Genus Torreya in North Carolina
planted specimens and their offspring

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.

NORTH CAROLINA GROVES OF TORREYA: Torreya Guardians is aware of or actively involved in the below list of sites of Torreya taxifolia propagation in NORTH CAROLINA. Recommendation: First watch the 2016 video summary of early efforts in North Carolina by Lee Barnes:

   2016 VIDEO: Early history of Torreya Guardians (by Lee Barnes)

Lee Barnes is a founding Torreya Guardian, with the longest tenure of work with Torreya taxifolia. From 1981-85 his graduate research entailed advanced propagation techniques for three endangered plants in Torreya State Park of Florida — Torreya among them. Here Lee speaks of his research and his early role in securing Torreya seeds from Biltmore forest historian Bill Alexander for distribution to volunteer planters, primarily in North Carolina and various botanical gardens. Lee concludes that North Carolina is superb habitat for Torreya today.


1. Harbison House, HIGHLANDS NC: The late Bob Zahner reported to Torreya Guardians in 2006 that in the 1920s, six (still surviving) specimens were planted on a private estate in Highlands NC. These mature trees not only produce seed, but they have obviously given rise to various ages of saplings and seedlings in their near vicinity. Because this grove appears to have been left wild for many decades, this is probably the best site in the eastern USA for studying how Torreya taxifolia grows and interacts with other plants in a wild setting.


VIDEO: FL Torreya to Highlands NC: 90 years of de facto rewilding (2015)

   "Assisted migration" for climate-endangered Florida Torreya inadvertently began 90 years ago, when botanist Thomas Harbison planted this conifer species on his mountainside land in Highlands, NC. April 2015, Torreya Guardians documented this gone-wild grove — likely, the best and oldest example of how this ancient native lineage grows beneath a deciduous canopy and its slow dispersal by squirrels. Connie Barlow narrates with camera; Jack Johnston explores and measures the Torreya grove and surrounding plants.

28 minutes - assembled and posted March 15, 2016

* * * * *

2. Biltmore Gardens, ASHEVILLE, NC:     BILTMORE TORREYA WEBPAGE with photos.

VIDEO: Florida Torreya Grove at Biltmore Gardens NC: 75 years old

   In 1939 Chauncey Beadle supplied the Biltmore Estate with a dozen Torreya taxifolia seeds or specimens collected in Florida — prior to any understanding of climate change and endangered species. Now this 75-year-old grove and its offspring are precious for securing the wellbeing of the species and for demonstrating that (with little human help) North Carolina is an ideal habitat for escaping the native diseases of a now too-warm Florida. Connie Barlow narrates photos and videos she captured on site visits to the Biltmore: February 2004, August 2006, and April 2015.

1 hour - assembled and posted March 15, 2016


  • WAYNESVILLE, NC: July 2008 marked the first assisted migration of T. taxifolia back into natural forested habitat of the southern Appalachians. 21 nursery-bred seedlings were planted beneath deciduous canopy on the property of Sara Evans (elevation 3,400 feet). Click for details on the current status of the 21 seedlings.

  • JUNALUSKA, NC: The assisted migration project in July 2008 continued at Corneille Bryan Native Plant Garden (elevation 2,600 feet). Here Torreya Guardians planted 10 nursery-bred potted seedlings beneath a deciduous canopy. Click for details on the current status of the 10 seedlings.

    Learn more about this historic event via our posted photo-essay of the 2008 rewilding action and a feature article in Audubon magazine.

    PHOTO RIGHT: In 2009, an issue of North Carolina Wildlife Magazine included a 6-page, illustrated article centering on the 2008 plantings in Waynesville and Lake Junaluska by Torreya Guardians. Early history of the group's formation and comments by scientists familiar with the plight of Florida Torreya are in the article, too.


    VIDEO REPORT: Florida Torreya to North Carolina, 2015 progress report (Waynesville, NC)

       First video-documentation of fate of historic 2008 rewilding action of the endangered Torreya taxifolia from Florida to North Carolina. Connie Barlow films and narrates a survey of the 21 plants in wild forest on the slope of Eaglenest Mountain, near Waynesville. Most important results are both positive and negative, which help us ascertain the habitat preferences of this species (moisture, shade, slope, aspect). 54 minutes

    VIDEO REPORT: Florida Torreya to North Carolina, 2015 progress report (Junaluska, NC)

       Second half of video series above. Key findings: (1) Counting vegetative buds at the tips of branches misleads, as older plants sprout branchlets on older regions of branches, too. (2) Don't plant near rhododendrons that will encroach on our plants. (3) Seedlings too long in the pot (rootbound) are inferior specimens for assessing Torreya's ability to thrive in wild settings; (4) Full sun may be stressful for Torreya outside of watered areas. 45 minutes

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

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

    31 minutes - filmed October 7, 2018

  • FRANKLIN, NC: Russell Regnery, who participated in the July 2008 planting of 31 seedlings in the Waynesville area, the very next month planted 10 seedlings on his 35 acres (3,600 - 4,000 foot elevation). Access his REPORT and periodic updates.

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

    Russ Regnery leads Connie Barlow on a tour in 2015 of his young torreya trees planted in 2008. Topics of discussion include (1) the advantage of sun-shading screen during the early years, (2) how Torreya is vulnerable to winter sun and wind scalding/dessication if not protected by a canopy, (3) advantages of planting near nurse trees. "Free-planting" seeds from the 2014 seed harvest is the final half of the video. (32 minutes)

    A 2018 update on his page links to a detailed photo-essay and a 2018 VIDEO of a remarkable success rate of 6 of 15 free-planted seeds escaping both seed predation and lethal levels of herbivory.

  • Greensboro, NC: Nelson and Elaine Stover began their participation in autumn 2013, becoming "free-planters" of torreya seeds directly into the soil in their regrowth forest. Visit their ongoing, photo-rich reports at Greensboro, NC.

    Of the 30 seeds planted in November 2013, 22 had become little seedlings within the first four years. This is a remarkable rate of success, likely attributable to their planting the seeds 3 inches deep. Also of note is that 4 of those seedlings emerged only late in the fourth year. Twenty more seeds were planted November 2015; the first 7 of which appeared as seedlings between spring and summer of 2017. All seeds had been "free-planted" directly into the soil of the Stover's regrowth hardwood forest, with no overlying rock or wire protection.

  • SPENCER NC: One of the most successful Torreya Guardian germinators and producers of seed is Jeff Morris. Jeff has 25 acres of property, Piedmont woodland, elevation 700 feet.

    Access photo-rich progress reports of the Spencer NC Torreya site.

    Photo right: Connie Barlow conducts genetic exchange with Jeff in November 2013.


  • Tessentee Bottomland Preserve: Seedlings germinated from seed by Jack Johnston were planted Spring 2012. Jack continues monitoring and caretaking the site. Report webpage: Tessentee Bottomlands Torreya Grove


  • Norlina, NC: No Torreya Guardians have nurtured or accessed seeds or branchlets directly from this long-mature solo tree, but we know that some of the potted seedlings we planted were offspring from there. As of 2018 there is some question as to whether this once-national-champion Florida Torreya is still alive. This webpage on our site compiles all that we know about the Norlina Tree.

  • Brevard, NC: Buford Pruitt has been receiving seeds from Torreya Guardians since 2010. He periodically posts on his own blog about his propagation results. Torreya Guardians has created a photo-rich page to document his results. See the Brevard NC Torreya page of results, including detailed VIDEO DOCUMENTATION in 2016.

  • Cullowhee, NC: Jim Thomson (who lives in Waynesville, but has a cabin on a north-facing mountain slope in Cullowhee), volunteered in autumn 2013 to begin planting Torreya seeds and seedlings on his property — 2,700 feet elevation in the watershed of the Tuckasegee River. In November 2013 he received (via Connie Barlow) 4 potted seedlings from Jeff Morris, along with 20 seeds Connie had harvested from the Clinton NC tree and 20 additional seeds sent to him by Jack. See the Cullowhee NC Torreya page for more details, photos, videos, and updates.

  • Cowee Valley, NC:

    Lamar Marshall received seeds from our 2013 harvest.

    He began out-planting the seedlings in 2015.

    See the Cowee Valley, NC Torreya page of results.

  • ASHEVILLE, NC: Zev Friedman, with Living Systems Design" in Asheville received 200 seeds from the fall 2011 harvest. Because Living Systems Design "supports landowners and local communities in restoring prosperity and abundance to the places we all live", Zev's idea (for clients he works with who have forested lands) is to see if Torreya taxifolia can take the place of the once-magnificent hemlock trees that have died off in the mountains of North Carolina. As of August 2013, Zev reports, "I've got approximately 60 Torreyas coming up from the 2-year old seeds, so am going to be distributing those soon!

  • Clayton, GA: : Jack Johnston lives at the southernmost edge of the Appalachians in NE Georgia, so we are including his Torreya propagation effort on the North Carolina page, as well as Georgia. See a photo-essay of Jack's Torreyas. Also, Audubon Magazine printed a short piece on Jack's southern Appalachian native plant growing in their May 2010 issue.

  • Wolf Creek, NC: : Thomas Mesko received 43 Torreya taxifolia seeds from Connie Barlow, drawn from the 2014 harvest of Torreya Guardians. A 13-minute 2015 video documents seeds being planted generally on north-facing slopes, between 1,600 and 1,800 feet elevation on Thomas's 50 acres of forested property along Wolf Creek, in the North Carolina section of the Ocoee Watershed. However, 4 years later, March 2019, Connie Barlow toured the property again with Mesko and found no seedlings. Because we did not know in 2015 that depth planting of seeds was vital, we can surmise that rodent predation was total. This site thus no longer needs to be monitored.


  • CLINTON and MT. OLIVE (southeastern NC): A Torreya taxifolia more than 80 years old is in Clinton NC, where A. J. Bullard has been collecting seeds since the late 1990s. He still has 2 offspring (now bearing seeds) on his own property 18 miles northeast of the Clinton tree, in Mt. Olive NC. Connie Barlow visited the Clinton tree and A.J. Bullard with his trees in Mt. Olive on 31 October 2013 and gathered seeds for distribution to Torreya Guardians. Click for a photo-essay of that 2013 seed-gathering effort.

    Click left image for the Clinton / Mt. Olive section in the video made by Connie Barlow in 2013 on Torreya Guardians actions.

    NOTE: In several subsequent years (including Fall 2019) Torreya Guardians have, with landowner permission, ventured onto the property of the SEED-PRODUCING TREE in Clinton NC and gathered seeds and seedling volunteers for distribution among our own planters.

  • SPRING 2019 this arboretum contacted Torreya Guardians for advice on vegetative dieback that suddenly appeared on some of specimens of Florida Torreya within this arboretum in Asheville, NC. Michigan Torreya Guardian Paul Camire led the effort in collecting views from the key planters among us. The result led not only to a new page on this website but to a realization that it would be useful to aggregate photos/interpretations of physical problems in this species so as to aid others in the future to interpret the cause(s) — and possible techniques to lessen such problems on existing specimens and, more importantly, toward encouraging BEST PRACTICES in future siting and planting choices.

    Return to HOME PAGE