediately plant each seed outdoors about 1 inch deep in well-drained soil, covered with compost. He says the normal shifts in temperature during the winter in Atlanta and points north are important for stratifying them and breaking dormancy, and that a refrigerator is not cold and variable enough. Pots outdoors would get the seed too cold in harsh climates, so in the ground (or in slightly raised beds) is best. They use "welded wire" beneath the planting and above to keep rodents away from the seeds. So this means that if we ever get access to more seeds, we need to distribute them right away for fall plantings in outdoor conditions. At Atlanta Botanical Garden, they germinate the seed under oaks, with the natural fungi in the soil. His experience suggests that it is best to remove the fresh seedlings from the germination beds pretty much as soon as you see them, and get them planted where you want them, and you will have better trees.

    The Atlanta Botanical Garden reports the same thing that the Biltmore reports: squirrels are quite capable of dispersing the seed from planted orchards outward into whatever settings (beds or natural) are within range. Atlanta attempts to deny squirrels access to their outdoor potted groves of Torreya trees used for seed production, and because they use welded wire in their germination beds, they are stopping the squirrels there too. But the squirrels always manage to walk away with some, and some that the squirrels plant are not subsequently dug up and eaten: and they germinate on their own.
         Some final assessments: Ron's experience leads him to think that if seeds are taken north "those plants will adapt". From my conversation with him, I sense that the distinction we Torreya Guardians have always made — that our goal is not to assist Torreya in rewilding on public lands, but only on private lands — is a very important message to broadcast. Also, I sense that there is far more receptivity to ensuring that even on private lands, the tree is being moved into non-pristine settings. That is, the ecology has already been disrupted on lands now nurtured toward recovery, and Torreya can thus be ethically introduced there to see how it does on its own.
         Two other tips I picked up from Ron Determann: (1) Atlanta Botanical Garden donated some seeds to Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, NC. A Torreya Guardian needs to check up on those plantings and see if seeds can be nurtured from that grove! (2) Someplace near Asheville, actually in Nolina NC, is producing seeds. It would be great if a Torreya Guardian can recontact Ron and track down who and what the situation is, for possible access to seeds.

  • 7/19/07 / by Connie Barlow / journalist interest in Torreya taxifolia as poster plant for global warming and assisted migration

    Over the past week or so, I have received queries from two print journalists and one public radio journalist who wanted to converse about possibilities about their doing major stories on how global warming is already endangering a plant species and how assisted migration is being pursued as a result. This all got started because of a journal article by Mark Schwartz et al. on the topic of assisted migration, published in the spring issue of Conservation Biology, which prompted a preceding popular article on the subject by Douglas Fox in the sibling magazine, Conservation (cover story of January 2007 issue). Douglas chose Torreya as the lead character in that story.
        The New York Times and other news agencies rapidly picked up the story, so I posted and periodically update a new page on this website, assisted migration. If you google "assisted migration" the proposed standards page on this website consistently comes up at or near the top, so journalists have found their way to me.
        If and when any of this second round of stories come to fruition, I will post them on that webpage and also note the event on this comments page. Meanwhile, know that I am recommending for the journalists to directly contact the on-the-ground players in this, both among us Torreya Guardians, and those in the institutional settings.
        Together for Torreya, Connie

  • 7/9/07 / dialogue bt Lee Barnes and Jack Johnston / rooting T. taxifolia cuttings

    Q: Hi Lee,
        I'm asking for feedback. Some Torreya cuttings stuck last Oct. are still green and may be struggling to root. I keep them under shade cloth to reduce the stress. If they root, would you expect them to grow any this year? I basically stuck the cuttings in pots, no mist, no cover, just shade. Did use rooting hormone. Jack

    A: Jack,
        I've been most successful rooting cuttings in the fall after hard frosts have put the buds into dormancy. Cuttings taken at other times tend to flush new growth prior to rooting. So do you have any roots? or callus/excessive callus at the bottom end of the cuttings? I would have expected rooting within a few months. What strength rooting hormone did you use? Also, evergreen cuttings often benefit from scoring the bottom sides of the cutting. I generally used a sharp knife to lightly scape bark off the cutting along two sides of the bottom inch of the cutting. Larger diameter cuttings 1/8 to 1/4 inch diameter worked better than smaller diameter cuttings. The root system of cuttings tend to be thick, unbranched and brittle. I hope this helps. It's been about 20 years since I've done Torreya cuttings. I never had trouble rooting but I had access to a mist system. It is important to root cuttings with upright growth. Lateral branches will root but plageotrophic growth and only grow as a groundcover. Happy Trails, Lee

    NOTE by Connie Barlow:
        Lee's point about taking cutting stock from upright growth reminds me of how much I have benefited from this knowledge when viewing ginkgo trees along streets and sidewalks. Because the fruit of the female trees has such a repugnant smell when fallen, our society puts a premium on ensuring that only male trees show up in public places, and they do that by rooting cuttings from demonstrably male trees. But if lateral cuttings are used, the "tree" still believes it is a branch and thus grows strangely. I have read that this problem can be solved by letting the "tree" grow enough to establish a good root and then cutting it back, so that the suppressed buds at the base sprout a whole new stem, and this time the stem knows it is supposed to make a whole tree.

  • 6/14/07 / by Jeff Morris / another germination from 2005 T. taxifolia seeds

    "Last Sunday, I noticed my first seedling sprout from one of the seeds. I am going on vacation, after which I will take photos, and hopefully have a couple more to photograph."

  • 6/12/07 / by Jack Johnston / T. taxifolia seedlings available at S. Carolina nursery

    "Woodlander's Nursery at Aiken SC has Torreya taxifolia for sale. The nursery is not willing to ship the plants across the state line since they are endangered, nor can one casually visit the nursery and buy them. An order must be placed in advance and a pickup appointment made. Availability can be determined by calling the nursery. The price is less than $20 per plant. The plants are a few years old. The several I have planted are growing but did shed some leaves in the drought.
        Here are web links, first to the Woodlands home page and then the Torreya page:

  • 3/12/07 / by Kara Ferris of Decatur GA / "I have three T.taxifolia on my property"

    "I have three T. taxifolia on my property: two large trees and one medium tree with a clump of small trees and sprouts (maybe seedlings?) around it. They produce a lot of cones, but I haven't seen mature ones. I haven't really looked that hard, though. Maybe there are treasures hidden in the ground around them, which hasn't been disturbed in years.
       It's quite possible that these trees are from the original population. My late grandfather-in-law, Harry Dewar, was an electrical engineer who often worked for the TVA on dam projects. He collected specimens from all over the South and planted them on this property, formerly a pasture, now a forest. This house was completed in 1952, around the same time as the Appalachicola dam. It would make sense that he would collect specimens from the area to be flooded, assuming he was there, but I have no proof of this.
       In any case, I would like someone to come look at the trees and tell me how I can help to preserve them. I want to make some changes to that area of the property — take out the non-natives and get rid of some pines and magnolias — but I'm afraid to alter the conditions lest it affect the existing trees. I would love to plant more T. taxifolia in place of the common trees, if I can get them. I'm also interested in planting some Franklinia.
       Please email or call me and let me know how I can help with this or any other conservation projects. You can forward this email to any other interested parties."
       Thank you,
       Kara C. Ferris, Decatur, GA

    NOTE/CORRECTION 6/15/07, Ron Determan of the Atlanta Botanical Garden submitted this comment: "The trees on the Ferris property in Decatur are the usual Cunninghamia lanceolata and NOT T.taxifolia. I don't know how many of those I have checked out over the years and found them to be that."

  • 3/13/07 / by Leigh Brooks / box turtles are more likely dispersers
    "Hi Connie,
    Intriguing hypothesis about the gopher tortoises, but I much prefer your earlier idea that there was some other seed disperser that has gone extinct. From my experience here in Florida, the gopher tortoise and T. taxifolia just don't share the same habitat. The box turtle is the one inhabiting T. taxifolia grounds, rich and shady hardwood forests. The gopher prefers high, dry, sandy areas where they can easily dig long burrows.
        I checked The Fossil Vertebrates of Florida, edited by Richard Hulbert Jr. It says box turtles (Terrapene carolina) are common in Pleistocene beds; they are herbivorous and primarily terrestrial; they were more widespread in the past, though never common; that gigantism is typical in Pleistocene coastal populations but the subspecies is extinct. Among land tortoises, besides gophers, there were larger tortoises in the genus Hesperotestudo. Subgenus Hesperotestudo reached 2 feet, subgenus Caudochelys grew to over a meter. Both subgenera lived through the late Pleistocene. Evidence suggests early people in FL found giant tortoises and hunted them.
        Now get this: "Giant tortoises are important paleoecologic indicators of relatively mild winter temperatures, as they cannot withstand prolonged periods of freezing. Their presence in Florida and elsewhere throughout the southern Unites States during the Pleistocene Epoch is seen as evidence that winter temperatures were actually on average milder during the so-called Ice Age than at present." We've seen how comfortable Torreya is in a colder climate, so maybe tortoises were not the main disperser for Torreya. Any other suspects?
        In any case, if someone is going to test this, it seems it should be done on box turtle as well as gopher tortoise. Also, is there a reason for not using T. taxifolia itself if seeds are available for assisted migration?"

  • 3/12/07 / by Connie Barlow, TorreyaGuardians main contact / don't give up hope on germinating more T. taxifolia seeds

    "Euan - Thank you for the info on the germination of 1 of 10 seeds of T. taxifolia. Don't give up hope on the other nine! It is possible that T. taxifolia co-evolved with tortoises as dispersal agents, so the seed coat might be designed tough enough to get through an animal's digestive tract intact. Absent that natural acidic treatment, it might take longer and variably among the seeds. I wrote a book, The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms, (Basic Books, 2001) in which I discovered, for example, that absent passage through a gut or physical scarification with a knife, the seeds of American honelocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) can take 3 years or more to germinate, and American Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioica) can take 7 years. I found that when I scarred them with a knife in my kitchen, all viable seeds germinated in 3 days. Here are three on-line articles that I published about that book:

    article in Natural History
    article in Wild Earth
    article in Arnoldia

    I am trying to locate someone or an institution in Florida interested in testing Torreya californica whole "fruits" on the large gopher tortoises in Florida, as in my 2001 book I surmised that the pulpy sarcotesta covering the seed might be an attractive food for the tortoise (which is known to eat the pulpy covered cycad seeds here). The experiment would not only test whether gopher tortoises find the fruit attractive but also whether passage through its gut affects germination success and timing. My hypothesis is that local extirpation of the gopher tortoise (and extinction of larger Pleistocene species of tortoise) by paleoIndians living in the tiny pocket refuge as the Ice Age waned may have prevented dispersal of Torreya taxifolia northward to its interglacial habitat in the southern Appalachian Mountains."

  • 3/11/07 / by Euan Roxburgh, U.K. / germination of spring 2006 planting of T. taxifolia seeds

    "Dear Torreya Guardians: I've germinated one Torreya taxifolia seed. It germinated in December 2006 outside in a pot. The other 9 seeds, sorry to say, did not germinate. The seedling is now 2 inches high. I have one other clone here of Torreya taxifolia." [Editor's note: This volunteer grower received a packet of 10 Torreya taxifolia seeds from the Fall 2005 harvest at the Biltmore Gardens of North Carolina].

  • 3/6/07 / by Didier Maerki, Arboretum de Villardebelle in southern France / spring 2006 planting of T. taxifolia seeds have germinated!

    "Dear Torreya Guardians: This is to inform you that the 2 first seeds germinated and are sprouting. Both labeled as [possible] male, date of sowing 16 May 2006. Best Wishes, Didier"

  • 1/30/07 / by Didier Maerki, Arboretum de Villardebelle in southern France / new species of T. taxifolia described in China

    "Dear Torreya Guardians: A new species of Torreya has been described from Sichuan in China:

    Torreya parvifolia Yi, L. Yang et Long, a new species of the Taxaceae from Sichuan, China, is described and illustracted. The new species is closely related to Torreya yunnanensis Cheng et L. K. Fu, from which it differs apparently by the shorter and smaller stem, 4 to 5m high, 10 to 15cm diameter; smaller leaves, (1.2)1.5~2cm long, 2.2~3mm broad, acute on the apex with short acumen, rotund or rotundly cuneate at the base, upper surface only below with inconspicuous 2-canaliculates, under surface with 2 stomatic bands broader grey white, nearly as width as mitrib and green side; seeds with arillate obovoid or rare nearly globose, smaller, 1.5~2cm diameter. SOURCE: click here

  • "A Radical Step to Preserve Species: Assisted Migration" by Carl Zimmer, New York Times (Science Times), 23 January 2007 (lead story).
    Content: References a forthcoming paper to be published in the journal Conservation Biology that encourages debate on the topic, by Mark Schwartz, Jason McLachlan, and Jessica Hellman

  • "When Worlds Collide" by Douglas Fox, Conservation Magazine, Jan-March 2007 (cover story).
    This is an article exploring the debate about assisted migration of plants in an era of global warming. The work of Torreya Guardians is mentioned.

  • 11/15/06 / by Karl Studenroth, NW Florida Environmental Conservancy / Collaboration between our groups

    "Hello! I came across your website recently about the FL Torreya tree and I was very impressed! It's great to see your site and all the detailed information on it! I'm Karl Studenroth, a field ecologist-herpetologist. I did extensive research at Torreya State Park from 1994 to 1999. I did amphibian and reptiles surveys, rare & endangered species surveys, ecosystem classification and mapping, among many other things. I also specifically surveyed and mapped Torreya trees in the park. I have a special love for the Torreya tree and of course Torreya S.P. and that area. Two years ago I founded the Northwest Florida Environmental Conservancy. I just wanted to let you know that I put some brief info about your Torreya Guardians website, and a link to your site on one of our web pages (page 12 - Steepheads). I hope we can perhaps work together and support each others groups in the future. Keep up the great work!"

  • 10/20/06 / by Didier Maerki, Arboretum de Villardbelle (southern France) / Expecting 18 months for 2005 harvest of T. taxifolia seeds to germinate
    [Note: The Arboretum de Villardbelle specializes in world conifers and it was the recipient of a package of 10 T. taxifolia seeds from the 2005 harvest at the Biltmore Gardens.]

    "I have a good experience with Torreya californica seeds. Fertile seeds usually take 18 months to germinate — that is during the second Spring after collection, provided they are kept moist all the time. Very seldom would a few seeds germinate at the end of the first Summer. They will even germinate if kept in the refrigerator below 5*C.
       About our Torreya taxifolia seeds, none of mine germinated so far, but I am not worried. I will send a message (and a photo) as soon as the first will germinate/sprout. They are in 10 tubes and during the Winter I will keep them outside, but in a frost free place."

  • 10/16/06 / by Jack Johnston, Highlands NC / Place to purchase T. taxifolia seedlings in Aiken, SC
    "I visited Woodlanders Nursery (in Aiken, SC) today and purchased 3 T. taxifolia for $16.50 each. Since these plants are endangered, they do not ship, but anyone can drive to the nursery after first placing an order by computer. They do not allow any walk-in sales. The plants are approximately 18 inches tall and look great. The inventory at the nursery is 60+ plants at this time. They are seedling grown. I am not aware of where the seed source. I do know that there are a lot of unusual trees planted around Aiken, and it is possible that they are growing there.
        Note: It seems that the seeds produced this year by the T. taxifolia growing at a DNR preservation site about 40 miles from here were harversted by squirrels around October 7."

  • 9/10/06 / by Peter White (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) / Offer to ID Highlands Torreya at UNC
    "We also have lots of Torreya material at the Univ. of NC (NCU is the herbarium acronym). The key that I sent to Connie included both North American species.
       Wrapping material in damp newspaper, then that in a plastic bag, with the material sent by reasonably rapid mail, would insure the material was fresh when received.
       Our Herbarium is curated by Alan Weakley who is writing a flora for NC, SC, VA, and GA. Since folks from Highlands have often sent herbarium material to our herbarium, we may even have specimens on hand of the same trees."

  • 9/10/06 / by Leigh Brooks / Chinese botanical imports possible cause of T. taxifolia decline?
    "I heard a theory new to me this week as to why the torreya started dying off. Some unknown organization was promoting the Chinese holly (not sure if it was a holly or a tree that looks similar to torreya called China fir) and giving away trees in the area for planting. This was supposedly about the time the torreyas got blighted, and some of the locals are convinced it was the cause."

  • 9/08/06 / by Dean Gallagher (Imperiled Species Manager, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) / T. tax in Tallahassee still surviving.
    "I checked on the Torreyas at the Tallahassee Museum. They all look pretty sad with only low spreading branches. Still, they are surviving and that counts for something."

  • 9/06/06 / by Peter White (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) / Key for distinguishing Torreya species.
    "Here is the key in Flora North America. It includes mostly vegetative characters, and since the cones you saw may have been immature, did you try keying the needles?
  • Two-year-old branches reddish brown; leaves 3-8 cm, flattened on adaxial side, with 2 deeply impressed, glaucous bands of stomates abaxially, emitting pungent odor when crushed; aril light green streaked with purple; California. 1 Torreya californica

  • Two-year-old branches yellowish green, yellowish brown, or gray; leaves 1.5-3.8 cm, rounded on adaxial side, with 2 scarcely impressed, grayish bands of stomates abaxially, emitting fetid odor when crushed; aril dark green streaked with purple; Florida, Georgia. 2 Torreya taxifolia"
  • 9/06/06 / by Robbin Moran (New York Botanical Garden) / Torreya nucifera at NYBG.
    "I uploaded some photos of Torreya nucifera at (type Torreya in the Taxon search field, and the images will appear). You probably have better images, but you a most welcome to use these if not. I remember when we looked for this species in the Garden's conifer collection, which at the time was being renovated. That collection is now beautiful--one of the most pleasant places in the Garden [New York Botanical Garden]."

  • 8/31/06 / by Jack Johnston / Thoughts on ID for the Highlands NC Torreya group.
    "When comparing two groups of plants at different sites, it is entirely possible as you know, for variability due to differences in genetic material. When you say that the Highlands and Biltmore populations are different, and are basing it on fruit shape alone, I do not think that is enough. For example, I collect Stewartia seeds and find all kinds of differences from one plant to another in capsule shape, leaf shape, and habit of the plants. If you are convinced that the two populations are different species, it should be based on several characteristics.
        I have just returned from Oregon and was in a yard where an atypical Douglas fir was misidentified by a long time resident based on the bark and limb patterns. Had he looked at the cones, it would have been easy to correctly identify.
        Brown leaves, twigs: Something similar can happen with Canadian hemlocks, and it is not the wooly adelgid problem.
        Seed availability: assuming competition from squirrels, less than 100% harvest, and seeds that are non-viable, it remains to be seen what can be done this year. I hope your man on the site is aggressive in collecting. For example, I collected Magnolia fraseri before going to Oregon (early date for harvest) and when I returned, the seeds were gone from the wild sites. In this case, a 12 day delay in harvest would have meant a missed crop.
        Cuttings: for a backyard hobbist to try to grow T. taxifolia from cuttings would mean a probable loss of the cuttings. Have you considered asking the folks at Biltmore to grow cuttings for this effort and making them available? If they are willing, this should take little greenhouse space, and rooted cuttings can be available in 12 months.
        Site requirements: checking with the folks already growing Torreya in Georgia as to the best site requirements will save making a lot of mistakes. For example, with magnolias it can generally be said that full sun is best, but some in the group like shade. I do not think that one can compare the California material to the Florida as to site requirements.
        Future seed set at Biltmore: assuming that Biltmore will continue to provide seeds, an annual visit to the trees and a comparison to your mapping should be done. This will indicate which trees are producing fruit, if a tree does not produce, if new ones start setting seeds, and if there are deaths." "

  • 8/30/06 / by Rob Nicholson (Smith College Botanical Garden)/ T. taxifolia efforts at Smith Botanical Garden (MA)
    "We no longer have any Torreya, as I shipped them all south where they can be put in the ground. We propagated about 4 or 5 thousand of the cuttings so I felt we had done about as much as we could. If a tenth of those survive to seeding size, I'll be happy."

  • 7/11/06 / by Connie Barlow / Two New Web Pages on North Carolina Site Visits to Torreya have just been posted.
    Webmaster Connie Barlow has just posted photo-essays of August 2006 site visits to fruiting groves of Torreya in Asheville, North Carolina and Highlands, North Carolina (site suggested by Robert Zahner, below). There is also a new posting on the distribution of 2005 T. tax seeds.

  • 7/11/06 / by Bob Zahner / Mature grove of Torreya trees from Florida in Highlands, NC
    The local Torreya trees are on the old Harbison farm about two miles south of Highlands. Prof. Thomas Harbison made Highlands his home off and on from 1880 until he died in the 1930s. He was a field botanical collector for Harvard's Arnold Arboretum and for the herbaria at the University of North Carolina and at Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate.He could have collected the Torreya seeds from the Florida source at any time about 1910 to 1920. There is no family record as to when the Highlands Torreya were planted, probably from seedlings he grew from seed. (He had a small commercial nursery here.) Harbison built his last house here in 1920, and the Torreya trees are located about 150 feet from the house. He may have planted them before the house was built, but probably not until shortly after. We will probably core one of the trees some day to determine its age.
        Anyway, they are beautiful, healthy trees, flowering and fruiting well every year that I've checked them. There are six trees, three male and three female. The largest stem is 16" in diameter, several are over 13" and two are smaller at about 7" and 8." The two tallest are well over 50 feet in height. The smaller are simply overtopped by the larger, for they all appear to be the same age. There are natural seedlings and saplings in the near vicinity. It appears that squirrels and other rodents consume most seed along with the fruits, but a few escape and germinate. The small Torreya grove is part of a hardwood forest of larger trees.
        You probably know that the largest recorded Florida Torreya is located on a farm near Norlina, NC, listed in the current register of big trees with a huge stem diameter of nearly three and a half feet, but only 53 feet tall. I have a photo of this tree taken in 1939, and even then (67 years ago) it was over two feet in diameter, a beautiful tree.
        I also have the names of several people who have seen the Harbison trees, and are very interested in "re"-establishing Torreya here in the southern Appalachians. Anyhow, rewilding Torreya privately seems to be a good possibility, like the American chestnut projects being done through two private organizations, completely ignored by government agencies.

  • August 2006 / by Connie Barlow / Visit to Torreya grove in Highlands NC and T. taxifolia grove in Asheville NC
    In August 2006, I delivered a powerpoint presentation, "Rewilding Torreya Trees to Appalachia", as part of the summer Zahner Conservation Lecture Series, in Highlands, North Carolina. Fifty-five people attended, so this was a tremendous opportunity to build support for our Torreya Guardians effort at the very place where we anticipate T. tax having spent most of its evolutionary career during the Cenozoic — and where its interglacial migrations upstream of the Apalachicola River would repeatedly have carried it (as this is the ancestral headwaters of the river system, before those headwaters were captured into the Savannah River system). Lee Barnes, coordinator of the 2005 seed distribution, accompanied me on this trip, and we both made excellent contacts for further work.

    In addition, Robert Zahner alerted us to a private grove of Torreya sp. trees that we were able to visit and study. See on this website a photo-journal of that visit to the Highlands Grove of Torreya.

    A few days later, I visited (for the third time in 4 years) the grove of mature and fruiting Torreya taxifolia at the Biltmore Gardens in Asheville, NC. I recorded my field notes in a photo-journal webpage on my Biltmore visit.

    Finally, Lee Barnes has finished the 2005 seed distribution and reports that packets of 10 were sent to institutions and individuals in

  • Ohio (2 packets to Dawes Arboretum; 1 to an individual)
  • western North Carolina (1 packet to an individual)
  • central North Carolina (1 packet to an indivdual)
  • New York State (1 packet to an indivdual)
  • southern France (1 packet to Arboretum de Villardbelle)
  • Devon England (1 packet to an individual)
  • June 2006 / by Connie Barlow / Distribution of 2005 Torreya Seeds
    I interviewed Lee Barnes (volunteer coordinator for the T. tax seed distribution effort) over the phone and am filing this progress report on distribution of seeds collected at the Biltmore Gardens in October 2005. Lee reports that Bill Alexander donated to Torreya Guardians (TG) 110 of the 140 seeds collected at the Biltmore Gardens in October 2005. Lee Barnes cleaned, stratified (in his refrigerator), attempted to sex (via intuitive dowsing), and then grouped into 10-seed packets the 99 seeds that seemed viable (11 were "floaters"). Because there is no non-invasive way to scientifically sex a seed, TG determined to distribute the seeds in groups of 10 to ensure a mixture of male and female plants and to promote genetic diversity in the F2 generations of seed production. All recipients must, thus, have the land availability to plant a grove of ten trees in this stage of the rewilding project. (Interested parties are encouraged to study the text and photos on the California Torreya pages of this website in order to ascertain the types of habitats in which T. tax plantings might thrive.)
         Lee began the process of distribution by querying botanical gardens for interest in planting the seeds in outdoor settings and for long-term participation in resultant seed distribution. Two institutions responded with interest, and 2 packets (of 10 seeds per packet) were set to them:
  • The Dawes Arboretum in Newark Ohio (near Columbus)
  • Arboretum de Villardebelle in southern France

         At this early stage in "rewilding" the emphasis is on encouraging plantings of groves of T. tax on lands (even on another continent!) that will have adequate horticultural expertise and long-term care such that seed production is assured. We are also very curious as to how well T. tax does in Ohio, and thus Lee will soon be sending The Dawes Arboretum a second packet of seeds, so that they will begin with a total of 20 individuals.
         The next step will be to send an email inquiry to all who have expressed interest in growing T. tax for conservation purposes. Distribution of the remaining 7 packets of seeds will be to those individuals who demonstrate in their responses the best chances for successful propagation and long-term participation in seed production and distribution. Because T. tax sometimes takes 2 years to germinate, seed planting will be encouraged to take place in large pots, for later transplanting. With additional years of seed donation by the Biltmore, we look forward to widening the seed plantings to include a host of different natural environments, tending more and more toward re-introduction into wild forest settings on private lands.
         Soon, Connie Barlow intends to send a query letter to Audubon Magazine, suggesting that they direct one of their reporters to cover this effort, emphasizing the historic nature of this first "assisted migration" effort in an era of global warming and how this bottom-up grassroots effort (connected via internet) is a model for actions that could be taken in behalf of other plant species, particularly if our economy collapses to such a point that professional funding for actions in behalf of threatened plants is severely limited.

  • 3/23/06 / by Dee Hope / Seed Production by a T. tax at Coker College, SC
    I worked at a garden in my home state of South Carolina for 7 years called Kalmia Gardens of Coker College. Are you aware that it has a mature Florida torreya, and several seedlings? I just wanted to pass this along in case it was not known. Hopefully, it is still healthy, and can provide seeds. I would welcome an email from interested parties wanting more details on this garden and/or a contact person there.
    email: [email protected]

  • 3/20/06 / by Lee Barnes / Distribution of 2005 Torreya Seeds harvested at Biltmore Gardens, NC
    I've just now sent out eight emails offering Torreya seeds to Botanical Gardens suggested by Bill Alexander (NC Botanical Gardens, Chapel Hill, NC; Bernheim Arboretum, KY; Dawes Arboretum, OH; Duke Gardens, Durham, NC; JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC; NC Arboretum, Asheville, NC; Arnold Arboretum, MA; and Arboretum de Villardebelle, FR.). I've requested their response by April 1st. I'm hoping that email requests will be received and acted upon quicker than by US Postal Service. If everyone is interested, this leaves us about 19 seeds for individuals — or two mailings. I'll wait until the 1st week in April to count requests, and then will open to other individuals who have requested seed. My sense is to ID the top interested folks that have facilities to germinate and pot up and grow out larger seedlings. Editor's note: Lee Barnes is the volunteer Torreya Guardian in charge of preparing and distributing T. tax seeds harvested by staff of the Biltmore Gardens, Asheville NC.

  • 2/06 / by Jeff Morris / Further Implications of Rewilding: Frasier Fir and Black Balsam
    My interest in evolutionary ecology has prompted me to successfully propogate warmer climate rare conifers for use in North Carolina. The T. taxifolia is the most recent example, and one that, finally, there are people like yourself who are interested in rewilding. My theory on evolutionary ecology is that with the advent of global warming (which I believe can only be slowed, but not reversed) we will be faced with many "rewilding" and "rezoning" of native plants and trees. I have watched the once great stands of Frasier Firs and Black Balsams in the Pisgah National Forest dwindle down to a fraction of what they once were in North Carolina. Acid rain and other factors that have led to their decline must be dealt with, I will not deny. But I believe that we must replace those dying forests with species that will thrive in the new conditions, even if we must go to other parts of the world to find those species. Otherwise, the hardwoods and scrub pines will devour the once-magnificant stands of old fir forests, and they will exist only in pictures and in cultivation. So far, this theory has not come into the mainstream, and the Torreya Guardian project is the closest I've seen to it.

    What I have found disturbing about the "mainstream" is that they claim that they want an endangered species to be saved from extinction, but then they don't want to even hear about assisted rewilding or adapting similar species from the same genus, but from other parts of the world. It seems that some of the "mainstreamists" would prefer the T. taxifolia to exist only on the back of their postcards seeking contributions for their national organizations' efforts — that one big failure would be preferable to their cause than the new thriving forests that can arise from assisted migration of compatible species.

    Call it "assisted evolution," if you will. If mainstream ecologists prefer to let them die before they'd allow assisted migration, then at what point will the actions of the Torreya Guardians shape the debate in allowing for the survival of other plant and tree species?

  • 10/05 / by Leigh Brooks / Century-old T. tax in Columbus GA
    Great historical info from Bill! I saw a large T. taxifolia in Columbus GA a few years ago in the historic district (photos below). The homes have date placards, and I think it was 1898. The tree had been hit by lightening before I was there and about half of it was dead as a result. The homeowners said that, before that, the tree was fine. It was about a foot dbh. There are supposedly some other old torreyas in this historic neighborhood but this was the only one I found.


  • 10/05 / by Rob Nicholson / Arnold Arboretum - T. tax & Taxus floridana
    As I worked at the Arnold 15 years I can attest that there were no plants of Torreya taxifolia in the collection when I started (1977) nor Taxus floridana. Torreya nucifera seems to be the only ironclad Torreya for the Boston area. T. grandis is currently in the outdoors collection but looks beaten after a hard winter. Taxus floridana is grown on the grounds currently but am not sure about Torreya taxifolia. [Note: Arnold Arboretum is associated with Harvard and is near Boston MA]

  • 10/05 - Seeds Collected at Biltmore:
    Bill Alexander reports 140 seeds collected from the T. tax trees at the Biltmore Gardens (Asheville, North Carolina). Unknown what percentage will be viable. Lee Barnes and Bill Alexander in communication about stratification, storage, and subsequent distribution. Note: Bill Alexander reports that this was an off year for seed production, so it is fortunate that any seeds were collected at all.

    2011 UPDATE: A private landowner in Spencer, NC, who received 10 seeds from Torreya Guardians from the 2005 Biltmore harvest reports: "Of the ten Torreya taxifolia seeds harvested in the fall 2005, I had 4 come up — all in 2007." All four are still alive and well, and one even produced its first seed this year (a single seed), after having been treated with gibberellic acid foliant spray.

  • 10/05 / by Bill Alexander / Archival Records at Biltmore Gardens
    Biltmore archival records show that Torreya taxifolia was originally brought to the Biltmore in 1896-97 and was growing at the Arnold Arboretum at that time also. In the "Biltmore Nursery Dept. Outgoing Correspondence, Vol. I 1896-1897" there is a letter on p. 219 from C. Beadle to Prof. C. S. Sargent, Arnold Arboretum. Beadle mentions having received from a correspondent of his in Bristol, Florida,
    "a few plants each of Torreya taxifolia and Taxus floridana. I am quite interested to know if this latter species has ever been in cultivation. I know that the Torreya has; indeed, you have it at the Arnold Arboretum. If you have not plants of Taxus floridana, we will be pleased to send you some as soon as our stock is sufficently advanced to warrant the shipment."
    The letter continues with Beadle talking more about exchanging plants. The records indicate (p. 908) that on 4 March 1897 Beadle sends Sargent specimens of Taxus floridana.

       Download in PDF two articles, for and against assisted
       migration of Torreya taxifolia, published as the featured
       Forum in the Winter 2005 issue of Wild Earth. Download
       the pro and con articles separately for printing on standard   
       size paper. Or, for viewing the 2-article Forum as it
       appeared in publication (wide-screen, with all illustrations),
       download the "Forum."

  • FOR assisted migration, by Connie Barlow & Paul Martin  

  • ANTI assisted migration by Mark Schwartz

  • FORUM (both articles for wide screen)

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