Medford Oregon ex-situ locale for seed-producing Florida Torreya

  • Spring 2019 Update on 2 Seed-Producing Trees

       May 31, 2019 FRANK CALLAHAN wrote: "I was just over to my mother's place for her 95th birthday. The Torreyas are doing well; however there has been little seed production since your visit. Speaking of seeds, how was the germination rates on all the seeds that were sent out?" [from the Fall 2016 harvest of seeds from the two Florida Torreya trees, shown at left with white stars]

    June 12, 2019 FRANK CALLAHAN wrote: "Here are some images of Torreya taxifolia trees at my late mother's property in Medford. Mickey just had her 95th birthday and passed away 6 days later, and her house and property are now up for sale. (I trust we can make a deal to care for the trees with a new owner.) The two trees are doing quite well as you can see. (Connie added the white stars). That is a bluish Douglas fir in the background. The tree on the right is an arborvitae. There is no crop to report for this year.

  • VIDEO February 2017: Ex-situ seed source in Medford, Oregon
       Florida Torreya Seed Production in Medford, Oregon (2017) is drawn from video footage captured by Connie Barlow on February 3, 2017. Frank Callahan transferred 1,000 seeds from the 2016 autumn harvest of Torreya taxifolia seeds — from two trees he had germinated from seed at an ex-situ planting (Medford, Oregon) some 22+ years earlier. He also shows two shrubby-form trees of Florida Torreya, about 22 years old. Significant discoveries: (a) rooted branchlets will not develop into single-stem trees and (b) Florida Torreya is harmed by sudden exposure to full-intensity sunlight, and even new leaves produced in direct sunlight may never adapt to sun-scald.

    24 minutes - filmed February 2017


    FRANK CALLAHAN of Medford, Oregon offered autumn 2016 to send Torreya Guardians seeds from "an abundant crop on two Torreya taxifolia trees in Medford, Oregon. These are both monoecious trees that are loaded with fruit. Both trees are ca. 20 yrs. old."

    "The seed source of our plants was the US National Arboretum; seeds arrived late fall of 1995 and germinated in our nursery the following year. Some of the plants were taken by the Santa Cruz Arboretum, none of which have done well. Two of the plants were planted at my mother's property in Medford, Oregon and those trees have been heavy seed producers over the last 3 years. The trees are open growing (full sunlight) and are thriving in heavy black clays.

    PHOTOS LEFT: Autumn 2016 seed production on the two "trees" (both initiated as rooted branchlets, so they exhibit shrubby growth) at the home of Frank Callahan's mother. Frank reported that past years' seed crops have been exceptionally viable, so this year's probably is too. He wrote:

    "We have germinated seeds from the trees at my mother's place (100%). The seeds take some time to germinate, due to the fact that at fruit-ripening time the embryo is not mature and may take some months of warm stratification and cool-moist stratification before germination can occur.

    "I usually keep the seeds moist in a sterile medium (vermiculite) for 6 months or more. Adding bottom heat can improve the maturation of the embryo and foster more rapid germination. The two trees at my mother's place have no nearby Torreyas for pollen exchange."

    In an email to Lee Barnes on 9/29/16 Frank wrote: "We are in the Sunset Garden Book as Zone 7, the trees have survived -6 degrees F. in Medford w/o damage. Both of these trees exhibit male and female 'flowers', which is unusual for this taxon."


    1. A number of Torreya Guardians report similar male/female results during our decade+ of acquiring seeds of Torreya taxifolia from reproductive individuals in the eastern USA.

    2. Several Torreya Guardians gratefully accepted donations of seeds from Frank's harvest 2016. The distribution of seeds via Torreya Guardians from the pair of Medford trees totaled 3,900 that year.

    3. Frank Callahan wrote by email 30 March 2017: "There are no known plantings of Torreya californica in the Medford area or the Rogue Valley, for that matter. So there is no chance of pollen transfer to the Torreya taxifolia sites."


       PHOTOS ABOVE AND LEFT: "Two (now multi-stemmed trees) I planted some 20 years ago at Hawthorn Park, Medford OR.

    "These trees are not great seed producers, but they are a bit larger than the two trees at my mother's place.

    "I have found that the trees from cuttings, which these two were, do not exhibit the conical form (as the cuttings came from side branches). To obtain the tree-form, it is necessary to raise them from seed or from terminal growth points."

    Editor's note: Frank Callahan, a conifer aficionado who specializes in the genera Pinus and Cupressus, has nominated more than 80 National Champion Trees certified by American Forest in Washington, D.C. He has published in Herbertia and Phytologia (Calochortus syntrophus/C. coxii) and revised the entire genus Calochortus in Bulbs of North America. Frank owns and operates Callahan Seeds. See a full biography of Callahan in a 2009 issue of the journal of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. Access a short biography of Frank on page 15 of a 2013 issue of the same journal, at the end of his coauthored historical report, "Botanizers in the Land of Conifers.

    Frank has been instrumental in effectively doing (solo) an emergency assisted migration of the gravely endangered Chihuahua Spruce (of NW Mexico). The local paper in Medford Oregon published a news article in 2007 of Frank's role in acquiring seedlings of the spruce in Mexico and planting them 25 years ago in a Medford local park. Read this news report online: "Pair team up to save endangered trees". Frank is quoted that the Chihuahua Spruce he planted had begun producing seeds and that the trees were doing well: "It's the spruce on steroids."

    Go to the Torreya californica page on The Gymnosperm Database website and do an internal search for "Callahan." There you will see Frank's involvement in documenting ages of fallen specimens of the oldest California Torreya trees, including one whose disk contained 480 rings over a diameter of 45 cm. (See entry below.)


    LEFT: Photo of Frank Callahan with Partial disk #1. He wrote January 3, 2017: This tree was growing "near Mendocino", Ft. Bragg, California, nominated in 1945 by Edward Simons and the critical measurements are: Circumference: 14'10" @ 4.5' - 141' tall - 39' = crown spread. Total points = 329 (1945). This tree was determined to be ca. 236 years old from actual ring count, however the center was rotted out and a guesstimate of somewhere between 275-286 years is given. This is the earliest reported National Champion tree in the American Forest records. This is the tree that was illegally harvested on Boise Cascade property holdings...

    The tree with 286 rings is from Ft. Bragg, CA. This tree was cut down by some employees of Boise Cascade, who almost lost their jobs, as Boise's police caught them in the act and took their chainsaws and cables and winches. The management of Boise saved me a sample of the tree which was the national champion before the Swanton tree was measured.

    "WINCHUCK TREE" IS CALIFORNIA TORREYA in SOUTHERN OREGON: January 3, 2017 email from Frank Callahan: "Disk #3 Winchuck tree: ref: Email 12/31/16 - This is the most recent image that I sent you. Disk 480 years old taken @ 20' from base, basal ring count 512 years (rep. Jim Smith). Rumors that this tree was felled in the 60's turned out to be another tree, not a Torreya. This tree was felled in 1999 as it was dead, however Jim did not report exactly when the tree died. Sorry, I earlier confused the Willits partial disk with the Winchuck disk. This is the Oregon tree that was located north of the OR/CA border and the northernmost known for the species.

    CALIFORNIA TORREYA: Autumn 2016 Frank Callahan told Torreya Guardians:

    "We also have a lot of 1st-year potted Torreya californica at Plant Oregon Nursery. in Talent, Oregon. The seed source is Swanton, California near the train station. Lots of large trees there."
    Note: Torreya Guardian Connie Barlow visited the Swanton CA trees in 2005 and posted a photo-essay of the giant California Trees in the Swanton (Scott's Creek) watershed north of Santa Cruz. Connie comments: "I am thrilled to hear that Frank is involved in ensuring that a nursery in Oregon sells California Torreya — as it has a highly fragmented range in California and would benefit from some "assisted migration" into suitable habitats in Oregon."


    Frank Callahan wrote in September 2016:

    "Torreya taxifolia does well in SW Oregon, producing heavy crops (this year is the best) and dense growth. It, however, is not as vigorous as Torrerya californica. Two large trees of Torrerya nucifera (Asian species) are on the State Capitol Grounds in Sacramento (very orderly arrangement of the leaves."
    PHOTO LEFT: Italio Gardens in Medford, Oregon (541-840-0929). Baldy is the owner, and to his right (center of photo) is a lush Torreya nucifera.

    Both Torreya taxifolia and T. nucifera are growing on the premises along with many other very rare conifers. (This is the former home of Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery.)

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Torreya Guardians aim to plant and "rewild" Florida Torreya into forested landscapes in the eastern USA. We are grateful for ex-situ locales for safeguarding the species (and generating seed) beyond our own region. We recognize that California Torreya may benefit from "assisted migration" northward, too — into the states of Oregon and Washington.

    (text contributed by Frank Callahan)

       "I work at the Southern Oregon University Herbarium, and we have a voucher sheet of Torreya californica located in the flats near the Winchuck River, Curry County, Oregon. It was over 6.6' diameter and 70-80' tall — tree divides into 3 trunks about 10' above the ground. SOC 18326 Herbarium of Dee Hendrickson, No. 116, 8 May 1949, Det. 15 Oct 2013 Frank Callahan.

    Here's how to see the specimen data:

    Google: Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbariums; go to collections and type Torreya californica in the box; Region: U.S.A., State/Prov: OR, County: Curry. Hit Search and a image of the herbarium specimen will come up for viewing (left). The specimen #18,326 SOC Herbarium.

    Collected by Dee Hendrickson, 8 May 1949 with his collection #116. He also includes a Conifer Census on the same sheet with 14 different conifers listed in this region just north of the California border; this is the highest conifer count anywhere on the Pacific Coastal Forests.

    I have not been to the actual site, which is on private property and converted to pasture. I was told by one of the locals that the tree was cut down in the 1960s, as it was declining. Several locals obtained disks from the tree. I bought a disk from one of these folks; it was taken some 14' above the base and by ring count was 480 years old. I suspect the tree exceeded 500 years of age.

    I also have a ring count from the ex-champion tree from Santa Cruz, it was over 200 years old or half the age of the Oregon tree. It rivals, in age, an old tree that was cut east of Ft. Bragg."

       FRANK CALLAHAN has long been networking with those on the west coast recording champion trees. He sent this old photo to Connie Barlow and others in 2019, with this caption:
    The image is of the Burnt Corral Larch [Larix occidentalis] which grows along Burnt Corral Creek near the Starkey Experimental Forest in Union County. This is one of those 1,000 year old trees and according to my Uncle Jake's measurements was 230' tall before the top was blown off. The tree is over 7' in diameter. This is an image taken by John Erwin of myself and this monster tree. Fortunately, the tree is on private land and protected from Forest Service harvest. Before the top was blown off, this tree was the tallest Western Larch ever recorded and the largest. Robert Van Pelt visited the tree in 2001 and to my knowledge it is still standing. I have nominated over 80 National Champion Trees over the years, with American Forests in Washington, D.C.


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