Torreya taxifolia Propagation near Franklin, NC
3,800 feet elevation

private landowner, Russell Regnery


Reports are listed in chronological order

(scroll down for more recent reports, photos, and videos)

My wife and I are responsible for 35 acres of land in the mountains of Western North Carolina at approximately 3600-4000 feet above sea level. Like almost all of eastern North America, this land has been logged probably at least twice and altered in other ways by human activities. None of this land represents untouched "old-growth forest". Nevertheless, the forest on much of the land is wonderfully diverse and, for anyone who pays careful attention, is 'hard at work' re-establishing a more 'mature' forest with an impressive repertoire of beautiful understory plants/wildflowers, birds, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates, etc. A portion of our land was also cleared for subsistence agriculture (e.g., corn, potatoes, apples).

We have set aside a corner of an old hillside field to plant out 10 T. taxifolia that we purchased as seedlings from the Woodlander's Nursery; seedlings that were raised from cultivated trees on private lands far from Apalachicola.

Seven of our seedlings appear to be a year younger (smaller in height and less developed roots when removed from their pots) than those I helped plant at the two 2008 Waynesville locations and were planted at almost the same time. One of the smaller seedlings had a tag indicating simply "2004". I don't know if this was the season the nuts were harvested and planted or the year the seedlings germinated.

In the relative absence of detailed information for successful propagation of T. taxifolia, our personal attempt to steward a few seedlings towards maturity clearly falls into the hopeful "experimental" category. Although there are encouraging examples of cultivated, healthy T. taxifolia in the Southern Appalachians, there are absolutely no guarantees that all or any of our 10 trees will survive even a few seasons, let alone survive to reproductive potential.

For comparative purposes, our planting differs from the Waynesville planting in several ways. Firstly, as previously mentioned 7/10 trees appear to be a season younger (e.g., no roots immediately evident when first turned out of their nursery pots). The altitude of our property where our T. taxifolia were planted (~3700') is higher. The planting area is less rocky than the Waynesville sites (e.g., no trouble digging a hole without prying out rocks with a pick axe). I don't know our average, site-specific, annual rainfall; however, the rainfall in the city of Highlands (about 7 miles away) is I believe greater (e.g., 80-100"/year) than that in Waynesville.

All of our seedlings have received supplemental lime amendment to increase the soil pH at planting (hydrated lime) and a subsequent application (dolomitic lime) and commercial planting soil (Miracle Gro) was also added to further improve soil tilth. A pooled, untreated soil sample from our property was measured at pH 5.6 (Clemson University Agricultural Service Laboratory).

And, significantly, we made the choice to plant the seedlings at various stages out into a meadow-grassland environment; all of the seedlings are either on the edges of the meadow or at varying degrees of additional exposure into the southwest-facing meadow. None of our seedlings were planted in deep shade, in contrast to almost all of the Waynesville seedlings (to the best of my recollection).

This last choice for planting the T. taxifolia in a more open environment was intentionally made in hopes that greater access to sunlight, although perhaps more traumatic to seedlings at first, might ultimately promote a shorter time to maturity and seed-bearing, as well as hopefully promote a more robust tree structure than those few T. taxifolia that I have seen growing in Torreya State Park (Florida) deep in the forest. When we purchased our ten seedlings at the Aiken, SC nursery (quite a ways further south and lower in altitude), I was impressed that all of our seedlings (including the Waynesville seedlings) appear to have orignially been grown under full, often very hot sun along the same rows with the other nursery potted plants. I am sure that the Woodlander's staff kept everything watered on a regular schedule, which probably helped to offset the rather extreme sun exposure.

Woodlander's seedling T. taxifolia obviously do well at the nursery, and owner Bob McCartney said he had not used any special pH soil amendments with the T. taxifolia, and the seedlings were planted in a pine-bark based planting medium. I would be curious to know the pH of Aiken, SC water.

All or our planted seedlings are surrounded by 2" x 2" mesh, 24" high, circular wire "cages" to help protect them from accidental injury. I clothes-pinned fiberglass window screening to one side of the cages with the intention to attenuate the summer afternoon sun, at least for the first season. One seedling that got significant shading from partly overhanging, senescent Canadian hemlock limbs didn't get the summertime window screen treatment.

All of our T. taxifolia seedlings were planted on the edge of a man-made grassland that is shaded well into mid morning by Blackrock Mountain (~5000') and the edge of the forest (to the East and North). As mentioned previously, our most shaded seedling (one of the smaller, younger cohort) gets constant (but light) shading courtesy of senescent Canadian hemlock limbs on the forest edge. Two more seedlings are planted at the edge of the forest but with full afternoon sun exposure; one of these is one of the older seedling cohort. Another of the older seedling cohort is planted in the meadow but gets variable afternoon shade from a medium sized Carolina hemlock about 20' away. The rest of the seedlings, including the 3rd seedling of the older cohort, get no additional afternoon tree shading. With the local drought conditions for 2008, I hand watered all the seedlings on a reasonably regular schedule (no more than a gallon/seedling every two days) until such time as the soil moisture increased (e.g., tropical storm Faye). All the seedlings survived the drought and put on varying degrees of new growth.

Late this fall I removed the window screening when it became clear that snow could attach to the one-sided screening and threaten to act as a 'sail' for tipping over the cages in strong winds. I anticipated that winter sun would be less intense than summer sun.

I left the mountains for a two-week period in late November, which also happened to coincide with some bitterly cold weather (minimum of ~12F). When I returned I was surprised with what I saw. It was clear that the younger cohort seedlings, with the exception of the one seedling planted under the Canadian hemlock bows, had undergone significant 'browning'; apparent loss of green from most or all of their lower needles. All three of the older cohort looked as green as I had left them and, as mentioned above, so did the one young seedling under the shade of the Canadian hemlocks. The fact that the one small shaded T. taxifolia continues to do well did not suggest that the browning was necessarily a function of soil moisture and/or temperature alone (which should be similar for all of the planted seedlings). It was interesting and probably significant that the 3 older seedlings exhibited little or no browning, suggesting that browning is somehow a function of seedling size, and/or root development, or perhaps depth of freezing and active root depth, and/or ability to recruit moisture from the soil.

I corresponded with Jack Johnston and I looked for references to coniferous winter browning; I immediately found them. I learned that winter browning is not an uncommon phenomenon, especially for seedling yews and hemlocks in areas with more extreme northern winter climates. And that browning may be a partial function of winter sun exposure coupled with inability to successfully translocate moisture via the roots. I am not clear how severe or significant browning will be for the long-term wellbeing of the T. taxifolia seedlings I have planted. However, it would appear to be stressful and undesirable at best.

The subsequent plan has been to provide the T. taxifolia seedlings with at least some shelter from the combination of cold winter sunshine and perhaps wind. I cut the bottoms out of large, black plastic nursery pots (~12" high) and staked these open-ended pots upside-down around each seedling (except the nicely green seedling near the hemlocks). And I further tried to partially barricade the seedlings from the winter elements by making a triangle of split-rail fencing (cut in half lengths). Hopefully, this will provide the winter shelter the seedlings apparently need and will allow them enough sunlight from above to promote some growth, and still ultimately allow them to mature further in a light-rich environment.

The 'bright side' of these observations (including that the older seedlings have fared much better) hopefully suggests that, as the seedlings grow (assuming some or all survive), winter sun exposure, will be less of a concern for these young trees in the future. I have learned an important lesson in cultivation of conifers which people from further north would have anticipated: browning of the smallest T. taxifolia seedlings can occur under exposed sun and cold winter conditions.

Overall, my simplest goal is to provide a 'mini-refuge' for the T. taxifolia germ line for future generations. Like most of the Eastern North American forest, our forest continues to undergo substantial change/decline — especially due to introduced diseases and insects imported from overseas. As native species wither before our eyes, it would be a wonderful added plus if T. taxifolia were to provide even a small coniferous ecologic niche within our forest; a niche that has perhaps been absent for several thousand years. If in 10 years my wife and I have a small, reproductive population of T. taxifolia, whose seeds we can share with others, then I think we can more confidently consider ourselves as true "Torreya Guardians". We are ever hopeful.

  • COMMENT FROM CONNIE BARLOW, Dec 2008. During the first 3 weeks of December, my husband and I housesat at the site of the second Waynesville plantings of 21 seedlings of T. taxifolia. Our south-facing hillside also experienced very cold (18 degrees F), and snow. All the seedlings that had been planted in deep forest, though now in almost full sunlight (owing to full deciduous canopy and understory) look green and healthy. Three of the four (all the smallest) of those planted in the sunniest lower slope of the driest side had already experienced die-off of some of the lower branches well before the cold. And their upper green leaves bronzed, while remaining apparently quite alive and flexible. Lee Barnes, in a site visit, explained to me that the bronzing was probably anthocyanins produced to shield the leaves from an excess amount of sunlight. Another botanist had told me that sunlight is mostly a problem for T. taxifolia right after it has been planted. New growth will be adjusted to better cope with intense sunlight.

  • JUNE 2008 BRIEF REPORT BY RUSS REGNERY: This year's new growth is really beginning to develop now on my 10 trees, some faster/more than others (as perhaps expected). In general, the trees planted adjacent to the forest edge are uniformly doing well. In general, those trees most exposed to sun (and perhaps more importantly, winter wind, etc.) were seriously stressed this last winter and are still working to send out new growth. By far the most successful tree (judged by lots of new growth) is one planted out into the meadow but in partial afternoon shade of a Carolina seems to be really taking off without supplemental shelter. Last summer I started the trees out with some built-in partial shade from fiberglass window screen and I recently decided to reinstall the screening again for the most exposed trees this summer. With this few trees and all the uncontrolled variables, it is impossible I think to make serious correlations between exposure and growth success. However, the success of the one tree suggests that these trees do have the potential to grow outside of a true forest canopy. It will take several more years to get to the seed-bearing stages and truly evaluate which trees have done best. Most of Jack Johnston's T. taxifolia in north Georgia are reasonably exposed to overhead sun, if I remember correctly, and the last time I visited Jack, his trees were putting on lots of new growth.

  • MARCH 2010 REPORT BY RUSS REGNERY: Although this has been a 'cold', snowy, and wet winter in our part of western North Carolina, our lowest temperature here at our place has been 2 F which isn't quite as cold as the coldest last year which had a seasonal minimum below zero (~ -2F). Our 10 Torreya taxifolia seemed to have held up to the cold temperatures/exposure better than they did last winter (the first winter after they had been planted as one year's smaller seedlings than the Waynesville seedlings). They clearly could be greener, but I have not seen the browning off that was apparent the first winter, and I expect them all to do well this next growing season. I just gave them another handful of dolomitic lime and fertilizer.
        Jack and I have both repotted persimmon seedlings from the seeds that [Connie] sent to me that were gathered in Ohio. Hopefully they will continue to thrive. Jack gave me some paw-paws last year and I am hopeful that they will come out again this spring. The semi-blight resistant, 98% American chestnuts seem to have weathered the winter well too and it is going to be exciting to see how they grow this season. It is kind of interesting the contrast in the rapidity with which chestnuts and Torreya seem to grow — must be close to the two extremes. Who knows, perhaps the Torreya will take off one day and grow 4-5 feet in a year too like some of the young chestnut trees do under ideal conditions.

  • SEPTEMBER 2010 PHOTO-ESSAY (site visit) BY CONNIE BARLOW: Russ told Connie that of the 10 original seedlings planted, one has died thus far (apparently from application of a high-phosphate fertilizer) normally used for growth of Christmas trees. About twice a year he sprinkles a handful of lime around each seedling.


    ABOVE LEFT: 10 seedling Torreya taxifolias were planted in 2008 in the annually mowed upper field of Russ Regnery's property, at the far left corner of that field in this photo. Russ also owns the forest heading upslope in the photo. Above his 35 acres the forest becomes part of the Nantahala National Forest, with the summit being Black Rock Mountain.

    ABOVE RIGHT: Russ in 2010 alongside one of the caged seedlings, each marked by 2 white poles.

       LEFT: A lush Carolina Hemlock stands in the annually mowed field and just to the right of 2 visible "cages" of young Torreyas. (Look for the white poles, one of which is in the shadow cast by the tree. This photo was taken at noon, so you can see from the shadow direction that the camera is standing to the west, pointing eastward.


    ABOVE: Red arrows point to some of the caged seedlings. Notice the farthest left arrow in both photos points to a seedling right at the edge of the forest, such that it receives no direct sunlight in the morning. This photo was taken around noon, end of September.

          LEFT: Wire mesh is used
    to protect the young trees
    from intense afternoon sun.

       LEFT: A new tiny seedling (barely visible at the center of its surrounding bottomless pot) was planted in 2010, from seeds that Jack Johnston sprouted, thus offering a bit of genetic diversity into this population.

    Notice the bits of perlite still in the pot; Russ did not shake the roots free of perlite before planting, and thus it is very important for him to water the plants by hand during summer drought.


    ABOVE: The wire mesh shading of the seedling near the young tuliptree (Liriodendron) is supplemented by the tree itself when the sun is due south at noon. Note: If you scroll down to the "VIDEO 2015" report, you will be able to see this same specimen and its tuliptree companion in late April 2015 (advance the video to timecode 10:19).


    ABOVE: One seedling was planted 2 feet into the forest edge, so its full sun comes later in the afternoon. This is the same tree that was marked by the leftmost red arrow in the earlier 2 photos. Notice the overhanging leaves of the neighboring shrubs. Note: If you scroll down to the "VIDEO 2015" report, you will be able to see this same specimen in late April 2015 (advance the video to timecode 13:22).

    This might be the most fortuitous planting. It is planted slightly into the south-facing forest edge and is shaded by the low branches of a Carolina Hemlock. Thus it receives mottled sunlight from late morning to late afternoon. Russ has never had to shield this seedling from excess sunlight via a wire mesh.

  • MAY 2012 REPORT BY RUSS REGNERY: This year has been good to my Torreya so far. In addition to becoming better established each year, this year we have been blessed with consistent rainfall (like in years long gone by). Another obvious possible contributing factor may be that we had a very mild winter. Clearly the T. taxifolia can withstand cold and snow, as all of my trees have until now. However, perhaps the lack of deep frozen soil may be contributing to an especially good start this spring.

    I don't see my Torreya putting on new growth in the winter; they seem to be generally in tune with when the hemlocks put on new growth.

    I wish my trees had started out as the same lot as the ones that we planted at Junaluska and Waynesville. Most of my trees were a year smaller in the pots to begin with, even though they were planted the same year, so direct comparisons aren't completely appropriate.

    I've removed the partial (sun) screening from another tree that was outgrowing it's protective 'cage' and screening. So it is now quite exposed, but it is doing very well. It still is encircled by an upside-down plastic flower pot (bottom cut out), which serves as shelter for the base of the tree. That shelter was installed when the tree was very small, with the idea that it would perhaps foster a moister, more protected micro-envirnoment. The inverted pot has become the home of a nice wasp nest, which I like to think helps guard the tree from too much unwanted 'inspection'.

    Another tree is the venue for a harvester ant nest, which seems to be okay so far.

    I probably will go ahead and remove at least the screening from one or two others that also get a lot of sun now. The trees seem to be getting the hang of life in the meadow and hopefully are developing good root systems.

    I notice variation among the meadow trees, but for reasons that are unclear to me. The one meadow tree that never had any shade-screen applied remains quite robust with multiple leads.

    The tree that was planted under the cover of a couple of small hemlocks just off the meadow is doing quite well, too. (It never had any screening.) This tree probably most resembles the growth pattern of most of the trees you show on the Waynesville and Junaluska pages. (It is shorter than those other 2008 plantings, but still looking quite happy.)

    I guess one measure of success down the road will be which trees (shade or sun) reach reproductive status first and differences in amounts of seeds they bear. The hope that sunlit trees will reproduce earlier is the reason I put most of my trees in the sun — even though they have been quite exposed as young trees. I don't really know if the application of screening has been beneficial, however. When the trees were very young, I wasn't willing to risk loosing half of my trees to do the experiment. Providing some degree of shelter seemed like a good idea the first winter and the next summer when they were tiny.

    Your photo of the California tree growing out of the granite is a reminder to me that members of the same genus can potentially thrive in full sun, and presumably lots of snow in winter, and it is beginning to sound like sun may be a factor for a couple of the Junaluska trees.

    I like what Connie and Lee have begun doing: associating T. taxifolia growth differences with associated plants growing in the same areas. If our meadow wasn't mowed at least once a year (as it has been for perhaps almost 200 years), I suspect it would soon revert to the trillium-rich, Liriodendron-oak-hickory forest that currently surrounds the meadow (once it got through the brambles, Smilax, and locust sprout phases). This slope of our property isn't as constantly wet as would be some of the more riparian areas, but the amount of soil wetness obviously depends on the distribution of rainfall during the year; e.g., this year the soil has never become parched. I'll try to provide some photos soon.

    29 APRIL 2015 SITE VISIT:

       On an overcast day, 29 April 2015, Connie Barlow arrived for a site visit to Russ Regnery's Summer 2008 planting of 10 potted seedlings of Torreya taxifolia. Because Russ obtained those seedlings from the same source (Woodlanders, South Carolina) as the 2008 Junaluska and Waynesville plantings that same summer, his young Torreya grove (mostly planted in full sun) brings to three the number of sites used during that first field experiment in assisted migration by Torreya Guardians.

    VIDEO: 2015 progress report plus "free-planting" seeds directly into forest

       32 minutes - filmed April 29, 2015.

    Russ's site is the highest elevation of the THREE 2008 PLANTINGS (3,800 feet) and the only locale where most of the specimens were not only planted in full sun but also maintained in full sun through the years.

    At the April 2015 visit, Connie donated to Russ 50 SEEDS from the 2014 fall harvest — 15 of which she filmed Russ planting in his forest ("free-planting"), with no rodent protection.

    The seed-planting action is documented in the video above.

    TOPICS OF DISCUSSION IN THIS VIDEO include (1) the advantage of sun-shading screen during the early years if Torreya is planted out in the open, (2) how Torreya is vulnerable to winter sun and wind scalding/dessication if not protected by a canopy, (3) the advantages of planting near nurse trees for shading and for sharing their symbiotic root fungi. "Free-planting" seeds from the 2014 seed harvest directly beneath the forest canopy is the final half of the video.


    FOUR GROWING SEASONS AFTER 15 SEEDS WERE FREE-PLANTED, Connie Barlow returned to (a) document the progress of the 2008 plantings of potted seedlings and (b) scout for and document any seedling successes from the free-planted seeds. This site visit was 7 NOVEMBER 2018.


    1. GERMINATION FAILURE (especially if Connie's outdoor overwinter seed storage in NE Alabama was faulty)

    2. SEED PREDATION by squirrels or tunneling rodents (rodents can smell the seeds)

    3. LEAF HERBIVORY post germination (needle-sharp leaves are a deterence after hardening)

    4. DEER ANTLER RUBBING when the seedlings reach 2 or 3 feet tall

    Russ reports, "Deer are uncommon in our area; however, one deer of course can do a lot of damage in a short space of time. We do have rabbits and woodchucks. I don't know if a turkey (which are regulars) might crop the top of a relatively tender seedling?

    6 seedlings observed at sites of 15 seed plantings

    Report by Connie Barlow

    1. CREEK ISLAND SITE - 2 seedlings documented of 3 seeds planted (see photos below)

    Three seeds had been planted on an "island" where the creek (Little Buck Creek) splits. Dense rhododendrons immediately upstream of the planting area, along with the perceived dangers by deer of ravine bottoms led us to believe this site would be safe from deer herbivory. Because flowing water was on both sides, we hoped rodents would be few or absent. The two seedlings demonstrated opposite extremes of growth.
         SEEDLING 1 - This biggest seedling had 4 apparent growth spurts in this order: vertical, 1 lateral, 3 more laterals, vertical. As well, three lateral buds at the apex are poised to open Spring 2019. Note: Torreya Guardians volunteers have discovered that, in favorable circumstances, there seems to be two growth spurts per year (spring and late summer) for torreyas, especially after their first few years.

       SEEDLING 2 - At first glance, this smallest seedling demonstrated just one growth episode. However, close examination (photo below) shows the base of the seedling, with cropped original(?) stem still green 1/2 inch to its right.

    The first growth episode thus would actually have been a prior vertical stem, with leaves radiating around it. But then it was cropped off almost to the ground by an herbivore. Then the seed put forth a replacement stem during its fourth growing season after free-planting.

    Because Torreya's seed is huge, indicative of subcanopy adaptation, it is demonstrably capable of growing (and regrowing) a great deal (below and above ground) before needing to access energy from sunlight.

    2. FOREST SITE - 4 seedlings documented of 12 seeds planted (see photos below)
    Finding a seedling at the first of twelve sites that my notes showed for the forest planting (10 ft fr double-stem lirio 18" DBH upslope 20 ft from old road, before the gray bench) was way better than winning an Easter Egg Hunt as a kid. In the first photo of SEEDLING 3 below you will see Russ Regnery planting the seed in 2015. Next is Michael Dowd showing the result in 2018. There you see how difficult these seedlings are to notice from the side, owing to their yew-like, flat leaf patterning. Top-down they are easy to spot, especially at a time of year when almost nothing else is green around them. The two lateral branches of SEEDLING 3 point west toward the meadow.

    The 3 remaining seedlings were of the 7 seeds planted in the swale in 2015 that heads downslope of the gray bench, downslope of the old road and toward the meadow fenceline.

    SEEDLING 4 - The first photo shows how I marked each seedling with an orange tape ribbon on a nearby small tree branch. Because this one was planted 2 feet from a mossy boulder (and boulders are rare here), it was easy to find. Because it appears to be just one season of growth, although with a strange 3-leaflet topknot, the best supported conclusion is that it appeared above ground only during the 4th summer. If this is true, the LESSON FOR ALL TORREYA PLANTERS is to wait at least 5 years before you assume a planted seed is a dud or predated.

    SEEDLING 5 - My notes for finding it were sparse: "open, small stems around, baby maple". Well, that "baby maple" had grown tall 4 summers later! It is shown in the first of the three-photo set, still bearing its autumn-yellow leaves. The remaining two photos indicate that this is yet another example of a seedling that waited 3 full summers before showing above ground. Unlike Seedling 4, this one has a normal top: 2 lateral buds ready to grow Spring 2019. Typically, the first lateral growth is just 1 or 2 buds after the initial vertical stem.

    SEEDLING 6 - This seedling is worthy of contemplation! View all photos to see that (a) this is the only seedling with a true basal, and (b) this seedling endured one or two instances of herbivore cropping of the most important section: apical growth of the leader. Yet look at how it recovered! It is possible that the first nipping of the apex is what induced the basal growth. Yet volunteers have also documented new leaders attempting to grow right from the vertical stem, just below the nipped-off section.



    The 2 "Creek" seeds are planted 8 feet apart in the open brown area 1/4th up from the bottom of photo below and horizontally in the center (just to the right of the massive old Rhododendron grove.


    The key marker onsite is an 8-inch DBH Robinia trunk — a genus that, as with the nearby Liriodendron and Maple trees, attracts the same mycorrhizal fungi type class as Torreya does.

    This 7 November 2018 photo shows the trunks of a deciduous forest that has largely lost its leaves.

    Late autumn is thus the onset of maximal opportunities for evergreen Torreya to photosynthesize (possibly in the winter, too, and certainly again in early spring).

       SEEDLING 1 - This biggest seedling had 4 apparent growth spurts in this order: vertical, 1 lateral, 3 more laterals, vertical.

    As well, three lateral buds at the apex (photos below) are poised to open Spring 2019.

    Note: Torreya Guardians volunteers have discovered that, in favorable conditions, there seems to be two growth spurts per year (spring and late summer) for torreyas, especially after their first few years.


    ABOVE SEEDLING 1 is in the exact center of the photo. Notice the fronds of evergreen Christmas Fern — which harbors the same mychorrizal type as Torreya and which may significantly help Torreya by offering winter camouflage!

    BELOW: View directly up from SEEDLING 1 (7 November 2018).


    ABOVE & BELOW: SEEDLING 2 is near-center of photos (by black soil where leaves cleared away).


    ABOVE LEFT: The single vertical stem of SEEDLING 2 with radiating leaves has the typical form of the first growth spurt. Notice the half-size upright leaves at the apex; this is not a usual feature. Was this a second, minor spurt of growth? As well, notice the good amount of sunlight reaching its leaves (left and top photos). How does good lighting under a seasonally leaf-free (deciduous) forest affect the growth pattern?

    ABOVE RIGHT: Only the apex bud looks ready for Spring 2019 growth. Will a second vertical spurt happen before a first lateral branch?

    ABOVE LEFT: Look carefully at the base of SEEDLING 2. It appears that an initial stem grew but was cropped off by an herbivore. Then the seed grew a replacement stem.

    ABOVE RIGHT: The seed of genus Torreya is huge, indicative of subcanopy adaptation. It is capable of growing a great deal below and above ground before needing to access energy from sunlight.


    ABOVE: April 2015 Russ Regnery plants a seed beneath a double-stem liriodendron.

    BELOW: November 2018 Michael Dowd shows the result: SEEDLING 3.

    ABOVE: The yewlike patterning of the leaves on SEEDLING 3 maximizes subcanopy light capture.

    BELOW: Leaves harden and develop a glossy, protective surface that supports evergreen leaf longevity of 5 to 7 years. Three growth spurts are evident on SEEDLING 3 (vertical, then 2 lateral branches, then vertical again). Three buds are at the apex, ready to produce a second whorl of branches, this time with 3 branches rather than the original two.


    ABOVE: Orange survey tape hangs from a sapling near SEEDLING 4. Boulder outcrops are rare in this forest, but they make excellent markers for planting sites. Behind the rock is a large Liriodendron, which seems to be the dominant canopy tree in this section of forest.


       SEEDLING 4: All surrounding photos indicate a single growth spurt, vertically. As with Seedling 2, there is a tuft of shorter (less developed) leaves at the apex.

    Because all vertical growth spurts emerge with leaves in an apical tuft that finally spread out when the stem reaches its maximal height, a question arises: Might an apical leaf tuft signify an early halt to further upward stem growth? Might such a halt signify that existing light capture is adequate, and that energy is redirected into more root growth? Or might a tuft signify that the entire vertical stem emerged in late summer — and cold or seasonal light shift alerted the seedling that it ought to play it safe: harden up all leaves just as they are in preparation for the winter.


    ABOVE: My notes for finding SEEDLING 5 were sparse: "open, small stems around, baby maple".
    Well, that "baby maple" had grown tall 4 summers later! Luckily, it was still bearing its autumn-yellow leaves.

    SEEDLING 5 seems to be yet another example of a plant that waited 3 full summers before showing above ground. Unlike Seedling 4, this one has a normal top (un-tufted). Ready to grow Spring 2019 are 2 lateral buds. Typically, the first lateral growth is just one or two branches after the vertical stem finished its initial growth burst.


    SEEDLING 6 is worthy of contemplation! It is the most difficult to interpret.

    View all photos below to see that (a) this is the only seedling with a true basal, and (b) this seedling endured at least one instance of herbivore cropping (likely two) of the most important section: apical growth of the leader. Yet look at how it recovered!


    ABOVE: SEEDLING 6 will produce a set of 3 lateral branches Spring 2019. Notice that, despite all its greenery, it has no lateral branching thus far. Keep reading for an interpretation as to the possible cause.

    BELOW: A side view shows a strong basal growth. Key marker to find this seedling is the solitary old cedar fence post (its base is visible in photo). This fencepost is very near the forest edge; a dozen feet downslope begins the mowed meadow. The meadow is westward, and thus this seedling has access to more late afternoon sun than any of the other seedlings in the forest.


    ABOVE: Looking close at the basal growth of SEEDLING 6. This is the only seedling of six that has yet produced a basal.

    BELOW LEFT: Notice that the main stem shows two growth spurts vertically. This is odd because normally one or two lateral branches grow before a second vertical is produced. Also notice the color differences in the older v. the younger stem sections. New stem growth begins green, but by late the next summer it browns.


    ABOVE RIGHT: A closeup look at the junction of old stem and new reveals the answer: An herbivore nipped off the apex of the old stem, thus foiling an opportunity for the seedling to grow lateral branches. Instead, the seedling put its next season growth into a new vertical stem budding off just below the injury and that veers slightly from the vertical (photo above left shows this slight angling).
         The close-up photo of the midsection of SEEDLING 6 reveals another supplementary growth just below the main stem injury, but this one angles more (toward the right) and is very short. It seems midway between the form of a vertical leader and a lateral branch.
         Look carefully at the top of the photo: Did that post-injury new stem get cropped again, just an inch or so above where it started? (Notice the brown at that spot.) If so, the green above that spot would signify yet a third leader attempt (a better camera angle would answer that). Might the second injury have prompted the strange tuft of short angled growth on the right? And was it the first or the second herbivore nibbling that prompted the basal to sprout? Overall, could there be as many as 5 growth spurts over this seedling's life span?
         Finally, reflect on the fact that, despite all this growth, SEEDLING 6 has not yet had a chance to put its growth into lateral branching. This in itself suggests 2 seasons of vegetative injuries. What a survivor! And could it have survived at all had it not been this close to forest-edge enhanced sunlight?

    CLOSE OBSERVATION in the years ahead, along with continuing pictorial documentation will offer great learnings for how best to serve this endangered species — where it is most vulnerable and in what ways it is a marvel. Thus far we can point to its patience, resilience, and adaptability — all characteristics that well serve subcanopy trees. Ideally, when this first generation of Torreya Guardians passes, there will be a new crop of volunteers to continue the long-term field studies.

    Summary of November 2018 Free-Planting Success

    Connie Barlow writes: November 7 I made a site visit to the remote mountain home of Russell Regnery, west slope of Blackrock Mountain (3,800 feet elevation), whose forested property slopes up to the Nantahala National Forest.

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

    • As many as 3 summers may pass before the germinating (and root-establishing) seed will show any above-ground growth.

    • This species exhibits remarkable capacities to recover from early stem and leaf herbivory.

    VIDEO 28: Free-Planting Climate-Endangered Florida Torreya - 2018 Update

       Field documentation of the 6 seedlings that grew and survived with zero human help, following "free-planting" of 15 seeds directly into forest soil in April 2015. Russ Regnery was the planter, within his forest at 3,800 feet elevation on the slope of Black Rock Mountain, near Franklin NC. Video clips of the 2015 planting (Episode 12) are matched with the actual seedlings closely photographed and analyzed Nov 2018. Results: Four summers later, this species exhibits remarkable capacities to recover from early stem and leaf herbivory.

    • 37 minutes

    DECEMBER 2020 Seedling progress report

    RUSS REGNERY rediscovered one of the 6 seedlings that Connie Barlow was able to find two years earlier (November 2018). (Connie has asked Russ to look carefully for the remaining 5 seedlings and report on those, too.) The photos below compared SEEDLING 4 as it is in 2020 with the 2018 photo of it. (Clippers in 2020 are for scale only!)


    ABOVE LEFT: December 2020. Left-most branch evidences 2 lateral growth spurts.

    ABOVE RIGHT: November 2018. Seedling 4 is by a dark stem; partly visible in 2020 photo, too.

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