Reports by Torreya Guardians Volunteers
Listed chronologically from most recent
• September 2023/ Connie Barlow / Wikipedia page on Torreya Guardians has new section on how our group is influencing academic philosophers
In my retirement, I've had more time to devote to volunteer activities beyond maintaining this webpage for Torreya Guardians. Notably, I have become an experienced wikipedia editor.
I did not create the original Torreya Guardians wikipedia page. But I was able to make some contributions of basic facts (although not all that I had hoped for!) when it was created.
Now I have learned enough about wikipedia standards especially for topics that include controversies, which our page certainly does that I managed to craft a new section that passed the test. I did that by selecting two excerpts: one that favored our work and the other that did not. So there is balance.
The new section is "Reception within the Bioethics profession". As per my custom as a former science writer, I looked for scholarly papers by academic bioethicists that mentioned how our group was leading "assisted migration" in this time of rapid climate change. Check it out!
• September 2023/ Connie Barlow / 2020 Report shows cumulative government funds spent on endangered species management of Torreya taxifolia
The 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act is December 2023. Because there is a lot of political controversy about possibly amending the act as well as the usual funding debates, I am reading quite a few relevant news reports. One linked to a tabulation of cumulative government spending for each species. The image below is just a piece of Table 2, which entails (in order of expenditures from highest to lowest) the funding rank of 1,599 of the 1,821 domestic species (and subspecies) listed as endangered (E) or threatened (T) as of 2020. Florida torreya was the third highest-funded plant. A saltwater plant and an orchid native to springs in five western states were the only plants (plants entail the majority of listed species) that received more funding, since aggregate accounting began in 1990.
Also relevant to our group is a table from a 2022 paper, "Data sharing for conservation: A standardized checklist of US native tree species and threat assessments to prioritize and coordinate action". Below you will see my adaptation of the table, which singled out something I have never before been able to discern myself from within the vast list of endangered species. This is the subset of TREE species on the endangered species list. Besides our own focal tree, only three others have genus names that are recognizable to me as trees: Asimina (pawpaw), Betula (birch), and Cercocarpus.
• September 2023/ Connie Barlow / Citizen planters helping Australia's Wollemia tree validate our own group's effort helping Florida Torreya
Thanks to Canadian Lucas Machias, I learned of a new research paper (and a news article about it) reporting how citizen science is helping to conserve the "living fossil" Wollemia tree both within and outside of its tiny relict range (at the bottom of a deep canyon, to keep cool) in eastern Australia.
Consider first that Wollemia's discovery in 1994 is what knocked Florida torreya off its pedestal as the "most endangered conifer in the world."
Thanks to the unusual decision to have commercial nurseries help in distributing rooted cuttings of Wollemia to home gardeners in some 31 nations around the world, scientists have been able to learn a lot about where and how this precious species can grow without having to spend their own time (and a lot of funding) to do so in the usual way that "endangered species" are managed.
Indeed, citizens were recruited to care for Wollemia cuttings, and commercial nurseries made distribution part of their normal business. What a contrast to how our own citizen effort has been ignored (and spoken against) by the professionals in charge!
Torreya planter, Fred Bess, in Cleveland Ohio has participated in the Wollemia home effort (using his greenhouse) and so has our Wisconsin planter, Mike Heim, who keeps his Wollemia potted for moving indoors during the winter. See my excerpting of the 2023 research paper on our Historic Groves page. I also added a new conservation subsection on this topic to the WOLLEMIA WIKIPEDIA page.
• August 2023/ Mike Heim and Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians contribute to northward American Chestnut documentation
BELOW LEFT is a 2023 photo by Mike Heim of one of his mature 1980 plantings of (pure) American Chestnut on his forested property in northern Wisconsin. He wrote, "Here is a photo of my largest blight-resistent pure American chestnut. I had bought them from a nursery in MI in 1980. It developed blight cankers early on, healed over them, and hasn't had a problem since." Notice, for scale, the man standing at the tree's base.
LEFT is a MAP from a 2022 paper, "Beyond blight: Phytophthora root rot under climate change limits populations of reintroduced American chestnut", by Eric J. Gustafson et al., in Ecosphere.
Notice how far north Mike Heim's WI property is and thus how far north American Chestnuts can already thrive. Access more, full-scale photos of Heim's American Chestnuts.
Another Torreya planter, Paul Camire in southern Michigan, is newly experimenting with pure American Chestnuts. Go to timecode 13:17 of the VIDEO of Torreya Guardians posted immediately below to see Paul's chestnut planting.
SIGNIFICANCE: Because Historic Groves documentation by Torreya Guardians far north of the tiny historical range of Torreya taxifolia in n. Florida has been recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an important contribution of ours, citizens and professionals involved with American Chestnut restoration should also be aware of and document just how far north of "historical range" this cherished native canopy tree can survive (even thrive) today.
• August 2023/ Paul Camire and Connie Barlow / New VIDEO of Torreya thriving in MICHIGAN
PAUL CAMIRE, whose family farm and forest is in the "thumb" of southern Michigan, led CONNIE BARLOW on a tour of his Florida torreya plantings August 13, 2023. Despite setbacks by herbivory, Paul's 45-acre deciduous forest is proving to be good habitat for this endangered and slow-growing subcanopy conifer. Another 30 young ones still in pots outdoors at his home will join the forest plantings in the years to come.
This 34-minute VIDEO delves into the details of best forest planting practices. Paul's experience will encourage other planters to (a) build strong cages to protect torreya where DEER are over-abundant and (b) don't give up when herbivory happens. Torreya will recover! This ancient species may be slow, but it is almost indestructible once it gets a roothold.
Crucially, too: There is no evidence of winter kill or disease problems. And at timecode 10:52 you will hear Connie's surprise when Paul shows his vibrant Florida yew another glacial relict left stranded amidst the wild torreya in the panhandle of Florida.
Watch on youtube: "Michigan welcomes endangered trees from Florida (2023)".
Visit the Capac Michigan torreya webpage.
• August 2023/ Connie Barlow / 48 papers linked and excerpted on the history of research on why Florida torreya is endangered
Until this month I was unaware that in 2015 agricultural research pathologists initiated a PARADIGM SHIFT in how they regard fungal endophytes (including Fusarium species).
Henceforth, fungal endophytes discovered in plants are first evaluated as potential mutualists with their hosts: "seeds contain mainly plant-beneficial microorganisms" (Abdelfattah et al. 2022)
Learn more in this new list of 48 scientific papers, with excerpts.
Since 2003, I have been analyzing published papers that offer and/or test hypotheses on WHY FLORIDA TORREYA suddenly succumbed to disease(s) in its tiny native range in the 1950s, and continuing today. "Environmental stress" that provoked disease expression by weakened plants was tested in the 1990s. However, quantitative historical data (especially on temperature changes in the ravine habitat) were not adequate for the scientists to point to a specific environmental shift as the likely ultimate cause of the multiple diseases injuring the species.
In the early 2010s, new morphological standards for parsing the globally ranging FUSARIUM genus of fungi led to University of Florida researchers distinguishing and naming a NEW SPECIES from fungal isolates that previously had been called Fusarium lateritium. The new species was named Fusarium torreyae, and this gave rise to speculations that the disease was exotic and had arrived on this continent in sync with the sudden outburst of stem cankers in Florida torreya. Thenceforth, the risk of a possibly exotic pathogen spreading northward supplied new reasons for botanical garden staff to maintain hostility to "assisted migration" projects, such as those underway by Torreya Guardians.
Within the past half-dozen years, an additional risk factor put a virtual end to harvesting and distribution of tens of thousands of torreya seeds produced annually in the two ex situ orchards in n. Georgia that are "safeguarding" the wild genetics. That new risk factor derives from the finding that Fusarium torreyae was not only in "all tissues" of Florida torreya but even in its SEEDS. This finding, however, actually offers hope for the fears to subside but only if the botanical staff and other professionals familiarize themselves with the new (post-2014) scientific papers, such as my own compilation of 48 SCIENTIFIC PAPERS, which includes the most recent papers documenting that FUNGAL ENDOPHYTES CAN BE BENEFICIAL, especially when inside SEEDS .
• July 2023/ Connie Barlow / Discovery: It took 2.5 months for seedlings to emerge after I free-planted GERMINATED seeds in a forest site
Having retired to my home state of southern Michigan, I have been frustrated by the overabundance of deer that destroy the understory in just about every forested site I have explored. Folks who began planting torreyas in Michigan a half-dozen or more years ago find that winter-hungry deer will sometimes push down all but the sturdiest cages.
ABOVE: Photos show the first two seedlings (June 30 and July 5 photos), next to context photos of the treefall tangles where I chose to plant seeds in April. (I used round rocks to mark each planting.)
So in April 2023 I tried something new. I selected massively tangled treefall sites for planting already germinated torreya seeds. These were from the 2021 harvest in Clinton, NC. None germinated after one winter stratifiction, but 39% germinated after two.
After planting mid April, it took 2.5 months for any of the already germinated seeds to show any above-ground growth. Instead, torreya's big seed invests in a long and well furnished TAPROOT, which is crucial for surviving summer droughts.
At the 3-month point, 6 of the 10 seeds had produced seedlings, 2 of which soon were nibbled down to stubs. These will regrow new leaders from the still-green bud scales that remain.
• July 2023/ Fred Bess / Seeds galore forming in Cleveland, Ohio
"I was out doing yard work and noted that the big female in the front yard is absolutely loaded with arils/seeds."
For the history of Fred's Torreya plantings, go to the Cleveland, Ohio page on this website.
Editor's note: While these torreya seeds are full size and fully rounded in shape, ripening continues for another 3 months. Picking the seeds before the fleshy coating peels off easily (without sticking to the seed) dooms the seed to death. Usually, the seed flesh turns yellowish or orange (sometimes with purple patches) when fully ripe. Scroll down to November 2022 and see the color of Fred's plucked seeds from his 2022 harvest.
• July 2023/ Connie Barlow / Federal government adopts new rule to authorize assisted migration for "experimental populations" of endangered species
In June 2022 the government proposed to modify the ESA regulation (not the statute) so as to no longer require "experimental populations" to be placed within "historical range". I filed a comment (as a citizen) supporting that change, which you can access by scrolling down this webpage or accessing directly my August 2022 entry. At the same time I went into the Wikipedia page: "Endangered Species Act of 1973" and created a new section titled "Climate adaptation".
This month, the government finalized the change, so I added this para (with references) to the wikipedia page:
"The U.S. Department of Interior on June 30, 2023, announced its decision to modify the section 10(j) "experimental populations" rule generally as proposed a year earlier. The press release summarized the reason for the change as, 'At the time the original 10(j) regulations were established, the potential impact of climate change on species and their habitats was not fully realized, yet in the decades since have become even more dramatic. These revisions will help prevent extinctions and support the recovery of imperiled species by allowing the Service and our partners to implement proactive, conservation-based species introductions to reduce the impacts of climate change and other threats such as invasive species.' The rulemaking action includes a section summarizing 25 topics entailed in comments submitted in 2022, along with the agency's official response to each."
This is a hugely significant shift in federal policy that would seem to finally allow (perhaps even motivate?) the agency staff in USF&WS to officially authorize "assisted migration" poleward of Florida Torreya, as we Torreya Guardians have been doing since 2005 thanks to an "exception" (just for plants) in the statute itself that enables citizens to plant horticulturally produced seeds outside of "historical range." I predict, however, that the agency will not act unless I (and others?) once again petition the government to utilize this new tool or at least issue a written decision as to why it will not.
And, yes, it is possible for a citizen (without any legal help, nor costs) to submit a formal petition as I did September 2019 when I petitioned to "downlist" Florida torreya from endangered to "threatened", based on the accomplishments of Torreya Guardians. Access directly my September 2019 comment on this page where I link to MY DOWNLIST PETITION; and then the October 2021 comment where I posted access to the agency's decision NOT TO DOWNLIST. Alas, the agency is probably not legally required to respond with any depth to a petition merely to shift how it implements its current recovery plan. The latest recovery plan update occurred in 2020, and the interval between such updates appears to be about 10 years. Nonetheless, the agency will have to respond at least in a sentence or two as to when they would consider applying the new regulation to Florida Torreya.
For a summary of the problematic episodes that Torreya Guardians have faced in the official resistance to "assisted migration" poleward of this "glacial relict" species from its peak glacial refuge in Florida, access the "Case Study of Agency and Institutional Failures" page on this website.
• June 2023/ Eric Hongisto / Huge California Torreyas documented north of San Francisco
Editor's note: In the past several years, three Californians have been contributing photos of Florida Torreya's giant cousin that is native to the Coast Range north of Santa Cruz, CA. The four below by Eric Hongisto are now on the Samuel P. Taylor State Park torreya page. Find more via our California Torreya main page. (And notice how massive trees often form from uniting basal regrowth stems thus indicating much older root stock below, possibly thousands of years old.)
• June 2023/ Court Lewis / My two tallest torreyas now 6 feet tall (Unicoi, TN)
COURT LEWIS reports June 2023: "Here is a photo of the two biggest specimens I have. They're both about 6 feet tall, although it's hard to tell that since they're surrounded by grass that I've let grow too high.
I only have a total of 5 survivors out of 34 planted 6-7 years ago.
The one that grew out of a free-planting in the soil is the third largest (not pictured here). It's about 4 1/2 ft tall. Two others are smaller: 1-2 feet.
... All of mine that have thrived are on sloping ground."
See all his photos and reports at Unicoi TN torreya page.
• June 2023/ Fred Bess and Connie Barlow / Lack of peer-reviewed science prolongs Fusarium fears within Torreya Keepers group
Editor's note: The lack of peer-reviewed scientific discernment is still evident in the disease pathology stance blocking support for seed distribution even by the institutions administering the official recovery plan for this endangered species. When Fred Bess (who planted the farthest north, Cleveland, set of seed-producing torreyas) heard of a Facebook debate on this topic, he stepped in to present an alternative view. Fred contributed 6 points, of which 3 are excerpted here:
EXCERPTS from Fred Bess's comment in a Facebook thread:
... 3. I know from personal experience that T. taxifolia is winter hardy to (at least) -17F (-27C) here in my own yard and they are fully exposed to the weather and salt spray from the 5 lane road I live on. This seems good evidence that the species was not originally a southern tree. If it were, why would it have the need to be that cold tolerant? More likely as many other southern US species it had to move south during the Ice age, but was unable to move back north, likely because its seed dispersers had gone extinct.
4. Is there any data on Fusarium hardiness? Not every fungus can survive severe cold, especially if it is living within plant tissues that are completely exposed to those sub zero temperatures. Have any studies been done on this?
5. I have an issue with the Fusarium testing on other species. I've seen the photos of completely dead Pinus and other genera in the lab. Just because a plant is killed in the lab does not mean it would be an issue in a natural habitat where there are other factors. Exposing any living organism to a possibly deadly pathogen is likely to end as those experiments did. I suspect those plants were grown in the lab as well and did not have the benefit of mycorrhizal associations that could have helped the trees deal with a fusarium infection....
Editor's note: Fred's full comment is available on his Ohio Torreya page, as the May 2023 entry within the Endangerment (causes of) webpage, and within the long facebook discussion thread. Reading this thread motivated webmaster, Connie Barlow, to send an email to the Fusarium expert in USDA, plus a climate-range-shift specialist there she has communicated with in past years. Connie wrote, in part:REQUEST: Could a group of USDA scientists evaluate and publish what is known and unknown about the science concerning: (a) native v. non-native origin of the newly identified Fusarium torreyae; (b) whether "glacial relict" history accounts for the small "historical native" range; (c) possibilities for successful reintroduction of Torreya into Florida, absent genetic engineering; (d) whether unpublished lab experiments in Florida that injected the fusarium into clippings or potted specimens of spruce, fir, and pine species native to high altitudes of the southern Appalachian mountains offer reliable evidence for halting seed distribution from the ex situ groves and perhaps also from mature horticultural plantings in North Carolina and Ohio; (e) scientifically credible next steps for producing peer-reviewable and thus publishable results on the actual disease risks of continuing Torreya seed distribution northward of Florida and Georgia.
• May 2023/ Jeff Morris / Photos of his tallest Torreya trees in Spencer, NC
The foreground tree in each photo is a Torreya taxifolia.
The tallest (left) is 14 feet in height, and it bore fruit in 2022.
The foreground tree in right photo is about 9 feet tall and is 4 or 5 years younger.
More photos and commentary at the Spencer, NC Torreya page, which is in central North Carolina, 40 miles northeast of Charlotte, 700 foot elevation.
• May 2023/ Lamar Marshall / First year of seed production near Franklin, NC
Beginning with seeds donated from the 2013 generation of seeds, Lamar Marshall reports,"I have six surviving Torreyas, a few of which are producing seeds for the first time."More photos and commentary at the Cowee Valley, NC Torreya page, which is 8 miles north of Franklin on a south-facing slope at 2,200 foot elevation.
Maintained as a full-sun site by lawn-mowing.
• May 2023/ Connie Barlow / USGS surveys USF&WS staff on views about "assisted migration" of endangered species. Conclusion: staff are cautious.
SCROLL DOWN first to a JUNE 2022 entry on a proposed USF&WS regulation authorizing "assisted migration" by removing "historical range" as the sole locus for endangered species recovery. THEN RETURN HERE:
This 22-page government document is a superb introduction to the concept and controversy about using assisted migration as a climate adaptation tool for endangered species.
In addition to the usual statement of risks of "invasion in recipient ecosystems", disease spread, and project failures resulting in wasted government money, there were several new risks, controversies, or complexities that I was unaware of either because they pertain mostly to animals or to the complexities of bureaucracies.
RISKS pertaining only to ANIMALS: (a) suffering or death during capture and transport, (b) loss of genetic diversity from the source population, (c) walking, flying, or swimming away from their intended "recipient ecosystem", and (d) requiring a lot of money to prepare, do, and monitor.
RISKS pertaining only to BUREAUCRACIES (not actions freely undertaken by citizens, such as Torreya Guardians): (a) INADEQUATE FUNDING for staff and/or NGOs to engage in all steps from planning to soliciting comments and then all aspects of carrying out the project. (b) INSECURE FUNDING to ensure monitoring and adjustments over many years. (c) LITIGATION by public either at source or recipient site.
TOPICS LACKING IN THIS GOVERNMENT REPORT:1. PLANTS were not specified as being less risky and costly than animals.BARLOW'S CONCLUSIONS:
2. No mention that NORTHWARD PLANTINGS IN PLACE at botanical gardens, urban streets/parks, and private residences can be evaluated as free, long-term experiments for assessing actual risks of project failure or harm to recipient ecosystems (such as we have done for Torreya in our "Historic Groves" webpage).
3. No distinction in historic consequences/risks of MOVING SPECIES WITHIN THE USA V. FROM ANOTHER CONTINENT.
4. Despite use of the term "paleontological" twice, there was no consideration that forestry scientists in America are well aware of GLACIAL-INTERGLACIAL MIGRATIONS OF TREES SPECIES regularly forming "novel ecological communities" during the transition times.1. Overall I gained additional compassion for USF&WS agency staff who are dedicated to the prospect of helping endangered species fully recover. Yet the bureaucracy they work within necessarily poses hurdles, complexities, inertia, shifting political priorities, insecure long-term funding, and endless oppositional public constituencies and lawsuits such that stepping out boldly on assisted migration will continue to be an unwise choice no matter how good the "decision frameworks" may become.
2. The only climate-motivated "assisted migration" that will occur for endangered species will be those undertaken by CITIZENS WHO USE THE EXISTING "EXCEPTION" FOR PLANTS in the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The USF&WS will not do it. Overall, then, the best way to assist plants who could benefit from assisted migration is to cease attempting to list them as threatened or endangered. NGOs and citizens should simply move plants on their own, of course using the best science for doing so wisely.
• Access Barlow's marked-up copy of the 22-page government document.
• April 2023/ Connie Barlow / 10 germinated seeds from 2021 Torreya harvest (after 2 winter stratifications) planted within 3 deer-proof treefalls
After two winter stratifications in Michigan, 30 of 78 torreya seeds harvested in autumn 2021 in North Carolina had germinated. (None had germinated the previous spring, after only 1 winter stratification.)
Contrary to her usual practice of avoiding planting sites where deer are overpopulated, Connie planted the first 10 germinated seeds into such a forest because she found three treefalls of sufficient size and branch density to serve as natural exclosures against deer.
LEFT: Connie at the third treefall site in the forest alongside the cemetery in Ypsilanti, MI. Here she planted 4 germinated seeds, at least 6 feet apart, along the distance of the biggest fallen tree. The curving stalks of the invasive subcanopy dominant, Amur honeysuckle, form a helpful mesh for excluding deer.
More photos and commentary at the Ypsilanti, Michigan Torreya page.
• April 2023/ Connie Barlow / Seed germination results after two winter stratifications
After a second winter stratifying in Michigan 78 torreya seeds (from the 2021 seed harvest in North Carolina), Connie photographed and inventoried the results.
• After 2 winter stratifications 39% of the total 78 seeds had newly germinated.
• Whether or not a seed shows a thin slit on its germinating point makes no difference in next spring germination.
• Any seed with a trifold crack (wider than a slit) at the germinating point will germinate the next spring.
• Any seed with punky (weak) regions on its seed coat are just as likely to germinate as seeds with perfect coats.
• None of the 9 seeds (slit or unslit) that evidenced a dark, circular depression at the opposite (round) end of the seed germinated after their second winter.
More photos and commentary at the Ypsilanti, Michigan Torreya page. Visit the "Germinating seeds" section within our "Propagation" page for more photos and guidance from other Torreya Guardians, along with information gathered from scholarly papers.
• April 2023/ Connie Barlow / Review paper features Florida Torreya as one of a very few examples of "assisted migration" already underway anywhere in the world.
"The application of assisted migration as a climate change adaptation tactic: An evidence map and synthesis", 2023, by William M. Twardek and 5 coauthors, published in Biological Conservation. The paper states: "Assisted migration has been implemented very few times as a conservation tactic.... Assisted migration was most common for plants (particularly trees), followed by birds, and was rarely implemented for other taxa."
The text highlighted at left of FLORIDA TORREYA is the team's summary of just five case studies globally that were carried out "for the purpose of conservation or management, rather than for experimentation or some other purpose."
Torreya Guardians is noted as a "citizen science group." Our results are judged as "interesting."
• February 2023/ Connie Barlow / Preparing for 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act
December 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act in the USA. I was a senior in college then and cannot recall that I was aware of that momentous event.
Lots of organizations are beginning to appear in the news about it. At left is the image used by the Center for Biological Diversity in their 2 February 2023 press release, titled "Celebrating 50 Years of Endangered Species Act Success".
Three national journalism outlets already contacted me just for background. Whether and how Torreya Guardians shows up in the news this year is yet to be determined. Suffice it to say that, as founder of our group (and still, chief contact), I will do my best to insist on a site visit to one or more of our successful volunteer planters.
I regard our website as the best archival source for anyone to learn our history, to dig into the controversies, and to easily access the online resources of the official recovery program (both USA government and the several participating institutions). Because the US official "Record of Actions" page is difficult to use in its tabular form, today I excerpted and posted in pdf what I regard as the most important historical records of action documented officially.
• February 2023/ Buford Pruitt / Remembering squirrels are important local seed dispersers
BUFORD PRUITT, a wildlife biologist, is a very successful planter of Florida Torreya at his rural home near Brevard, NC. Visit Pruitt's Torreya webpage on this website. This month he contributed a 3-page advocacy essay: "Torrey Squirrels"
"...Torreya Guardians already know that the Eastern Gray Squirrel can affect our assisted migration tactics. This rodent (1) raids mother trees of their seeds, (2) steals potted seeds, and (3) caches seeds in developed areas and wildlands that can germinate and grow into naturally occurring individuals and colonies.
Although we know this third thing, and we are happy about it when new seedlings 'volunteer,' we have historically focused on the first two annoyances. In my view, this is because our historical charge has been to propagate and migrate. Obviously, we cannot increase the population until we learn how to propagate and nurture it. I believe we have now done those two things well enough to start looking at natural colonization strategies...."
• February 2023/ Connie Barlow / Using our Torreya photos and learnings in my photo-essay to help Coast Redwood planters
Although Genus TORREYA will always be my top priority as a citizen volunteer, beginning in 2014 I started video documentation and advocacy of assisted migration for other tree species, too. These are listed and linked in my "Climate, Trees, and Legacy" webpage.
Owing to 18 years of an itinerant lifestyle with my husband, Michael Dowd, (which ended during the covid lockdowns), I have been blessed with in-forest experience of COAST REDWOOD. I was surprised that I learned far more about this stunningly miraculous species by many months of exploration of regrowth redwood forests rather than the old growth in parks.
As with Torreya, Coast Redwoods have lignotubers and a nearly immortal ability to use prolific basal sprouting to regrow giant trees from the same root system, post-logging (and post-fire).
In 2023 journalist interest in "assisted migration" has soared, and Torreya Guardians is of interest to them.
But of greatest interest are the old horticultural plantings of this California giant that document how fog belts of the Pacific Northwest (even B.C.) already superb habitat for helping redwoods track climate warming and drying.
To help both the journalists and the northward planters learn about redwood's growth capacities, I found that PHOTOS and LEARNINGS about genus Torreya that our group has made actually offer important insights for the assisted migration of Coast Redwood. Therefore, I created a multi-part PHOTO-ESSAY, "Growth Capacities of COAST REDWOOD". Two sections feature what we have learned about genus TORREYA: "Fallen Branches Sprout by Layering" and, especially, "Propagation from Cuttings."
• January 2023/ Connie Barlow / Robin Wall Kimmerer advocates "helping forests walk"
Robin Wall Kimmerer spoke at the "Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit" at the University of Colorado, December 2022. The video was posted on youtube January 2023. The LINK here goes directly to timecode 41:04, where Robin uses her own Indigenous term, "helping forests walk," to speak about "assisted migration" of plants as a traditional application of the value of "reciprocity" among native peoples on this continent.
EXCERPTS: "I think about the cultural value of thinking that our actions are not only on behalf of human people, of course, but on behalf of our more-than-human relatives. An aspect of that, that we can share, to perhaps guide some climate-related solutions are things like assisted migration what one of my really respected teachers, Henry Lickers, called, 'Helping forests walk.'
"... It is our responsibility as human people who have been gifted by so much from the plants that we need to reciprocate with our gifts particularly in this time when the climate is changing so fast that our plant relatives can't move on their own. So the kinds of things that I would advocate sharing with the climate science community are these strategies of things like assisted migration. That is, the way in which our people participated in carrying our plant relatives around, from place to place, to new habitats as the environment changed.
"It's an exchange of gifts: our human gift of mobility and seed planting in return for the gifts of the plants. And those kinds of broad values coupled to action."
• January 2023/ Paul Camire / Photo update of Michigan torreyas plus news of Chinese Torreya video
Editor's Note: In addition to sending photos of his within-forest plantings of torreya in Michigan all protected by deer-proof cages, PAUL CAMIRE alerted me to a Chinese video (on youtube) of that country's native Torreya grandis.
Connie Barlow writes:
Visit that section to access the video and to read in the caption what I learned about this genus including the likelihood that harvesting of the seed for processing into a highly regarded "nut" food occurs well before the ripening is complete. Early harvesting ensures that the seed coat has not yet hardened, and thus does not need to be removed.
• January 2023/ Connie Barlow / Our CALIFORNIA TORREYA webpage is updated and expanded
Torreya Guardians now has a Torreya californica subgroup! Our website made it possible for citizens in the home range of California Torreya to connect with, thus far, one volunteer planter (with an excellent forested ravine on his property) in the Pacific Northwest.
For many years, Californians have been contributing photos of their own native Torreya trees (close cousin of Florida Torreya) that they encounter in the wilds of the Coast Range and Sierras. I then post the photos in the California section of this website. Initially, posting the Torreya californica photos was simply to help our own planters of this genus in the eastern USA locate suitable habitats.
It is gratifying that "assisted migration" has now begun for California torreya well before it might qualify for listing as an endangered species. Endangered species listing of Florida Torreya in 1984 made it difficult for we citizens, beginning in 2005, to access genetically diverse seeds for our northward planting efforts.
Below is the new and expanded Table of Contents for the California Torreya page:
• December 2022/ Michael Heim / A Wollemia Christmas Tree in Wisconsin (potted, of course)
Like our own glacial relict, Torreya taxifolia, Wollemia is making a last stand in the coolest place it could find: the bottom of deep, nearly inaccessible canyon in southeastern Australia. Sadly, unlike Torreya, there is as yet no citizen or governmental project aiming to "rewild" this remarkable tree into a poleward location (are there any in the southern hemisphere?) where it could thrive over a larger geographic range.
PHOTO LEFT: Our Wisconsin Torreya planter sent us this photo of the Christmas tree that he, as a self-described "plant nerd," is enjoying this season. It is none other than the famous "living fossil" plant of Australia, discovered alive in 1994. This is the monotypic genus Wollemia.
All Wollemia here in the USA in horticultural circulation are rooted branchlets. Mike sets this potted specimen outdoors in the warm seasons, bringing it back inside each winter.
PHOTO RIGHT: Earlier this month, Mike sent Torreya Guardians this photo of an ericad shrub native to the southern Appalachians that he had planted in his Wisconsin forest: Pieris floribunda.
• December 2022/ Eric Hongisto / Documented another large CALIFORNIA TORREYA (Bolinas Ridge)
ERIC HONGISTO writes:I found another great grove near top of Bolinas Ridge, above Samuel P Taylor park maybe 200 trees inside a mature Fir and Bay mixed forest.NOTE BY EDITOR, Connie Barlow: I like to post photos by Californians who are finding new giant California Torreya trees usually by bushwhacking into likely areas. It is a reminder that there is no scientific evidence on size or age contraints for Florida torreya. By the time botanical documentation occurred, settlers had been utilizing the valuable wood. As well, I have seen photos of Asian species (T. grandis and T. nucifera) that are as big as those documented in California.
Most of the Nutmegs [Torreya] are on the young side. The best one was a huge double clonal structure. PHOTO LEFT.
FYI, 5 miles from parking lot, if you use 'proper trails' and then some bushwack down from ridge (approx. 800') to the tree. 38.01850&° N, 122.73963° W
• December 2022/ Buford Pruitt / December 2022 photos of 14 torreyas planted in my forest, BREVARD, NC
LEFT: Photos of one of the biggest and one of the smallest torreya trees.
EDITOR'S NOTE: See photos of all 14 trees, along with other photos and reports, in the chronologically organized Brevard NC torreyas.
That page goes back to 2012, based on seeds Pruitt received from the 2010 and 2011 harvests by Torreya Guardians.
Pruitt reports that height differences are primarily attributed to differences in sunlight. He also reports that none have yet grown any reproductive buds, and that deer haven't browsed the leaders and long branches that protrude over or through the cages. He keeps them caged primarily to prevent buck antler-rubbing (and is thankful that his neighbors hunt deer on their properties).
• December 2022/ Paul Camire / News article links Torreya at Caroline Dormon preserve (Louisiana) with Torreya Guardians planting at Junaluska, NC
In 2008, the first group planting of Florida Torreya by Torreya Guardians took place at Corneille Bryan Native Garden in Lake Junaluska, NC.
I found this undated article online (probably from the Charlotte Observer). It shows that Caroline Dormon of Louisiana visited that garden long ago and several Torreya Guardians visited in 2018 the giant female Torreya that Caroline had planted at Dormon Preserve.
As it turns out, the writer of this article, Elizabeth Lawrence, was a famous gardener herself. As presented on the website of Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden:
Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985) is an internationally known garden writer. She is regarded as one of three preeminent figures in the horticultural history of the Southeast, sharing this short list with Thomas Jefferson and J.C. Raulston. She is also listed among the top twenty-five gardeners of all time. The work she did while designing, writing and gardening at her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed greatly to that status.
• December 2022/ Connie Barlow / "Budcapping" the leader growth is added to deer-prevention section of our PROPAGATION page
A Minnesota Public Radio News story on DEER-PROOFING WHITE PINE SEEDLINGS in Minnesota was added to our webpage here of Best Practices for PROPAGATION. The article was published 22 November 2022 and is titled, "Bringing back the white pine, a foundational American tree", by Dan Kraker, Deer Lake, Minnesota.
BUDCAP THE LEADER WITH PAPER AND A STAPLE
... So John Rajala's father, Jack, started fiddling with different ways to discourage deer from munching the trees. They experimented with rotten egg mixes, and different commercial products. But what worked best was stapling a folded piece of paper over the bud. Simple, but backbreaking and incredibly time-intensive work. It's called "budcapping," and now it's used by pretty much anyone who plants trees in the North Woods.
Jack Rajala detailed the work in his book titled Bringing Back the White Pine. John Rajala said over the years his family has planted, and budcapped, millions of white pines. You see evidence of it all throughout the forest, small squares of white paper topping tiny trees dotting the forest floor.
Note: Wisconsin Torreya planter, Mike Heim, reports: "I'm already budcapping my tuliptrees with knee-high nylons held on by twist-ties from supermarket cilantro bundles."
• November 2022/ Sharon Mohney / Virginia planter chooses sites with fern and lycopod evergreen camouflage
Sharon Mohney in Buchanan, VA captured this photo of an unbrowsed seedling camouflaged by an evergreen fern.
Notice that this site has two flags. When freeplanting the seeds in November 2020, she marked each site with a flag. Now, when she spots a seedling, she installs a second flag, so that the seedling locations are documented and thus can be confirmed in future years as to survival and possible demise by deer browsing.
She wrote: "The plant in the foreground of my photo is, I believe, Diphasiastrum digitatum rather than a Selaginella. I have used it as a protective cover for my torreya plantings when Christmas ferns weren't nearby."
Editor's note: This innovation in using a clonal evergreen lycopod for camouflage is very interesting, so I added this photo and caption to the camouflage section of our Freeplanting webpage.
• November 2022/ Connie Barlow / 83 seeds from 2022 harvest planted in DEER-FREE forest slopes; ongoing experiments with 2021 harvested seeds
My share (some 400 seeds) from this year's harvest of torreya seeds from one horticultural planting in Clinton, NC, is mostly being used at or near my home in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for experimental plantings especially at exceedingly rare DEER-FREE SITES along our major river. (Deer herbivory has been so problematic for volunteer planters that losses have been great or investments in deer-proof cages have been necessary.)
Each DEER-FREE site is located on a downtown stretch of steeply sloping forested edges of the Huron River. These were reinforced long ago by solid concrete lower portions (red outline on map above) or a series of concrete and asphalt blocks onto which trees and woody plants (especially Amur Honeysuckle) have taken hold. Natural regeneration over many decades have produced patches of good soil into which I put seeds (usually 4 to 6 inches deep, to escape detection by rodents) of America's most endangered conifer tree.
PHOTO ABOVE shows the unusual cracked seedcoats of a small portion of the 2022 harvest, through which the vibrant red seed itself is seen clearly, not yet rotting. So these I needed to put into final destinations immediately. As well, the cracked seed farthest right displays a dark indentation on its round, non-germinating end (germination happens at the pointy end). So some of these seeds I also planted this month (turquoise outline above).
PHOTO BELOW shows the remaining seeds from 2021 harvest being tested in a safe, outdoor container. Scrutiny of seed characteristics (especially "slit" v. "unslit" over the germination point after a second full summer) may help us predict which seeds require only one additional winter to sprout. (Visit the Torreya Guardians PROPAGATION page for many more learnings and recommendations.)
• November 2022/ Connie Barlow / New VIDEO summarizes history of TORREYA GUARDIANS
EPISODE 35: Torreya Guardians - Reflections by Connie Barlow
While cleaning and sorting torreya seeds freshly harvested from a private home in Clinton, NC, Connie extemporaneously delivers the history of significant beginnings, achievements, and frustrating institutional obstacles that she and other volunteers encountered during nearly two decades of action and advocacy in behalf of this endangered subcanopy tree.
The final 5 minutes is where she explains the new governmental proposal to authorize "assisted migration" for climate threatened species, such as this glacial relict.
Length: 43 minutes, with timecoded table of topics in the youtube caption. Access the full list of TG videos.
• November 2022/ Eric Hongisto / Photo of large CALIFORNIA TORREYA north of San Francisco
ERIC HONGISTO writes:"This torreya is one of the largest in the three known groves at Fort Ross State Historic Park.NOTE BY EDITOR, Connie Barlow: Beginning about two years ago, several Californians have been sending me photos and ideas about Florida Torreya's California cousin. Although there is no doubt that the species could do well in the subcanopy of Pacific Northwest forests, the rugged topography of this Coast Range section of California affords the trees shady north slopes and deep canyons for healthy living today. I have been adding these new photos, with captions, to the California Torreya webpages I maintain on this website.
This grove has 15 trees connected over 1/4 acre. It is directly on the San Andreas Fault, east of the creek.
You can see the tree being pulled slowly, and adjusting.
On both sides of the fault are old growth redwoods."
• November 2022/ Fred Bess / Report of torreya seed harvest, Cleveland OHIO
November 3:"After the squirrels got a fair number from the two front females, the count is +/- 230 seeds."Update November 6:"As I was mowing the lawn I found an additional 15 seeds under the Torreyas that had apparently dropped off mostly from the big female in the front yard."Access Fred's torreya webpage: Cleveland, Ohio.
• October 2022/ Connie Barlow / Two new articles show our pioneering of "assisted migration" is becoming mainstream
In the OCTOBER 2022 section of the lengthy "Assisted Migration Scholarly Links" webpage on this website, I posted links and excerpts for two really important articles:
• "Last Resort: Moving Endangered Species in Order to Save Them" by Zach St. George, in Yale Environment 360. This is the first substantive news report of a historic proposal in June 2022 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to amend its regulations in order to expressly authorize "assisted migration" as a tool for not just "protecting" relict species in place but to enable full-out "recovery" by moving them to habitats where they can thrive. (See the August and June entries below on this page, where I excerpted the regulatory proposal.) In this new article, the work of Torreya Guardians is mentioned: "A group of private citizens planted the endangered Florida Torreya, an evergreen in the yew family that is native to riparian areas in Florida and Georgia, far to the north, throughout the eastern United States."
• "Potential for Assisted Migration of Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) to Vancouver Island", by Richard S. Winder et al., was published by Natural Resources Canada. I point to it here because, if we are considered too radical, then what about this professional proposal to move California redwoods to Canada?! (Also, I am referenced in the article for my video documentation of thriving horticultural plantings in the Seattle area.)
• October 2022/ Mike Heim / After two winters and summers, two torreya seedlings have appeared
Mike Heim took photos of two new seedlings that emerged from seeds planted directly into his forest (within a fenced deer exclosure). He wrote: "It's taken 2 winters for them to germinate. Probably more on the way next year." More information on Mike's Hayward, Wisconsin Torreya page.
• October 2022/ Connie Barlow / Info on a wild forest in China containing 2,800 Torreya
A 2022 news report, China: Wild, ancient Torreya Forest in Hunan, China:
EXCERPTS (of English translation): ... It is the city tree of Ningxiang City.... Yueshan Village occupies more than 68% of the forest land, and more than 2,800 wild Torreya trees are hidden in the depths of the forest. They were discovered by the forestry department for the first time around 1990.... A thousand-year-old Torreya tree came into view. The diameter of the trunk was so thick that it took six adults to hold hands to surround it. In the passage of time, it has stood quietly here for more than a thousand years.... The torreya tree likes a humid, low-light and cool climate, and the mountainside with less direct sunlight is the best habitat. The wild ancient torreya community is located in the mountain forest at an altitude of 200 to 500 meters in Yueshan Village, and the villagers living in the surrounding area are not familiar with it.
• September 2022/ Bob Miller / Joyful discovery of a torreya (from seed planted May 2015) by a log while removing invasives
Email from BOB MILLER (Torreya planter near Cincinnati Ohio) to Connie Barlow:"An upside of removing invasive plants from our woods is that I find interesting things. This Torreya is on the south-facing hillside across from the front of our house and is the first I've found there. Looks very happy!"Editor's Note: We have long postulated that the poor success rate of the May 2015 free-planting into wild forest may owe to shallow seed-planting that led to rodents detecting seeds, large local numbers of deer nipping off newly emerged seedlings, or the simple fact that seedlings are difficult to spot amidst fallen leaves. Did this seed (or seedling) benefit from a treefall that kept it hidden?
• September 2022/ Fred Bess / Torreyas at Ohio State University's arboretum doing well.
FRED BESS writes:
"I visited Secrest Arboretum Friday and walked around with the new curator Jason Veil.
He took me to see the two Torreya taxifolia trees they have planted out (photos left.)
Jason is thrilled with the opportunity to get more seeds, either from me or from other sources. I will be sharing a fair number of my tree's seeds with them."
Editor's note: Fred Bess donated 20 seeds to Secrest Arboretum in 2011. (Visit the Secrest Arboretum Torreya page.) Fred is one of our most successful Torreya planters and the first to have his plantings produce seeds as far north as Ohio. Visit his photo-rich Torreya page: Cleveland, Ohio, Torreya.
• September 2022/ Clint Bancroft / Proof that a basal sprout will form on the rooted cutting of the apical tip of a basal stem cut from another torreya
Email from CLINT BANCROFT (Torreya planter in Ocoee watershed of Tennessee) to Connie Barlow:"We have wondered if a rooted apical basal sprout will eventually form its own basal sprouts. This PHOTO shows a basal sprout which has formed on a rooted apical cutting from one the Highlands, NC trees. My tag says it is from a cutting I took there in October 2017."__________
EDITOR'S NOTE: Finally, we have confirmation that not only will a rooted cutting of the apical tip of a basal stem grow into a tree-like (rather than shrubby) form. Now we know that it will also grow basals of its own! This assures us that, as with its wild cousin California Torreya, Florida Torreya grown from apical basal cuttings will indeed be capable of manifesting the tree form again and again no matter what injury may kill the main stem itself. Nobody has tried to guess whether the rootstock itself may endure for perhaps millennia because annual growth rings do not form below the soil. (Even the well-studied Coast Redwood has not had this mystery answered.)
• August 2022/ Connie Barlow / I filed a comment on the proposed federal regulation to eliminate "historical range" as the sole locus for endangered species recovery
Comment time for this proposed regulation ended August 8, with a total of 553 comments including the COMMENT I POSTED, drawing upon my experience with Torreya Guardians.
I attached a 5-page pdf that, after voicing a YES to the proposal, offered RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION:
1. Create implementation frameworks and policies that are distinct for plants.
2. Encourage nongovernmental entities to use the ESA "exception" for plants.
3. Follow the lead of the USDA Forest Service [in their own "assisted migration" terminology and actions.
4. Facilitate respectful dialogue and understandings of worldview differences.
• Barlow summary of key institutional comments (10 pages PDF)
• August 2022/ Connie Barlow / I spent three weeks improving the wikipedia page on Torreya taxifolia
This revised wikipedia page was a massive undertaking. Over the years, the page had languished into centering on arcane taxonomy and descriptive morphology, while containing factual errors (mostly on noncontroversial topics), and avoiding altogether mention of the central role this species has served in nurturing professional discussion about the merits and risks of assisted migration for climate-stressed plants, especially for "glacial relicts."
I had earned my wikipedia stripes by creating the topical flow with many scholarly references for the (new in 2021) page, "Assisted migration of forests in North America.
But I also learned that it is very difficult to create an objective wikipedia page on aspects of a topic when one carries a strong viewpoint. Established wikipedia editors along the way very much helped me with those learnings.
Because images are so important in our learnings, you will see that I added many of my own photos and charts into the anonymous media commons for posting on wikipedia.
My greatest difficulty was that, while I (as webmaster) ensure that everything is documented on our website, the actions and assertions of the botanical gardens officially in charge of this endangered species are only loosely documented online or are missing altogether. And if one can't point to an online reference, one cannot include the topic in a citable way in a wikipedia page. While one can present the documented actions by one side of a controversy (notably, our documentation of historic groves, our northward plantings, and what we have learned about best planting practices), value statements and arguments must present both sides or not be included at all. Because of the degree of controversy, I usually selected actual quotes rather than attempting to objectively summarize an argument. Finally, a huge benefit of posting information on a wikipedia page (as is also the case on our own Torreya Guardians pages) is that it is ever-after correctable and updatable. Scientific papers published in journals are not.
• August 2022/ Mike Heim / List of S. Appalachian plants growing on my land in WISCONSIN
Florida Torreya is one of many plant species in North America whose historical native range is south (sometimes, far south) of Wisconsin.
Mike Heim's page on the Torreya Guardians website where he reports on his plantings of FLORIDA TORREYA and FLORIDA YEW is here.
We post another photo-rich page, as well, on Mike's experiments with planting species native to the Southern Appalachians and his "Tertiary Rewilding" project (Ginkgo and Metasequoia) here.
IMAGE LEFT: We just posted this tabular list of the species Mike plants for his "Southern and Eastern Assisted Migration of Tree Species" experimentation in Wisconsin. (Larger versions of this image are on both of the webpages linked above.)
• July 2022/ Clint Bancroft / Visits torreya seedling he donated to Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, Chattanooga TN
CLINT WRITES: "I went to Reflection Riding Arboretum in Chattanooga today and was able to get someone to show me where they planted the Torreyas I gave them 2 years ago.
There were 6 trees donated, and they already had one which was still in a one-gallon pot.
They were only able to locate two of them today, but promise they will locate the remaining trees.
Both the ones I got to see looked sweetly content. One had a new vertical and also had 2 basal sprouts which were not there when I donated the trees. The second had 4 new lateral branches with no vertical growth so far."
PHOTO of Clint alongside one of the picture-perfect torreys at the arboretum. Visit his extensive torreya page at his forested home and land east of Chattanooga.
Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is near downtown Chattanooga, TN.
• July 2022/ Peter Bane and Julia Chambers / Torreyas survive winter and browsing on the east shore of Lake Michigan
NEW PAGE created for the 2022 photos and reports of both sites.
1. MUSKEGON (Montague) - Peter Bane and Keith Johnson are permaculturalists who received from Connie Barlow 40 seeds in September 2014, from the 2013 harvest. All were germinated in a hoophouse, and the survivors outplanted. As of July 2022, 3 were still alive (heavily browsed by herbivores) in nearly full-sun settings.
2. LUDINGTON (Fountain) - Julia Chambers lives in a forested rural landscape, with a great many deer. Her immediate area is mostly forest, with several small lakes nearby. To the west is mostly farm fields, with some woodlots. To the east is national forest. She received and planted one newly germinated seedling from Connie Barlow in July 2015. She received 40 freshly harvested seeds in November 2015, and she free-planted them outdoors, but either none germinated or rodents found and ate them all. The one seedling planted out of pot is still alive 7 years later, July 2022.
• July 2022/ Fred Bess (Cleveland, OH) / "My cutting-grown female has outdone herself!"
FRED BESS REPORTS (Cleveland, OH): "My cutting-grown female has outdone herself! I have counted close to 100 seeds just on 3 branches (pics of two of them attached). I also find it humorous that the bulk of the seeds are on the side facing the male which, as you know, is a fair distance....
I'm not sure about elsewhere, but I have seen no issues whatsoever with squirrels beating me to the seeds. The squirrels and chipmunks leave the seeds on my trees completely alone. I allow the seeds to fully ripen and harvest without issue. In fact, I missed a half dozen or so Torreya seeds when I harvested last fall and found them under the female trees early this spring. I’ve stuck those into the ground of the front hill. Will keep you posted if they show up this or next spring! My Gala apple is not so lucky. As soon as the apples get half-dollar size, I have to deter the squirrels."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Fred is not only one of our longest-term Florida Torreya planters. He is the record-setter for seed production in the northern states and he regularly photo-documents his progress. Visit Fred's Cleveland OHIO torreya page.
LEARNING: Because torreya seeds appear nearly full size (and round shape) in early July, even professionals may be fooled into harvesting the seeds too early, in their attempt to prevent squirrels from snatching any. Fred will be waiting another 3 to 4 months before these seeds are harvested. The casing of the seed shell is hidden and it must fully harden before the seed is removed.
• June 2022/ Connie Barlow / Proposed federal regulation no longer restricts endangered species to recovery only in "historical range.".
FWS Press release quote by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland:
"Climate change and the rapid spread of invasive species pose an ever-increasing threat to native biodiversity. The time to act and use every tool at our disposal is now.... The growing extinction crisis highlights the importance of the Endangered Species Act and efforts to conserve species before declines become irreversible. This effort to update proven conservation tools will help ensure species on the cusp of extinction can recover and thrive for generations to come."
June 7 a proposed revision of the regulations (not the law) of the Endangered Species Act was published in the Federal Register. The above link includes how to submit comments until August 8.
Torreya Guardians, being an umbrella group for citizen planters, does not submit "group" comments but any of us may do so on our own.
For example, I, Connie Barlow, submitted (as an individual) a "Petition to Downlist" Florida Torreya from endangered to threatened, September 2019. The agency published its decision in September 2021. Scroll down to an October 2021 entry on this page to see highlights of the decision, including the key statement that dismisses the relevance of our own successes in northward plantings:"Ultimately, the relative reproductive success of the outplanted groves does not ameliorate the threats currently affecting the species in its historical range (i.e. low population number, rarity of habitat, and disease, USFWS 2010)."You will notice in the image above that "historical range" is being eliminated as the sole locale for effecting species recovery. That would seem to be a good thing. However, because the ESA necessarily focuses on animals (not plants), the steps for undertaking an "experimental population" outside of native range (including for climate change reasons) are fraught with regulatory procedures much more complicated than the "assisted migration" experimentation that would have been included in the 2010 Florida Torreya recovery plan update, had not the Advisory Board voted it down.
Bottom line: I personally am not inclined to file a comment, as uncomplicated citizen actions such as ours will be able to continue using the "exception" for plants (not animals) written into the act and pertaining to the distribution of horticulturally produced seeds. It remains to be seen whether any of the northward botanical gardens obtaining seeds for "safeguarding genetics" from the seed-rich ex situ plantings at Smithgall Woods and Blairsville preserves in north Georgia will ever be made available for any degree of wild "recovery" other than "preventing extinction."
NOTE: 19 MAY 2022 I had submitted a 2-page "Request" for the (newly appointed) director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to review the citizen accomplishments of Torreya Guardians. Following several paragraphs of background and the history of Torreya Guardians actions and accomplishments, I concluded this way:"REQUEST: Please have a high-level, policy staff person visit the Torreya Guardians website: http://www.torreyaguardians.org/ From the home page, click on the link titled, "Case Study of Agency Failure." As well, our "Historic Groves" link is intended to be a strong and visually rich survey of how well the climate in the Appalachians and northward supports this glacial relict's health: notably its ability to fight a range of native diseases that have made the species functionally extinct in its historically native range. As well, do take a look at our documentation of what we have learned, especially to educate and guide volunteer planters via our "Propagation" page. Finally, please consult with USDA climate lead, Chris Swanston, who is well situated to educate conservation scientists in FWS about the forestry research scholarship that has welcomed "assisted migration" as a climate adaptation tool for timber management and forest ecosystem services. A well-regarded summary of the forestry science on this topic is a wikipedia page I coauthored in 2021 with a Canadian: "Assisted migration of forests in North America." I look forward to the possibility of Florida torreya becoming a highlighted achievement of FWS for the 50th anniversary of the ESA, instead of a sad example of ongoing climate denial and hostility toward citizen contributions."
• June 2022/ Clint Bancroft / Precious Norlina NC cutting of a basal tip has rooted!
BACKGROUND: December 2021, PAUL CAMIRE photo-documented the NORLINA TREE in North Carolina and took some basal sprout cuttings.
PHOTO LEFT: May 10, 2022, CLINT BANCROFT sent this photo and reported that it had "rooted" (and thus was on its way to becoming a tree). Clint wrote:
"I know it is rooted because I tugged on it GENTLY and got resistance. I would not have tried that this early on except, to my delight, it had put on apical and lateral growth.
"The tiny five buds were present when I received the cutting from Paul, but I really did not expect to see them burst, especially during their first spring.
"This appears to be the only cutting which is apical. However, they have ALL rooted (by tug test) and most have new growth."
SIGNIFICANCE: Visit the OFFSPRING section of the main Norlina Tree page, and you will grasp the significance of establishing a 100% clone of this 160-year-old tree, whose descendants now inhabit many states.
• June 2022/ Connie Barlow / Restructured the CALIFORNIA TORREYA webpage
In 2005, I made site visits to both the Coast Range and the Sierras habitats of Florida torreya's California cousin: Torreya californica.
Back then, my sole purpose was to gain (and photo-document) the growth forms and habitat characteristics so that Torreya Guardians could choose planting sites for Florida Torreya in the Appalachian Mountains that would offer the best chances for success.
Seventeen years later, there is now a second urgency: Climate change is having such an impact in California that ASSISTED MIGRATION should begin for the western Torreya species too.
I spent a whole week restructuring the page (and adding a lot of photos) so that viewers could visually grasp the most important growth characteristics of the California torreya species which very likely also will apply to Florida torreya when it has the opportunity to "rewild" in various habitats poleward of its peak glacial refuge. Here is the webpage: • California Torreya
• May 2022/ Fred Bess / A bumper crop of Torreya seeds growing in Cleveland, Ohio
FRED BESS writes about his 4-specimen grove of Florida Torreyas at his home in Cleveland, Ohio:
It looks like it is going to be a banner year for seed production here.
See these photos (May 17) of two different branches of the cutting-grown female tree.
I never imagined there could be so many cones on any one branch! It looks like a juniper loaded with cones.
The other two female-cone-producing trees are also showing seed growth, but not nearly as heavily as this tree.
I'll be sure to keep you posted with pictures as the season progresses.
Note: I may have been premature in thinking that one of those trees is monoecious. I was looking at it with a botanist friend. Upon close inspection, all the female strobili are coming from one main trunk of the tree. I got the tree (as you know) from Woodlanders in SC years ago as a seedling. Jason and I now suspect that the seed had 2 embryos and has produced "conjoined" fraternal twins as it were: one trunk male, the other female. I suppose we will never know for sure. See Fred's cumulative Torreya report, Cleveland OHIO
• May 2022/ Connie Barlow / Important to periodically look at the USF&WS official "Reports" page for Torreya taxifolia
As webmaster of the Torreya Guardians website since 2005, I attempt to ensure that all of our own actions, accomplishments, and learnings are documented here for ourselves and others to see and evaluate through time.
Our "Efforts to Save" webpage, however, provides links to the other actors in this effort (see image left). Within the "OFFICIAL PROGRAM" section, readers are encouraged to click on the link to the USF&WS Data Table: Record of Actions, and to read through the "comments" column to find the most detail on officially sanctioned efforts.
A website update has put the reports in a format difficult to read, and some elements of recovery actions are very out of date....
But I encourage citizens and journalists to periodically check that official tabulation for useful updates. For example, because I recently learned of citizen interest in California to help their own Torreya species migrate northward as climate changes, I found this report element especially helpful to be aware of:ACTION #34: Conduct grafting experiments: "The recovery plan suggests grafting [asexual propagation where the tissues (vascular cambium) of one plant are fused with those of another] with T. californica. However, T. californica is exhibiting some issues with cankers caused by pathogens with a different Fusarium species which is killing the cambium."
• May 2022/ Connie Barlow / Restructured two long pages on this website
Now that my husband and I are retired in southern Michigan, I have time to make this website easier to use. Two of the most important pages have grown to immense length, given topics and sections added to them over the past dozen years.
The image shows the TABLES OF TOPICS, with internal links, for each of these two pages:
• May 2022/ Connie Barlow / Visually detecting signs of PRE-GERMINATION
I added a new, photo-rich section to our Torreya Guardians webpage on best practices for Propagation. The new section is: Visually detecting signs of PRE-GERMINATION.
Of the 85 seeds that I retained from the 500 seeds harvested in Clinton and Mt. Olive NC that it was my responsibility to distribute, I retained just 85 for further experimentation. Of these 85, only 1 germinated by early May, following winter stratification.
Of the remaining seeds, about 1/3 showed signs of a slit at the pointed tip where germination will occur (PHOTO far left)....
The other 2/3 had no slit, but all had an easy-to-peel-away thin, papery covering that left the region around the tip smooth and a light shade of brown. Visit the new signs of PRE-GERMINATION section for Connie's photos and observations on other features of post-stratification, notably dark indentations aligned with the vertical slit. She plans to continue this experiment through the summer, to discern (a) whether the slitted seeds germinate a radicle, and (b) whether any of the less developed seeds show signs of a slit happening in the months ahead, and whether any above-ground growth (a shoot) emerges this first summer, or whether all growth remains underground as rooting.
• April 2022/ Connie Barlow / Finished distributing 2021 North Carolina seed harvest
Scroll down to NOVEMBER 2021 and you will see photos and summaries of Joe Facendola's seed harvest at two horticultural sites in North Carolina. Joe sent packages of large amounts of seeds right away to our stalwart planters. He then sent 500 seeds to me to distribute in smaller portions largely to new volunteer planters in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, and Illinois.
By the time I calculated how to allocate the seeds among all 9 volunteer planters, temperatures where I live in Michigan were already heading below freezing. Torreya seeds are "recalcitrant"; they must never freeze or dry out. So I "stratified" them over winter, moving a small cooler of seeds in soil between hallway to porch as temperatures shifted back and forth around the freezing mark. This last week in April, I sent the final 5 boxes on their way.
• April 2022/ Connie Barlow / New 5-rule compilation of helping Torreya escape rodent predation
Over the years, the "Propagation" page on the Torreya Guardians website has become excruciatingly long and complex, as various volunteer planters weigh in on what seems to work best and worst. This year I've tried to consolidate that page, eliminate redundancies and add photos.
This month while distributing hundreds of seeds from the 2021 seed harvest, I realized I needed to create and highlight a 5-rule section titled, "Beware of Rodents!". This way, our newest planters could quickly learn our "best practices."
Rules 1 through 3 are pictured left. The remaining rules are: (4) When planting potted seedlings, add gravel to make the root zone unattractive to rodents, and (5) Avoid homegrounds of chipmunks, ground squirrels, and woodchucks.
• April 2022/ Mike Heim / Florida Torreya and Yew survive another Wisconsin winter
LEFT: Florida Yew at Hayward, Wisconsin, in early April 2022.
Mike Heim sent 3 photos of his Florida Torreyas peaking through the snow and one of his Florida Yew for posting on his Hayward, Wisconsin Torreya page on April 3.
Mike reported that February 13 marked the lowest temperature: -29F.
• April 2022/ Connie Barlow / Fusarium torreyae cannot damage Florida torreya in cooler climes
Encountering a technical fusarium paper this month titled "A Global Risk Assessment of Pitch Canker Disease", alerted me to the fact that it is well known that various species of genus Fusarium become problematic in tree farm contexts only when (a) the tree species is planted in a warmer and/or wetter climate and (b) nursery conditions harm natural microbial symbionts (crucial for resisting diseases) owing to bare rooting seedlings for transport and applications of fungicide.
This motivated me to finally post not only that information onto the "Endangerment Causes" page of this website, but also to create a new section there that documents and references how Florida torreya does live asymptomatically with Fusarium torreyae if it is planted sufficiently poleward of its peak glacial refuge in Florida. In that new section you will also find 2 slides + transcribed excerpts from a February 2022 webinar in which a Torreya Keepers staff person confirmed that northward plantings of Torreya are indeed asymptomatic.
Nonetheless, the official position is still strongly against "assisted migration" northward, such as conducted by Torreya Guardians volunteers. Their argument now points to lab results at the University of Florida that suggest (a) all plant materials of Torreya taxifolia do carry the fusarium and (b) that fusarium could harm other native tree species. Again, however, there is no documentation that other native trees could be injured by the fusarium within their own native ranges all northward of Florida. Did the lab in Florida attempt to mimic climatic and soil conditions (including winter freezes) in each tree species native range?
• March 2022/ Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians included in Minnesota magazine article
The current issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (a magazine published by Minnesota DNR) includes an extensive article that can serve as a primer for popular audiences to learn about the three forms of climate adaptation that foresters have begun using, "Resistance, Resilience, and Assisted Migration." TORREYA GUARDIANS is favorably mentioned:
"In some cases, assisted migration aims to save endangered plant species that are isolated and threatened with extinction as climate becomes unsuitable in their native range. A good example is the endangered yew Torreya taxifolia, known as "the rarest conifer in North America." It survived only in tiny areas of Florida and Georgia until the volunteer Torreya Guardians transplanted specimens to sites throughout the Appalachians and Midwest, as far north as southwestern Wisconsin."
• February 2022/ Connie Barlow / iNaturalist includes Torreya Guardians discoveries of Florida Torreya
I looked at the Florida Torreya page on iNaturalist for the first time. I was impressed by the content and extensive references both old and recent. Torreya Guardians discoveries and achievements are mentioned in several places, including our Historic Groves webpage and our seed production in Cleveland.
EXCERPT: "Because the confined native range of Torreya taxifolia, which includes Torreya State Park, is a well known glacial refugium, the ecological conditions and plants that it associates with there do not provide the full picture of the habitat preferences of this species at this warming time of the Holocene. For this reason, the citizen advocacy group known as Torreya Guardians includes a page on their website titled "Historic Groves of Torreya Trees: Long-Term Experiments in Assisted Migration." "Naturalized groves" is the highest category listed, followed by "mature trees producing seeds" and "mature trees not producing seeds." As of 2021, 13 sites of historic groves are listed, described, mapped, and linked, along with three academic papers that describe the importance of such groves for assessing the viability of assisted migration as climate warms. The northern-most grove producing seeds is in Cleveland, Ohio."
• February 2022/ Paul Camire / Florida torreyas in another Michigan winter
Paul Camire sent 10 PHOTOS of his within-forest plantings of Torreya at the woodlot on his farm in Capac, MI.
LEFT: Recovering from a deer-browsed leader.
RIGHT: All torreyas are now caged, and this one is lucky enough to never have been browsed.
• February 2022 / Nelson Stover / Report of the 2013 free-planting seed project in Greensboro, NC
November 2021, Nelson and Elaine Stover photo-documented another year of growth on each of the seedlings that sprouted and established from seeds planted (3 inches deep) directly into the soil of the deciduous forest next to their home in Greensboro, NC.
PHOTO: From seed planted in 2013, and having first shown above-ground growth in either 2015 or 2016, this little seedling is doing well in the company of evergreen Christmas Ferns. The ferns utilize the same group of mycorrhizal symbionts as does Torreya and they help camouflage this endangered member of the yew family from winter-hungry deer.
• GREENSBORO, NC Torreya webpage.
• December 2021 / Paul Camire / She lives! A site visit to the old Norlina tree, NC
Paul Camire is our Torreya planter in the "thumb" of Michigan. He is also our most diligent documenter of old horticultural plantings of torreya both onsite and as documented (usually archivally) on the web. December 12 Paul (pictured at left) sent an email to Connie Barlow, with photos. Paul wrote:
"On my way back home from Florida yesterday, I made a major detour and went to find out if the Norlina tree still exists. It Lives!
I was allowed to take a few cuttings that I've already let Jack and Clint know are coming their way."
View PAUL CAMIRE'S FULL REPORT (with photos) at our Norlina NC tree webpage.
Editor's comment: Because I have never seen this pattern of recovery in any tree before, I sure hope somebody with expertise will attempt to discern what calamity happened, and then the details of vegetative recovery.
• November 2021 / Connie Barlow / Reddit now has a community on the topic "Assisted Migration"
Torreya Guardians was apparently a key inspiration for a Reddit contributor to create a new community: r/Assisted Migration.
The originator/"moderator" has well presented the concept in both the choice of title and what already exists on the site's wiki tab. I have great hope that this new site will rapidly evolve into the prime place for supportive people not only to interact, but to create, collaborate, and post actual AM projects.
Today I posted a suggestion to link to an Indigenous project, "Helping Forests Walk" and to the U.S. gov Climate Resilience Toolkit website that also points to this Indigenous title for assisted migration.
• November 2021 / Sara Evans / November 2021 photos of 2008 plantings at Waynesville, NC
Photos by Sara Evans. Caption by Connie Barlow.
July 2008, Torreya Guardians planted 31 potted seedlings on the steep forested property of Sara Evans, a bit west of Waynesville NC.
From the early years, and continuing today, the two lushest and healthiest trees have been the two planted nearest to the "weeping wall" waterfall: "Maxilla" to the left of it and "Celia" to the right (and upslope).
Sara Evans took several photos of these two torreyas, mid November 2021.
PHOTO LEFT: The "Celia" Torreya, named for Celia Hunter.
Visit the Waynesville Torreya webpage for all photos.
• November 2021 / Joe Facendola / 1,480 seeds collected from the Mt. Olive NC torreya trees
JOE FACENDOLA, for the third year in a row, continues his late-October / early-November seed gathering at private homes in Clinton NC (see report immediately below) and Mt. Olive. Joe reports that Mrs. Bullard also authorized his collection of 3 seedlings this year, as well.
• November 2021 / Joe Facendola / Seeds, seedlings, and basal cuttings from the Clinton NC tree
JOE FACENDOLA, for the third year in a row, continues his late-October / early-November seed gathering at the homes of Mrs. Kennedy in Clinton NC and Mrs. Bullard in nearby Mt. Olive.
In addition to 670 seeds, Joe also collected this year 13 seedlings (photo below left) from where squirrels had kindly buried seeds into non-mowed sections of the front yard in Clinton NC.
New this year, he cut tips and lower segments of the vertical stems of basal sprouts (photo) which are the only parts of the plant that will carry forward the tree form when carefully rooted.
This year Joe photographed the two largest regrowth torreya trees on the property which may be vital for ensuring a pollen source for healthy genetics of the lone seed-bearing tree.
Visit the Clinton NC torreya page for a photo-rich chronological history. There you will also see photos of the two regrowth torreyas that may be crucial providers of pollen.
• October 2021 / Fred Bess / 168 seeds collected from his grove in Cleveland, Ohio
Fred planted his trees from potted seedlings in 2009. Because he planted in his front yard, in full sun, he started getting a few seeds in 2017.
Now, in 2021, he reports an astounding 168 seeds.
More PHOTOS and commentary at the Cleveland, OH Torreya webpage.
• October 2021 / Clint Bancroft / 64 seeds collected from century-old grove near Highlands NC
For the second year in a row Clint Bancroft led the effort to harvest seeds at this old horticultural planting. This year the owners are new. CLINT writes:
"The new owners are aware of the trees and their rarity. They are doing a lot of landscaping work and have cleared a significant space on the north and east of the existing grove.
So the Torreya grove is now exposed to much more light. It will be interesting to see if seed production will be greater next year if we are allowed to return next year.
I am sending pictures of the grove as it appears now. All of the trees appear in very good health."
More PHOTOS and commentary at the Highlands Torreya webpage.
• October 2021 / Sharon Mohney / First germination of free-planted 2020 seeds into Virginia forest
SHARON writes 20 October 2021:
"I was walking a part of my place today, looking for any burning bush seedlings to pull up, and decided to walk one of my torreya flag lines. Look what I found!"
Ed. note: November 2020, Sharon "freeplanted" seeds freshly harvested from private plantings in Clinton and Mt. Olive, NC.
She placed them alongside an ideal "nurse" plant for Torreya: Polystichum ("Christmas") ferns.
Visit her Buchanan, VA homepage.
• October 2021 / Connie Barlow / TORREYA GUARDIANS WIKIPEDIA PAGE is in final form
CONNIE BARLOW WRITES: This summer an experienced, anonymous wikipedia contributor created a new page, Wikipedia: TORREYA GUARDIANS. For controversial topics (such as us) there are wikipedia editors who monitor to ensure that any changes or additions reflect factual reporting of a neutral stance, supported by "third party" references such as journal articles, newspapers, magazines, and books. Wiki editors are particularly vigilant when someone tries to contribute to or edit a page who is directly associated with that topic. Well, I certainly am!
For the past several weeks, I have been adding content to the wiki page, with substantial third party references. Sometimes I would find the next day that something I had written had been somewhat changed, maybe even deleted. Interestingly, in all instances, I found myself agreeing with the wiki editor. So I never contested anything.
The morning of October 17, I found that two entire sections, "Case Studies", and "Interactions with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service" had been deleted (except for one paragraph with its journal reference, which had been moved up into an earlier section). At first I was shocked, but soon I again agreed with the editors.
Within an hour or so, I realized that I could turn the event into a useful thing: I could add the deleted content to the Torreya Guardians website. Check it out here: "Torreya Guardians Interactions with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service".