Reports by Torreya Guardians Volunteers
Listed chronologically from most recent
• 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 / 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 / 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.
EXCERPTS OF BARLOW'S RESPONSE TO THE AGENCY, 30 September 2021:... 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."
• September 2021 / Connie Barlow / SEEDS can adapt to climate only before germinationfor 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.
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.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.
The 9 remaining trees in my garden are getting big, so I know I will have to dig deep to move them this fall."
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.
• 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
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:
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."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.
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.
• 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. 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.
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.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.
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....
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?
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.The full report (with reports and photos from previous years) are on the Hayward, Wisconsin Torreya webpage.
PHOTO BOTTOM (Nov. 24): This one is from the native Georgia population that has been growing here without injury for several years. Last winter it survived under only a couple of inches of snow at -36F. This fall both of these plants were exposed to -6F on November 12th, which is exceptionally early for such cold. There was no snow whatsoever. As you can see, the torreyas were not fazed by this.
November 2019 / Joe Facendola, Clint Bancroft, Nelson Stover / 200+ seeds and 10 seedlings collected at Clinton NC Torreya tree
Report Summary by Connie Barlow, using emails submitted by the three collectors.
The single old horticultural planting remaining in Clinton NC seems to still be bearing close to 500 seeds annually. Joe Facendola visited the site first, collecting 208 seeds that had already fallen to the ground. Clint Bancroft and Nelson Stover made a joint expedition there 10 days later. Few seeds remained at that time (squirrels noticeably harvest them, removing the fallen seeds and leaving the hulls right where they found them).
Fortunately, the owner (Mrs. Kennedy) encouraged the duo to dig up (and thus rescue from the lawnmower) any seedlings that they found. So Clint dug up 10 first-year seedlings and also a much larger one that had escaped mowing by having been buried by a squirrel right next to the trunk of a Camellia. He also collected some cuttings for rooting. Nelson photographed the saplings in the backyard too big to dig up.
Direct link to the 2019 UPDATE on the CLINTON NC torreya webpage.
November 2019 / Connie Barlow / AUDIO PODCAST on Torreya portrays Fusarium torreyae as present in all tissues but harmless until [environmentally] triggered
An hour-long AUDIO featuring Florida Torreya was posted 3 November 2019 in the podcast series titled "In Defense of Plants." The episode was hosted by Matt Candeais and titled "The Fall of the Torreya and What Is Being Done To Save It". The interviewee was Jennifer Ceska, who co-founded the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance from her base as conservation coordinator of the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia.
This interview offers significant new information on how the Fusarium torreyae is being interpreted. Because is is found "in all tissues" but is usually not pathogenically expressing, this evidence supports arguments in favor of northward assisted migration (to escape environmental triggers that are pathogenic in too-warm climates, including the tree's native range). However, neither Ceska nor the podcast host ever mentions that Florida Torreya is a well-known glacial relict. Absent that understanding, the environmental trigger of disease expression seems to remain a mystery. Indeed, absent a paleoecological understanding that Torreya was already suffering from interglacial warming within its peak glacial reserve when seed-production stopped 60 or 70 years ago, Ceska now fears that her institution's ex situ plantings in north Georgia may actually be threatening nearby native conifers with the disease and thus may warrant removal and burning (!). Overall, the institutional interpretation of how best to manage Florida Torreya is the exact opposite of what is supported by the strong and growing compilation of evidence gathered over 15 years by Torreya Guardians. The case we make in favor of northward assisted migration is now very strong, as evidenced on our Historic Groves webpage and the lengthy causes of endangerment webpage.
KEY QUOTATIONS BY JENNIFER CESKA (in pdf) with audio timecodes:
28:31 JC: [Recent debates about whether "commercialization of endangered plants" was helpful for the plants] ... Torreya was the godchild; you could grow an endangered tree in your garden and it's a beautiful horticulture tree ... that document never saw the light because we learned from Jason Smith at the University of Florida [what the pathogen was]
30:03 JC: ... We thought we were taking the torreya away from the disease; we thought this was in the soil. We thought it could be introduced or always been there. Well, no. It's in the torreya; it is part of torreya. He named it; it's a fusarium named for torreya. It's in all of its tissues; it's passed from mother to child. And if the tree is healthy, everything's fine; they live together. But if the tree is weak in some way horticulturally, then this fusarium can express and it can spread. And in the lab Jason Smith has learned, he's done inoculations in the lab, that it can jump in the lab to different plant families.
ACCESS THE COMPLETE TIMECODED EXCERPTS OF J. CESKA'S STATEMENTS, as selected and transcribed by Connie Barlow in pdf. Connie selected excerpts that (a) convey what the official institutional implementers of the Torreya recovery plan have learned about how best to nurture this endangered species in northward ex situ plantings, (b) convey the lack of attention to Torreya's undisputed glacial-relict status as the most scientifically reliable explanation for what triggers the embedded fusarium to become pathogenic, and (c) reveal the degree to which a non-peer-reviewed master's thesis (lab based only, with no testing of the pathogen's ability to survive winter freezes and other ecological limiting factors) is being used to consider destroying ex situ torreya collections on the off-chance that Fusarium torreyae might be able to infect other native conifers of Georgia and points north. Key excerpts on the latter:31:44 JC: We've gone back to our partners [like in Gainesville GA] ... and I said, 'You know that collection you planted 18 years ago as a partner and we were so grateful that you planted that grove of torreya, and it is in a cultivated area, but it is next to your woods: you need to know. And so now their board is. They still have them. But they had to go have a conversation about that. And if they decided that they needed to remove those trees, I would have respected that and understood. Because they have a responsibility to the natural areas that they are restoring and protecting as well.For the long history of acceptance of Florida torreya as a glacial relict, consult the excerpts on torreya as glacial relict posted from the 1984 ESA listing, the 1986 original recovery plan, and the 2010 federal plan update.
32:21 JC: So, yes, the story changed. And, thank goodness that we did track them everywhere that we planted ... that we know whose who and where, that we know the health of those trees, and if we do see a problem we would remove and burn that material.
October 2019 / Connie Barlow / NEW VIDEO by Tallahassee Public TV station on Hurricane Michael Damage
Six-minute video titled Torreya State Park After Hurricane Michael: One Year Later was produced by WFSU, the public TV station affiliated with Florida State University in Tallahassee. The video begins with a look at the two unlikely survivors of the hurricane where the entrance road ends in a parking lot. Both Gregory House and a planted little grove of torreya trees at the lawn edge survived, the tall trees fallen all around them.
For viewers and readers familiar with the paleoecological foundation undergirding the drive for "assisted migration" poleward of the glacial relict Torreya tree, the video offers a few hints of the steephead ravine ecosystem similarities in the park to habitats now found in the southern Appalachians. The actions of Torreya Guardians are of course not mentioned. But the accompanying essay does say this:"In the 1950s, a fungal blight wiped out a population of about 600,000 Torreya taxifolia in the region. The Florida Park Service, Nature Conservancy, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden have been working to revive the Florida torreya, a species whose future may lie in its likely ancestral home of North Carolina, where planted trees have thrived disease free."
October 2019 / Connie Barlow / TESING HYPOTHESIS THAT VERTICAL BRANCHLET TIPS MIGHT BE BEST
Recent rooting of cut basal tips confirms that vertically oriented basals can turn into actual trees, rather than multi-stemmed shrubs (which is the fate of tips cut and rooted from lateral branches. But if a tree produces some radial-structure, vertically oriented branchlet tips, might cutting these produce real tree structures?
October 3, 2019, CONNIE BARLOW clips the most vertically oriented branch tips she can find on the two seed-grown trees FRANK CALLAHAN (standing behind) had planted at his mother's home in Medford, OREGON.
Connie notes that the most vertically oriented branchlet tips she could find were not quite as leader-like in structure as the ones she had clipped from the shrubby, rooted-branchlet "trees" at Hawthorne Park earlier that day. Visit the Oregon Torreya webpage on this website to access photos of the vertically oriented branchlets on the other set of trees in Medford.
As to BASALS, Connie was at first surprised that there were no really good-looking basal sprouts at the base of either of the two trees (See photos). But then she realized that because both were planted in full sun, the low shrubby branches precluded basals from contributing any sunlight-derived photosynthates, so the trees probably wouldn't bother creating good basals unless they felt stressed and possibly facing death.
that I submitted last month (September) offers the agency any new information worth considering. However, it appears that the earlier 21-page report I submitted to DOI August 2019 (see below) did not offer any new information worth considering. My sense is that because LAST YEAR (6 August 2018) the service announced initiation of an official "5-year Status Review", consideration of my current petition to downlist will be subsumed within that process already underway, and thus no additional decision as to whether my petition merits substantive attention need be given. Overall, we can all expect an opportunity to COMMENT ON THE PENDING 5-YEAR STATUS REVIEW whenever that is offered for public review in the future. In the meanwhile, the official letter itself reveals some important insights into the current official thinking of the Fish & Wildlife Service, notably these EXCERPTS (bold as emphasis added by Barlow):
OCTOBER 2019 / Connie Barlow / F&WS acknowledges receipt of "Petition to Downlist"
I received via mail an official 3-page letter dated 23 October 2019, signed by Leopoldo Miranda, Director of the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I scanned the letter and have posted it on this website as a 3-page PDF. From what I can discern, no decision has yet been made on whether the 26-page formal "petition to downlist Torreya to threatened"• "... The Endangered Species Act (ESA) compels us to return all listed species to being viable and self-sustaining in their ecosystems. We recognize the critical role of stakeholders and how important their participation is to help achieve this goal. Recovery is not a fast process. It takes decades in some cases to see progress or to reverse long-standing threats...."BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - Official policy is thus more encompassing than some past communications to Barlow that actions underway were limited to "preventing extinction" and undertaking "genetic safeguarding." (Full recovery was not mentioned as a goal of the ongoing official actions.)• "... Florida torreya is a critically endangered tree endemic to habitats along the Apalachicola River in Florida and extreme southwest Georgia. Populations once had about 650,000 individuals but crashed in the 1950s due to a fungal pathogen (Fusarium torreyae). Now we have 750 individuals (i.e., re-sprouts from stumps) that fail to reach maturity in the wild. In addition, these re-sprouts from stumps display different degrees of decline such as root necrosis and stem cankers...."BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - This is the first time I have seen the newly isolated and named Fusarium torreyae definitively presented as having been the cause of the 1950s population crash (as well as being now the apparently most debilitating cause of ongoing stem dieback, among the multiple disease agents long specified as afflicting Florida Torreya in its peak glacial refuge). To my mind this suggests that, despite more than half a century of disease presence, and despite presumably lax antiseptic practices by official institutions in moving plant materials from the disease-ridden historic range and/or cleansing boots worn in the collecting area (as well as botanic gardens and citizen practices in moving plant materials around well outside of its historic range), there have been no documented lethal consequences of Fusarium torreyae in the Appalachian mountain region and points north. This is highly suggestive that helping this glacial relict species finally be able to "migrate" hundreds of miles north of its peak-glacial historic range is both a practical and a proven method for restoring this species to health.• "... The Torreya Guardians' work conducted under the concept of assisted migration has been acknowledged by the Service in the 2010 5-year review, and will be noted also in the 5-year review currently underway...."
• "... The Service does not have an official policy on assisted migration of threatened or endangered animals or plants, and assesses the needs of species on a case-by-case basis...."
• "... we urge considerable caution in your efforts to translocate the Florida Torreya outside its native range. We remain concerned that transporting Florida Torreya seedlings, cuttings and seeds outside its native range may carry the fungal pathogen to new areas.... Therefore, we suggest all potential Florida Torreya outplantings undergo health screenings, and the results documented."
• "... This species needs help from passionate partners such as yourself and the Torreya Guardians, and I encourage further efforts to secure the Torreya within its native range.... If you have any questions regarding the ongoing 5-year review process, or wish to discuss opportunities to engage with the Service in securing the Florida Torreya within its native range please contact Dr. Sean Blomquist, Acting Field Supervisor, Panama City, Florida Ecological Services Office ..."BARLOW'S INTERPRETATION - It appears that although "the Service does not have an official policy on assisted migration", the closing of this email response strongly implies that with respect to this particular species a decision is already in place to continue the sole focus on recovery taking place "within the historic range." If even this undisputed "glacial relict" (by definition, having been unable to migrate poleward after the ice retreated) is not given an opportunity to excel in a more suitable climate today and into the future, how then could any other listed species be given assistance in migrating to cooler realms in the coming decades of climate disruptions already underway?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"
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Suggestions for Florida Torreya Plan Update: Part A - Translocations (p. 2)
2. Suggestions for Florida Torreya Plan Update: Part B - Actions for DOWNLISTING (p. 4)
3. Details for updating key sections of the 2010 Recovery Plan for Florida Torreya (p.6)
4. Details for reinstating sections of the 1986 Recovery Plan for Florida Torreya
5. Torreya Guardians Citizen Actions Empower Joshua Tree Citizen Advocates (to undertake conservation actions without endangerment listing)
August 2019 / Connie Barlow and Clint Bancroft / NEW VIDEO: "Florida Torreya loves Tennessee"
Mid March 2019 Clint Bancroft took me (Connie Barlow) on a tour of his rewilded Torreya plantings in Ocoee Watershed southeast TN. I just posted the new video, to which I added sections of the March 2015 video for showing how much growth the original plantings achieved in four years. This new VIDEO 33 (50 minutes) offers two key findings, beyond the obvious excellent, disease-free growth.
(1) No herbivory; the plants are in perfect condition.
(2) With the help of Jack Johnston, Clint has established a "Torreya Bowl", intended for seed production in a wild setting. Maximizing genetic diversity there is a priority.
August 2019 / Connie Barlow / Genus Torreya is both rare and ancient
Kevin M. Potter, Dept. Forestry and Environmental Resources of North Carolina State University, published a paper in the May 2018 online issue of the journal Biological Conservation:
Connie Barlow added red type and arrows to the original figure, left.
Notice that the sister species in Florida and California of genus Torreya are among the rarest of 352 tree species native to North America.
These two Torreya species also are among the most ancient tree lineages.
Together, rarity and age of origin call out for the highest levels of conservation attention.
August 2019 / Connie Barlow / Seed-producing Torreya in Louisiana survives tornado
May 2019 an EF 1 TORNADO swept through the portion of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve (aka Briarwood Preserve) in which a mature, seed-producing Torreya resided under a deciduous canopy.
I (Connie Barlow) donated to the restoration fundraiser, and was thrilled to learn in an August 1 email from the preserve steward, Rick Johnson, that:"... The Torreya you show here is in fine shape and has produced more seeds this year. Those large trees that were shading it were blown down. Wondering if it will be happier now that it's getting more sun...."Full details on the Louisiana page of our Torreya Guardians website.
July 2019 / Paul Camire and Connie Barlow / Two-part VIDEO filmed s. Michigan June 2019 and September 2018
30-minute video 28-minute video Two-part video of Paul Camire's Torreya in-forest plantings of potted seedlings and also seeds from the 2016 fall harvest in Medford Oregon. Florida Torreya has been documented surviving (with little or no damage) subzero temperatures before in other states. But this is the coldest: -45 degrees F windchill during Winter 2019. Yet the exposed Torreya branches showed no damage! The biggest problem is deer herbivory: they even push over wire cages.
July 2019 / Clint Bancroft / Precious apical cutting of a Highlands NC basal recovers from herbivory
CLINT BANCROFT writes:
Regarding my accidental experiment in which a rooted apical cutting had put up a new 6 inch vertical and then all but a few inches of the whole pant was eaten. In just 2 months or so, the eaten-down stump is putting up what appears to be a new vertical leader.
Note by Connie Barlow: I am reading about Coast Redwood basal growth and propagation now. Genus Sequoia and Torreya, ancient members of Cupressaceae Family, have probably survived this long thanks to their ability to produce new stems from basal growth if the original stem fails (or is logged). The term for what we see in photo left is an axillary bud doing what it evolved to do produce a new vertical leader.
Apparently all single leaves produced on the vertical main stem each carry on their upper side a suppressed axillary bud. For redwoods, each of those buds can become either a vertical leader or a root, depending on whether it senses air or soil when hormones direct it to wake up. Apparently Torreya can do the same, so we can actually obtain more than one vertical clone from each basal sprout we cut from.
July 2019 / Connie Barlow / Photo of new champion California Torreya shows what Florida might achieve in North Carolina mountains
LEFT: In 2005 I took a field trip to a half dozen sites of California Torreya growing in the wild. The then-champion tree (at Scott's Creek Watershed north of Santa Cruz) was in decline. Photo left is of me with that tree.
MIDDLE: In 2012 a new champion was declared just a bit north in Big Basin State Park. Three photos were recently posted, including the photo in middle here. Notice the human for scale. This new champion is 105 feet tall, circumference is 133 inches, average crown spread is 60 feet.
This compares with the late champion, whose stats when nominated by Frank Callahan in 1993 were 96 feet tall, circumference 251 inches, average crown spread 68 feet. Access lots of photos of California Torreya I took in the field in 2005, via the California Torreya page on this website.
June 2019 / Frank Callahan / Update on Florida Torreya seed-producing pair in Medford Oregon
May 31, 2019 FRANK CALLAHAN wrote: "I was just over to my mother's place for her 95th birthday. The Torreyas are doing well; however there has been little seed production since your visit. Speaking of seeds, how was the germination rates on all the seeds that were sent out?" [from the Fall 2016 harvest of seeds from the two Florida Torreya trees, shown at left with white stars]
June 12, 2019 FRANK CALLAHAN wrote: "Here are some images of Torreya taxifolia trees at my late mother's property in Medford. Mickey just had her 95th birthday and passed away 6 days later, and her house and property are now up for sale. (I trust we can make a deal to care for the trees with a new owner.) The two trees are doing quite well as you can see. (Connie added the white stars). That is a bluish Douglas fir in the background. The tree on the right is an arborvitae. There is no crop to report for this year."
Editor's note: Visit the Medford OREGON Torreya page for the full history of seed production and a video of the trees several months after seeds were harvested in fall 2016.
June 2019 / Connie Barlow / Article indicates Atlanta Botanical Garden still not considering assisted migration
A 9 June 2019 online article titled "Atlanta Botanical Garden opens Southeastern Center for Conservation this summer", announces a new multi-million-dollar conservation center at Atlanta Botanical Garden. Both mentions of Torreya, however, fail to indicate that the conservation strategy will yet expand to include assisted migration poleward.EXCERPTS PERTAINING TO FLORIDA TORREYA: ... This summer the garden opens its Southeastern Center for Conservation, a $7 million two-story building adjacent to the Fuqua Orchid Center. It was funded through the successful $53 million Nourish and Flourish fundraising campaign, which included $40 million for capital improvements and $13 million for the endowment. The new center will serve as a home for the garden's conservation, education, and experimentation. The building includes a 3,800-square-foot research facility with a molecular lab that lets scientists examine genetic material at the nucleotide level. The cold-storage seed bank is augmented by cryogenic coolers that can preserve the embryos of the Torreya trees as they try to determine why the trees die in the wild before they can become adults.
... They also feel the pain when a natural disaster spoils plans. The garden had transplanted 700 Torreya trees to Torreya State Park in Florida, with noted Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, 88, as a guest of honor. Then, Hurricane Michael destroyed the entire stand, dumping hardwoods on top of little saplings. "It can be really discouraging," said Carter. But even if they're not successful now, they retain hope for future prospects, she said. "One thing we're doing is keeping individual genetic material alive," said Carter. "In the future, we hope there is something to be learned from holding on to these plants."
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / New paper useful for understanding male/female flexibility in Torreya
During our site visit to the mature Florida Torreya trees in Louisiana, our guides recounted their experience with the largest specimen beginning as male and then starting to produce some female buds on various branches culminating in seeds that fell and germinated beneath the parent tree. A 2019 paper on Striped Maple of eastern North America (a subcanopy species, just as is Torreya) can help us understand how to observe and possibly predict an individual's ability and propensity to begin producing seeds. Access full text.
EXCERPTS: ... Male-dominated sex ratios occurred consistently across study sites and the 4 years that sex expression was monitored. Approximately one-third of trees [studied as single branches cut and grown in a lab conditions] changed during any 2-year period. The five most common transitions were, in descending order of frequency: from non-reproductive to male, male to full or partial female flowering, female to dead, and from partial to full female flowering....
... We have shown that in the sexually plastic tree Acer pensylvanicum a variety of factors influence expressed sex. Chief among them are previous sex and the health of an individual. Although the general theory regarding ESD in dioecious plants has indicated that females are often found in relatively better condition and at larger sizes, we find the opposite pattern in this species.... We show that mortality is disproportionately high in females....
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Paper by Alabama professor details Torreya grandis cultivation in China
Alabama A & M University's Professor Xiongwen Chen has published several papers on the ecology, economics, and social aspects of the more than thousand-years of cultivation of the endemic Torreya grandis. Because of his expertise, it would be ideal for USF&WS to invite him onto the ADVISORY BOARD for the recovery plan update of Florida Torreya, now underway. Several helpful aspects of this 2019 paper:
1. All Torreya species in the wild (including Florida) bear a bitter seed, except for this thousand-year-old-cultivar of Chinese Torreya which is reproduced mostly by grafting the tasty-fruited genotype onto wild rootstock in mountain villages.
2. Planters of the cultivar as a profitable food crop are advised to start the young grafted tree in shade and among diverse trees or crops, not as a monoculture.
3. The species is also grown as an ornamental in China, owing to its beautiful form. Specimens can live (and continue to produce nuts) for more than a thousand years.
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Photos of March Site Visit to Tennessee Torreyas
March 18 I visited the home of Clint Bancroft (left) Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee. I captured a lot of video which I have yet to edit and upload to youtube.
Because his plantings are astonishingly vigorous, I decided to grab some stills from the video and post those on Clint's torreya webpage.
Key observations include evidence that Clint's 18 acres of sloped deciduous forest in southeastern-most Tennessee encourage not just 2 but 3 growth spurts annually.
As well, the oldest specimen is still heading upward as well as outward and with perfect vertical and radial symmetry. (See photo left.)
May 2019 / Clint Bancroft / First germination from Fall 2017 seed harvest at Harbison House, NC
May 6 email from Clint Bancroft (Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee) to Connie Barlow:"Highlands germination! It is being kept in extreme protective custody."Note by Connie: October 2017 Clint Bancroft and Jack Johnston ventured to the private grove of century-old Florida Torreyas at Harbison House, near Highlands NC.
Clint has his seed beds and rooted branchlets outdoors in with a deer-proof exclosure. But a woodchuck apparently had a feast there in the past, so now he puts wire mesh over the tops of the exclosures too.
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Our northernmost Torreya planter reports on harsh winter
As of 2019, the MAP below depicts all the NORTHERN-MOST successful plantings of Florida Torreya made by Torreya Guardians during the past 15 years.
Mike Heim is a horticulturalist and science teacher in Hayward, Wisconsin. His location is marked by the orange conifer symbol. He nurtures Florida Yew in his forest as well as Florida Torreya. Heim reports, "I'm waiting for the snow to finally melt off of the T. taxifolia seedling and cuttings. The Taxus floridana all are in perfect condition after a -36F winter with not a whole lot of snow covering them."
• Mike Heim's webpage on Torreya Guardians site includes photos and reports beginning in 2010.
Editor's note: Torreya Guardians "assisted migration" plantings center on or near the southern Appalachians. However, experimental plantings in northward states help us ascertain just how far north this ancient genus can be planted in advance of expected climate warming this century.
May 2019 / Connie Barlow / Two photos show Torreya victorious over fire and composting
This week I received 2 sets of photos that feature survival skills of genus Torreya:
1. ZACH ST. GEORGE (below) admires lush basal growth in a burned-over grove of California Torreya in the coast range north of Napa Valley. April 29 he was hiking in Stevenson State Park. The basal growth followed the 2017 Tubbs Fire.