Field Testing of Climate Endangered Florida Torreya
"Assisted migration" to Michigan
How far north can this conifer survive in advance of rapid climate change?

   BACKGROUND: At least since the last glaciation of the Pleistocene, the two U.S. species of genus Torreya have been found only in California and along the Apalachicola River of the Florida panhandle. Nonetheless it is postulated that the Apalachicola species of Torreya (T. taxifolia) would have been native to the southern Appalachians and possibly further north during previous interglacials and warm epochs of the Cenozoic.

Torreya Guardians began moving Torreya taxifolia into regrowth forests on private land in NORTH CAROLINA in 2008. Soon thereafter, the effort expanded into field tests in OHIO. In 2014, seeds were planted in two regrowth forests in MICHIGAN. The aim is to ascertain just how far north Torreya can survive (possibly thrive) in today's climate, in expectation that conditions will continue to warm in the decades ahead. There is value in establishing "left-behind" tree species as far north as possible to ensure viability later in this century.

Note how the MAP LEFT shows the Great Lakes creating a diverse patterning of "plant zones" for testing Torreya in the state of Michigan (USDA 2012). Thus far, our plantings in Ludington and Traverse City are Zone 6a; Alpena is 5b.


  • ALPENA, MI: In spring of 2014 Halsey Barlow planted 40 seeds on the property of her parents (Bill and Peggy Barlow) along the Lake Huron shore (barely zone 5b). Provenance of seeds: 4 from 2012 harvest, 34 from 2013 harvest, 2 from Mt Olive NC tree 2013, 2 from Clinton NC tree 2013, 2 (underripe/sticky) from Spencer NC.

  • LEELAUNAW PENINSULA (Empire, MI): Spring of 2017, Liana May contacted Torreya Guardians regarding possible planting of Torreya seeds on 40 acres of forested land (sugarmaple, beech, ash) on upper slopes of large end moraine . It has a conservation easement and is nearby thousands of acres of private and national park forested lands. (The property has a Forest Management Plan.) The land trust approved the planting of seeds in March 2017. April 2016 Connie Barlow mailed 240 seeds from the 2016 Medford Oregon ex situ harvest. Liana reported by email 15 April 2017: "Planted most of the seeds out today in a warm thunderstorm, eight groups across three locations with different aspects and slightly different wetnesses. I planted 25 in pots as well, since there were so many mole tunnels even on the steepest slopes, all 4 to 6 inches in depth. I'm going to raise the potted ones at my house and see how they germinate, and if they do well I'll plant out with tree tubes."

  • LUDINGTON, MI: In September 2014, Connie Barlow free-planted 30 T. taxifolia seeds from the 2013 harvest directly into the soil of regrowth forest (oak-maple-beech canopy, with some intermixed hemlock) near the Lake Michigan shore of the lower peninsula (property of Dave and Chrissy Hall).

  • LUDINGTON (Wallhalla), MI: July 2015 Connie Barlow delivered 1 seedling from the 2014 harvest to the property of Julia Chambers. This was followed in November 2015 by 40 seeds mailed from our 2015 harvest. Small forest acreage on the property, but it is next to national forest land. Dominant canopy species are maple and oak.

  • MUSKEGON (Montague), MI: Property of Peter Bane and Keith Johnson (permaculturalists in Montague, north of Muskegon). Sept 2014 Connie delivered 40 seeds from the 2013 harvest. In March 2017 Peter Bane reported, "We have successfully sprouted at least half a dozen Torreya trees in our unheated hoophouse, where they went through a minimum temperature of 8F this winter and seem not to have suffered at all. We'll be looking to plant them out later in the year, after weather is a little more settled."

  • MUSSEY / CAPAC MI (in thumb): In April 2017, Torreya Guardians sent Paul Camire 150 Florida Torreya seeds from the autumn 2016 Medford OR ex situ harvest. Paul has "a 45-acre forest, and with the loss of the ash trees to the emerald ash borer I am looking to replant with conifers. The woods has white oak, beech, linden, red oak, swamp white oak, witch hazel, etc." Note: He has also been experimenting with giant sequoia, Franklinia, and American Chestnut. Note: This location is only 25 miles west of Sarnia (and the St. Clair River), which is the geographically best location for natural poleward migration of Torreya taxifolia plantings east of Chicago.

  • TRAVERSE CITY, MI: In June 2015, property owner Andrew Hogarth and Connie Barlow free-planted 100 T. taxifolia seeds from the 2014 harvest directly into the soil of regrowth forest west of Traverse City (barely plant zone 6a). Canopy was largely red oak and sugar maple, with some hop hornbeam as subcanopy.)

    Note: Additional reports will be filed if/when the seeds germinate.


    30-Minute Video of 2014 Seed Planting in Ludington

       "Assisted migration" in a time of rapid climate change has begun for the endangered conifer, Torreya taxifolia. This is the first video of a controversial form of climate activism, filmed in 2014 when Connie Barlow planted 30 seeds in a wild, regrowth forest near Ludington Michigan in the Great Lakes region of North America.

    Consensus is growing that, of all trees native to the USA, "Florida" Torreya (an evergreen conifer related to yew trees) is the most in need of immediate assistance in moving north. Connie, founder of Torreya Guardians, warns that, "So long as fossil fuel burning continues to add enormous increments of carbon-dioxide to the atmosphere, we will soon enter an era in which even common species of trees will require our assistance in migrating toward the poles."

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    ABOVE: images from 2014 youtube video of Ludington seed planting. Right foreground shows the triangle of fallen white birch logs that Connie used to mark individual seed plantings.


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