Rewilding Torreya taxifolia

Status of Rewilding Project

  • VIDEO summary report 2013

  • 31 Torreya seedlings rewilded to NC (2008)

  • Reports of Yearly Seed Distributions

  • Informational comments on this effort

  • Advice and photos for propagation

  • Access online papers: assisted migration

  • After April 2015, all "rewilding" entries
    are posted within the LEARNINGS webpage

  • April 2015 / by Connie Barlow / VIDEO: 90-year-old "rewilded" Torreya grove documented in Highlands NC by Torreya Guardians
       11: 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.

  • April 2015 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Video Documentation of 2008 Rewilding Results in North Carolina, plus two new projects in southern Appalachians

       10: FL 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).

       09: FL Torreya to Ocoee Watershed 2: Wolf Creek, NC 2015

    Thomas Mesko receives 43 Torreya taxifolia seeds from Connie Barlow, drawn from the 2014 harvest of Torreya Guardians. This 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.

       08: FL Torreya to Ocoee Watershed 1: Greasy Creek, TN 2015

    Clint Bancroft shows Connie Barlow the 9 Florida Torreyas he has planted on his 18 acres in southeastern Tennessee (plus 2 more in pots). At 1,100 ft elevation, and in a mixed deciduous/conifer forest, all the Torreyas look healthy. In closing, Connie gives Clint 40 seeds from the fall 2014 Torreya Guardians' harvest. Clint demonstrates his rodent-proof outdoor shelter for germinating those seeds.

  • September 2014 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian / Field Testing of Torreya extends to Michigan
        Connie Barlow planted 30 seeds from the autumn 2013 harvest into a private regrowth forest near Ludington Michigan in September 2014. Halsey Barlow had already planted 40 seeds in the spring of 2014 into her father's regrowth forest near Alpena Michigan.

    Thus, a new page of "assisted migration in MICHIGAN has been added to the website. Go directly to the 30-minute video of the Ludington seed planting experiment.

  • December 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Testing 3 natural methods for deterring squirrels from digging up seeds planted directly into forests
    Following a voluminous 2013 harvest of seeds accessible to Torreya Guardians, I decided to experiment with planting seeds directly into naturally forested landscapes. In prior years, recipients of seeds have germinated their seeds in pots or soil patches protected from squirrels by wire mesh and other devices — as the seeds may take several years to germinate naturally, and during that time squirrels tend to dig up the seeds (as squirrels find Torreya seeds tasty). So I experimented with 3 ways to use natural materials to prevent predation by squirrels. The 3 methods are: (1) burial beneath a log, (2) cover the buried seed with a rock, and (3) protect the buried seed with a thatch of branches. Because the seeds are very large and thus contain a store of energy, it should be no problem for a germinating seed to grow sideways 6 inches underground before it finds an opening to turn upward and reach the air. Click to see photos of the 3 methods of natural protection against squirrels.

  • November 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Seeds harvested from Clinton and Mt. Olive NC Torreyas, and 2 new NC landowners recruited to plant seeds/seedlings on their forested properties.
    In late October I was able to accomplish in North Carolina:

  • planted (from the 2013 harvest by Jack Johnston) 43 seeds at the Waynesville (Evans) site, using natural forms of squirrel protection: under logs or overlain by rocks or thatched branches.

  • Gave 43 seeds to Janet Manning, head gardener at the Junaluska site where we planted seedlings in 2008: Corneille Bryan Native Garden.

  • Harvested 102 seeds from the Clinton NC tree and 41 seeds from A.J. Bullard's trees in Mt. Olive NC; see a photo-essay of those activities.

  • Met Torreya Guardian Jeff Morris of Spencer NC and exchanged seeds/seedlings with him to increase the genetic diversity of plantings within NC. I gave him all 6 of the seedlings I collected beneath the Clinton tree, 12 of the 102 seeds I collected in Clinton, 12 of the 41 seeds I collected in Mt. Olive, and 21 seeds from the primary harvest of Torreya Guardians (provided by Jack Johnston). In exchange, Jeff gave me 4 potted seedlings he had grown from the 20ll Torreya Guardian seed harvest and 28 seeds he had harvested early October from his own trees.

  • Recruited a new landowner of forested property in Greensboro NC (Nelson and Elaine Stover), and gave them 15 seeds from Mt. Olive and 15 seeds from our main harvest. They will plant all 30 directly into their forest, using the natural squirrel-protection methods I suggested to them (under logs, overlain by thatched branches or rocks).

  • Recruited a new landowner in Cullowhee NC (our first in the Tuckasegee watershed), who received the 4 seedlings Jeff gave me, plus 20 seeds from the Clinton NC tree. Jim Thomson planted the 4 seedlings right away and sent me photos, which appear in a photo-essay page dedicated to the Cullowhee site.

  • Recruited my brother, Bill Barlow, to test the viability of Torreya seed germination and possible establishment in Michigan. This site constitutes a new northern-most location: Midland (for germination) and Farwell (120 acres of forest, with some boreal species). Our previous northern outpost was the Cleveland Ohio area, where the trees are still doing well. I sent Bill 2 seeds from Mt. Olive, 2 seeds from Clinton, and 34 seeds from the main Torreya Guardians 2013 planting.

  • 2 possible Arboretums to begin growing Torreya: (1) Fred Bess, Torreya Guardian in Parma (Cleveland area) Ohio, recruited nearby Holden Arboretum (Kirtland Ohio). (2) I made a site-visit to Lovett Pinetum (Strafford Missouri), and its founder Robert Lovett took me on a tour, including the two naturally forested areas he hopes to plant Torreya taxifolia in. Although his land is west of the Mississippi River, it is still a long way from California, so there is no risk of our eastern North America species interbreeding with the California species. I need to follow through with trying to get the Atlanta Botanical Garden to communicate with both arboretums (also, Duke Gardens in Durham NC, as Nov 12 email from Lee Barnes said they were interested in seeds/seedlings), as I understand that ABG may be willing to send seedlings (official ESA management plan) to bona fide nonprofit arboretums for off-site species protection. While "assisted migration" is not officially sanctioned in the ESA management plan for Torreya taxifolia, surely these arboretums could helpfully test these northern climates for possible future viability of the species if and when assisted migration is eventually undertaken. See "Plan Seeks 'Chaperones' for Threatened Species", which is a news report on a talk that Adam Smith (ecologist at Missouri Botanical Garden) presented at the Ecological Society of America meeting, August 2013 (the report is by Virginia Gewin, published in Nature 09 August 2013).

  • Finally, while I was in Missouri, I spent 3 days producing a 75-minute videoblog: "Helping Plants Move North in Anthropocene Climate", which includes a lot of discussion and photos of much of the above activities. Click the "Show more" link beneath the caption to read a detailed hotlinked table of contents (so you can skip to whichever topics interest you).
  • October 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Photos of October 2013 Torreya taxifolia seed harvest
    Seeds from the 2013 fall harvest, available for germination and planting by Torreya Guardian volunteers.


  • August 2013 / by Zev Friedman, Torreya Guardian/ 60 Torreya taxifolia seedlings ready for planting in private forests in Asheville NC region
    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!

  • July 2013 / by Fred Bess, Torreya Guardian/ Report of progress of T. taxifolia planted near Cleveland, Ohio
    Summary: Strong growth of the 4 seedlings planted in full sun; poor results for the one specimen planted in the shady woodlot. The single specimen planted from a rooted branchlet is branching out nicely. Seeds from the fall 2011 harvest that were planted in the nearby Secrest Arboretum (Wooster, Ohio) are beginning to put down roots (but no above-ground growth yet). See photo essay on the Ohio page.

  • May 2013 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Results of SPRING 2013 field assessment of North Carolina rewilded Torreyas

    Connie Barlow led field assessment work on April 23 and 25 of the seedlings we had "rewilded" in 2008 to Waynesville and Junaluska mountainous habitat in North Carolina. Lee Barnes, Michael Dowd, Sara Evans, Janet Manning, and Jane Stoffer also helped with the fieldwork. Our findings were three-fold: (1) Corneille Bryan Native Garden plants are thriving; (2) Mixed survival rates at Evans property; and (3) leaf bud counts formed the basis of a new quantitative data format, on which we invite others to pose interpretations and recommendations. The 2013 data in table format can be viewed on the "learnings" page of this website.

  • November, 2012 / by Janet Manning, Torreya Guardian/ Five of 20 seeds from fall 2011 seed crop have germinated in 2012 at Corneille Bryan Native Garden, Lake Junaluska NC
    "Seeds were not planted until December 2011, and two had started to germinate before I planted them. I had kept them in a ziploc bag in my basement. Seeds were planted in two outdoor seed beds — one at the garden and one at home (ten each) — in about 3 inches of fafford germinating mix, layered over 6 inches of a mix of old and new potting soil. The 2 pre-germinated seeds were among those planted at the garden. All of the 5 seedlings are in the bed at the garden. The seedlings are about six inches tall. I am hoping to have more come up in the spring of 2013." ADDENDUM: By late April 2013, 7 more seeds had germinated outdoors. Check out the photos of this on the PROPAGATION page.

  • November, 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 2012 Torreya seed harvest distributed to 4 existing landowners plus 1 new participant — all in North Carolina
    Following our usual protocol, 4 of the landowners received 20 seeds each, while Zev Friedman received 200 for the second year in a row. Zev is a permaculture and forestry consultant in the Asheville NC area, who is collaborating with many private forest owners in the region for testing Torreya taxifolia as a possible (once-native) replacement for dead and dying hemlock trees in the region.

  • June, 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 15 Torreya seeds planted at the Waynesville rewilding site
    Following the photo-documentation during the site visit made to Waynesville (and Junaluska) in late May 2012, 15 Torreya seeds from the 2011 harvest were individually planted by Connie Barlow in favorable habitats upslope of the 21 seedlings introduced on the Evans property in 2008. Access a photo-essay of the 2012 seed planting.

  • June 2012 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Site visit in North Carolina offers new understanding of Torreya's preferred habitat.
    In late May 2012 Connie Barlow and Lee Barnes (along with Sara Evans) made a site visit to the 21 seedlings planted in 2008 on the Evans property near Waynesville NC and the 10 seedlings planted in 2008 in Junaluska NC. Connie took many photographs and has updated both the Waynesville main page and the Junaluska main page, along with the webpages focused on each specimen. She also has posted, for the first time, an aggregate status report of WHAT HAS BEEN LEARNED to date about Torreya taxifolia habitat preferences, and what questions remain.

  • April 2012 - Torreya Guardians assist Boy Scouts in planting seedlings in a new North Carolina preserve
    [excerpt from the April 2012 newsletter of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee River "On a beautiful spring morning, Boy Scouts from Troop 235 recently helped plant 31 seedlings of "Stinking Cedar" (Torreya taxifolia) at LTLT's Tessentee Bottomland Preserve (in North Carolina). Naturalist Jack Johnston provided the seedlings, which he grew from seed at his home in northern Georgia. The Scouts, Dylan Ford and Joel Rogers, worked under the direction of Jack and LTLT's Dennis Desmond. Scout leaders Conda Bradley and Peggy Pyeatt also assisted, as did LTLT member Russ Regnery. Jack and Russ are part of a loosely organized group who call themselves the Torreya Guardians. The group is working to move this tree species to cooler climates. Known more commonly today as the Florida torreya, the conifer is poised on the brink of extinction in its tiny native habitat, the sharp-sloped ravines along a short stretch of Florida's Apalachicola River and its headwaters just across the Georgia border. To learn more about this species, visit The hope is that these planted trees will grow and produce seed for further propagation of the species."
  • November 7, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 2011 distribution of approx 700 seeds harvested by Torreya Guardians
    Approximately 700 seeds from the Fall 2011 harvest were distributed by Torreya Guardians to private landowners in two categories: (1) those who already are growing T. taxifolia on their lands: Clayton GA, Waynesville NC, Lake Junaluska NC, Spencer NC, and Cleveland OH, and (2) those who will begin to grow T. taxifolia by using this seed distribution: Brevard NC, Bat Cave NC, Watauga County NC, Asheville (multiple landowners), and Nashville TN. In addition, a landowner in Apopka FL with native gopher tortoises on his large property is testing (a) whether the tortoises choose to swallow the flesh-encased seed, and (b) if they do, whether tortoise digestive juices yield earlier germination (first spring instead of second spring).

  • October 7, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Webpages created to track success of Torreya Guardian plantings in Georgia, Tennessee, and Ohio (as well as the half dozen sites already tracked in North Carolina)
    Check out the new link on our homepage that now has distinct pages for these three additional states. If you click on Ohio, you'll learn that T. taxifolia ("Florida Torreya") easily made it through -13F temperatures in Cleveland in the winter of 2008/2009. We believe this is the farthest north T. taxifolia site in north America.
  • October 7, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ 2005 seed distribution by Torreya Guardians produces first next generation seed
    A private landowner in Spencer, NC, who received 10 seeds from Torreya Guardians from the 2005 Biltmore harvest reports: "Of the ten Torreya taxifolia seeds harvested in the fall 2005, I had 4 come up — all in 2007." All four are still alive and well, and one even produced its first seed this year (a single seed), after having been treated with gibberellic acid foliant spray.

  • May 21, 2011 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Photos of 2011 new growth on 2008 Torreya plantings at Site 2 in Waynesville, NC
    Chuck Dayton sent me 4 photos he took of fresh growth this spring on Torreya specimens there. Click and scroll to the bottom of each page to see the four (as well as previous photos of each specimen) Joanna Macy Tree, Maxilla Evans Tree, Charles Darwin Tree, Julia Butterfly Hill Tree

  • October 25, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Photo-essay of September 22 visit to Jack Johnston's Torreya taxifolia propagation effort near Clayton, Georgia
    On September 22, 2010 Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd visited the rural home of Jack Johnston in the NE corner of Georgia, which is the southernmost expression of the Appalachian Mountains. Jack has successfully planted seedlings purchased from a nursery, and has successfully germinated seeds. He is still working on techniques to successfully root and outplant cut branchlets of the tree. Click for Photo-essay of that visit.

  • October 11, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Nine of ten T. taxifolia seedlings planted near Highlands NC in 2008 are doing well.
    On September 22, 2010 Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd visited the 10 Torreya taxifolia trees that had been planted as seedlings in August 2008 by Russ Regnery on his own rural property (4,000 foot elevation) near Highlands NC. Photo-essay of that visit requires you to scroll down on the page until you see pictures. Only one tree has died thus far, and that was because of a phosphate-rich fertilizer supplement.

  • September 30, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ All but one "rewilded" original Torreya trees healthy at Waynesville NC Site 2
    On September 23, 2010 Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd visited the 21 Torreya taxifolia trees that had been planted as seedlings July 2008. Only one tree has died thus far. It was a full-sun day, and Connie photographed each tree between 11 am and 2 pm, so the photos are great for seeing how mottled the forest floor is. You can see the captioned photos by clicking on each of the individual trees at the summary webpage. Connie surmises that deciduous full canopy is excellent drought protection in summer, and seedlings grow well in full sun of early spring and late fall. Also, oaks were masting, so the huge acorn crop suggested to Connie that Torreya seeds buried by squirrels in an oak mast year might escape predation during the winter and spring.

  • June 14, 2010 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardian/ Comments filed on USF&WS official Recovery Plan Update on Torreya taxifolia

    In May 2010 USF&WS staff overseeing the recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act for Torreya taxifolia gathered a meeting of researchers, managers, and landowners to review their actions to date and recommend future actions for an update of the recovery plan. Though not active within the terms of the management plan, Torreya Guardians was invited to participate, so Russell Regnery and I (Connie Barlow) listened and shared our thoughts by phone call-in during the day-long conference. We felt welcome and well heard. Afterwards, I decided to follow-up with print commments of my own and to alert several scientists with expertise in this realm of the opportunity to send in comments as well. Two did so. I have added a new page to this website titled, Torreya taxifolia Recovery Plan Under the Endangered Species Act: Spring 2010 solicitation of comments on assisted migration, which contains six links, including: Comments by Connie Barlow; Comments by Prof Sarah Reichard; Comments by Josh Donlan (of Advanced Conservation Strategies).

  • June 11, 2010/ by Mike Heim, Torreya Guardian experimenting with Wisconsin rewilding / Photo-essay and report of "Tertiary Rewilding in Wisconsin" posted

    Mike Heim's photos with captions and his accompanying essay in PDF on his "Tertiary Rewilding in Northern Wisconsin" have now been posted on this website. Genera being tested onsite include Torreya, Taxus (floridana), Taxodium, Ginkgo, Cephalotaxus, Shortia, and more. Heim takes a deep-time perspective in assessing which genera might have been "native" to northern Wisconsin in past interglacials and even more distant warm times.

  • June 5, 2010/ by Jack Johnston, Torreya Guardian nurturing T. taxifolia seeds into seedlings / Report of seed and seedling progress in NE Georgia, USA

    During the winter 2009/10 one Torreya dropped needles and died after a growing season in the ground. Three had roots eaten away by voles and toppled due to the rootless condition. None of the Biltmore fall 2009 seeds have germinated to date. [Jack is stewarding 50 of those seeds on his property in NE Georgia. Torreya seedlings commonly require 2 winter season before they will germinate.] A few rooted cuttings from last fall are green but have no new growth. I expect some to grow later. The total count of seedling trees here is 24. The tallest tree is about 2 feet. [Editor's note: Jack Johnston's work with Torreya is feautres in the May/June 2010 issue of Audubon Magazine, in the article titled "Guardian Angels".]

  • February 11, 2010/ by Lee Barnes, Torreya Guardian in charge of seed distribution / Report of Distribution of 300 T. taxifolia seeds collected at Biltmore Gardens autumn 2009

    Click for the detailed Report of 2009 Seed Distribution filed by Lee Barnes.

  • January 14, 2010 / by Lee Barnes / All but 1 of the remaining Torreya seedlings still surviving in Waynesville plantings

    I went by Sara Evan's property on Eagles Nest to check the Torreya. All but two looked great. The snow did not knock over the plants quite as much as at the Bryan Nature Garden. I'm guessing the snow was not as "wet" at the higher elevation. My friends at Grass Roots nursery near Junaluska measured lows of 0 degrees F., but I don't think it was quite as cold at Lake Junaluska. I measured 9 degrees F. as a low on the porch at my house in Waynesville. By the way, Lake Junaluska is mostly frozen over; I think I've only seen that 2-3 times in the last 30 years.
         The dead plant was the runt of the plantings and has looked pretty weak since the plantings. (Click here for more detail and photos of the tree, alive and dead.) It might resprout from the base in the spring, but I doubt it. I'll look closer at it next time I'm up there, maybe next week. The other weak plant was the second smallest transplant; it does have green needles at the base and I do expect it to leaf-out in the spring. Both of the plants were in the sunnier location.
         All in all, I think we had excellent survival rates with no care after first month of hand-watering during a drought. The rest of the plants look firmly established and I expect all to grow and prosper. This proves to me that Torreya can be successfully rewilded as transplants. Time will tell if they will successfully reseed themselves at our two plantings. (Torreya seeds have been spread hundreds of feet from the mother trees by squirrels at Biltmore Estate for many years.)
         I am saving some of the seeds from the Biltmore Estate to grow seedlings for a couple of years prior to transplanting at these two sites to try to introduce some genetic diversity (seeds from Biltmore and Woodlanders Nursery are from different sources, as well as the plant "Celia" that Connie got from Atlanta Botanical Gardens and carried across the country and back.) Same with seeds to Jack Johnson to add to his established plantings in North Georgia. We received 301 seeds from Biltmore Estate just before Christmas and I'm in the process to sending them out to Botanical Gardens and individuals at locations farther north. I want to get them to folks who can "ground stratify" them, exposing them to natural alternating day/night temperatures that greatly improve their germination based on Atlanta Botanical Gardens experience.

  • January 11, 2010 / by Lee Barnes / Distribution of 301 T. taxifolia seeds from Biltmore Gardens

    "I just cleaned 301 seeds that are ready for distribution. There were 115 "floaters" and 186 "sinkers." I've downloaded Connie's list of Torreya Volunteers and also will look at my list of geographically important volunteers and Botanical Gardens that were sent poor quality seeds in the past (we really need folks with facilities to germinate and raise seedlings for several years prior to transplanting into the wild.) I'm wanting to get seeds out so that folks can stratify in situ, fluxuating day/night ground temperatures (per Determann's recommendations). I'm a little concerned about the large number of "floaters" (seeds that float in water), but personal communications with Dr. Ed Croom indicates his contacts with Maclay Gardens (FL) who had good germination with floaters.
        I'm wanting to keep some seeds for planting with our Waynesville sites: (I'm set-up to ground stratify seeds and grow to transplant size) so that we can increase genetic diversity here. I also want to send a good number of seeds to Jack Johnston who has had good germination procedures. I'm thinking 25-50 seeds for Waynesville and same for Jack.

    UPDATE: We received notice that of the autumn 2009 seed crop from the Biltmore that we distributed, 4 of the seeds distributed to an arboretum in Switzerland germinated in the spring of 2011. Among those 3 had been "floaters" and 1 was a "sinker."

  • November 30, 2009 / by Bill Alexander, Forest Historian of Biltmore Gardens NC / 300 T. taxifolia seeds collected at Biltmore Gardens autumn 2009

    "We collected 300 (more or less) seeds from our Torreya trees this fall." [Note: Connie Barlow and Lee Barnes responded in the affirmative that we are interested in distributing those seeds.]

  • October 16, 2009 / by Jack Johnston / No germination from (under-ripe) seeds collected at Smithgall Woods Torreyas autumn 2009

    Final report is that no Torreya taxifolia seedlings germinated for 2009. I lost one of last year's small seedlings (from 2008 seed harvest) to voles. All other seedlings (from 2008 harvest) are prospering.

  • August 10, 2009 / by Connie Barlow / August 2009 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine has article on Torreya Rewilding

    An article by Sidney Cruze reports on the assisted migration issue in the context of the actual plantings of "Florida" Torreya that Torreya Guardians did in North Carolina (Waynesville area) exactly one year ago. (The article cannot be accessed online.)

  • June 23, 2009 / by Lee Barnes / All Torreya seedlings on Waynesville No. 2 site doing well; photodocumentation of the 3 losses at Waynesville No. 1 site.

    I finally got up to the Evans property site to check on the 21 Torreya taxifolia seedlings we planted there July 2008. All look great, including the "runt" of the original transplants. I'm enclosing some photos of the Torreyas there, including the seedling named Celia, who just missed getting hit by a fallen branch. In general, the plants at this location were with 2+ inches of new growth, a bit less than growth at Lake Junaluska (site number 1 of the 2008 Waynesville seedling plantings), presumably due to higher elevation and slightly later bud-break.
         I've attached photos of the 3 Torreya seedlings (of the 10 planted at the Lake Junaluska site) that died during their first winter: Chauncey, Asa, and Croom. These three were all at the lower end of the Corneille Bryan Native Garden. If you look closely at the photos, you can see gnaw marks by relatively small paired teeth, which confirms my belief that this was vole damage. I carried hardware "cloth" wire to Janet to make wire cylinders to protect the remainder of plants at the Gardens and will run by and get pictures of the barriers. Editor's note: Click to access the photos and ongoing status report tree by tree: Chauncey Beadle Tree, Asa Gray Tree, Hardy Croom Tree, Celia Hunter Tree

  • June 10, 2009 / by Lee Barnes / Three of ten rewilded seedlings at Lake Junaluska lost to voles during winter.

    I'm sad to report that we have lost a total of 3 of the ten Torreya seedlings at Lake Junaluska [planted as seedlings July 31, 2008]. The loss appears to be from voles eating the bark. I'll send some photos when I get a chance. We are placing short wire-cages of 1/2 inch hardware cloth/rabbit wire around the remaining plants there. I'll try to get up to the Evans property set of trees in the next few days to report and get some photos. The remaining plants at Lake Junaluska have flushed out with 3-4 inches of new growth. The plants in the sunny area are doing the best, or at least seem to have the thicker foliage.

  • October 22, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / 2008 Smithgall Woods seeds planted in my outdoor seed bed
    Finished planting [2008 Smithgall Woods] Torreya seeds just before dark today. The seeds are somewhat smaller than 2007 seeds. I suspect the drought was the problem. We need to communicate about germination next summer. I am using my old seedbeds to save time, so they are packed with seeds. If there is good germination next summer it will be from 2007 seeds. Some of the seeds aborted before maturity this year [on the Torreya taxifolia trees at Smithgall woods]. They probably fell off due to drought.

  • October 17, 2008 / by Bill Alexander, Landscape and Forest Historian, Biltmore Gardens, Asheville NC / No Seed Production from T. taxifolia at Biltmore in 2008
    There will not be any available seed from the Torreyas this year. Any seed formed were either aborted due to the drought or squirrels got to them before we could. Some of the trees are looking very weak and experiencing some dieback and loss of limbs. I hope it is a temporary condition, but they seem a little weaker each year. I am working with our arborist to see if we can do something to help them. He also reported finding no seed on the trees when he checked a month or so ago. That may have been a good thing for the trees in that they needed to reserve their energy in order to survive the drought. I have seen years in the past with few or no seeds followed by a bumper crop the next season. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a good 2009 season!

  • October 16, 2008 / by Didier, Arboretum de Villardebelle, France / 2005 Biltmore seeds germinated and doing well in our arboretum
    You can follow the development of the seedlings at the usual site: Any new germination will appear on it, too. This year the seedlings from 2005 Biltmore seed showed an amazing growth: they resumed growth 3 times, while T. californica is growing once and stops.

  • October 16, 2008 / by Robin Jamie, USA / 2007 Biltmore seeds not yet germinated
    I received 10 seeds in the most recent distribution. Unfortunately, I have had no germinations, but I will keep them for another winter and see if I get anything in Spring 2009. I remember the website mentioning that best germination results were achieved when the seeds had been exposed to fluctuating cold and warm temperatures. By the time they arrived to me, Spring had pretty much started and there was not too much temperature fluctuation, so maybe that was the problem. Do you happen to know of any examples of seeds germinating after two years when they have not germinated in the first year? [Editor's note: Scroll down to the June 14, 2007 comment below, to learn of 2005 Biltmore seeds beginning to sprout in June 2007!]

  • October 12, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / 21 seedlings sprouted from 2007 Smithgall Woods seeds planted in my yard
    Today (Oct. 12) 21 Torreya taxifolia were planted in my yard [hills of northernmost Georgia] in a location that will provide sun. The seedlings are in red clay soil which has been amended with lime. Germination was in mid summer and the seedlings averaged about 5 inches tall. Two seedlings died (root rot suspected) in the germination bed. All 21 seedlings were from seeds harvested in late Sept. 2007 [from trees at Smithgall Woods, NE Georgia, with manager's permission]. The first group was planted immediately last fall without removal of seed coats. The second group was allowed to stay in a warm basement until the seed coats softened. The seed coats were removed and the seeds were washed in soapy water and rinsed. In the two beds there was somewhat better germination when the seed coats had been removed. The harvest date of late Sept. was chosen to get seeds before squirrels. Ideally it would have been better to wait until an October harvest date [for fully ripe seeds].
        Torreya taxifolia [purchased from Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken SC] and planted at 5 years of age and now in the ground two years withstood 22 days without rainfall and water this summer. Following a rain event of 5 inches, three of seven plants showed a few twigs with brown needles. I suspect lack of lime due to leaching by rainwater.


    Smithgall Woods 2007 seed harvest sprouting
    in northern Georgia (home of Jack Johnston).
    Torreya sprouts. (Mesh deters squirrels from seeds.)

  • September 26, 2008 / by Lee Barnes / Treefall at Waynesville rewilding site
    I went up to check the Torreya Wednesday and all look well. I've photographed them and will sort and distribute those photos in the next few days. We have received enough rainfall the last two weeks that I have not had to water the plants for three weeks. I'll continue to monitor the plants and look forward to showing them to Sara. There was a large tree that fell beside one plant, but no damage. The tree was sawed and I counted 110-120 tree rings in a middle section. One can see the growth release (wider growth rings for about 5-10 years) when the chestnut trees died about 70-80 years ago.

  • September 3, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Genetic heritage of the seedlings rewilded in August 2008
    Seedlings No. 1 through 30 were purchased from Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken, South Carolina. The nursery owners wrote, "I believe all of the Torreya we have propagated and distributed in recent years (including the ones you refer to) were seedlings from plants here in Aiken. Years ago on a nearby estate we planted two female trees and a male. The females were cutting-grown from the famous old Torreya in Norlina, NC and the male was cutting grown from a specimen at the Henry Foundation in Gladwynne, PA."

    Seedling No. 31, "Celia," was donated by Atlanta Botanical Garden. It grew from one of many seeds produced by the Garden's "potted orchard," which was grown from branchlets harvested in 1991 from living original, wild trees in the Apalachicola pocket reserve. The branchlets were cloned, so this particular seedling represents the first generation of captive produced seeds from the original wild genotypes.

  • August 17, 2008 / by Russell Regnery / 10 more T. taxifolia planted SW of Waynesville NC
    Dear Connie,
    I planted 10 of the Woodlanders' Torreya within a week or so after I helped with the Waynesville plantings. In general, all that Woodlanders had left were smaller plants (a season younger?) than what we planted as a group, so it will be hard to compare the fate of the two groups, at least for the first couple of seasons. I used approximately a cup of hydrated lime per planting. Until we had rains from the tropical storm Faye, I was watering my 10 plants every couple of days. But now at least there is considerably more naturally occurring moisture in the ground and I have cut back on the hand watering. These 10 are either along a forest edge or grouped further out into the sun of an old pasture/meadow. It will be interesting to see which do better.
         All ten are showing at least some new growth, some more than others but it is too early to make any generalizations re edge vs open. All ten have wire 'cages' to help me identify where they are and to keep the occasional animal from running over the seedlings. I clothes-pinned rectangles of fiberglass window screening to the southwest quadrant of the cages to moderate the late afternoon sun until they harden off. I'm glad you have a little more info on the origin of the Woodlanders parent plants; something I was missing. Keeping my fingers crossed for the future!

    Editor's Note: Russell will be sending more information and photos of the site and plantings, so that we can put up a webpage dedicated to following events at this additional new site for assisted migration.

  • August 7, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / Squirrels fully harvest seeds at Smithgall Woods
    Note: Connie Barlow had asked Jack if he plans to harvest T. taxifolia seeds at Smithgall Woods (NE Georgia) this autumn, just as he did in 2007 (after having received permission to do so). His response:

    Squirrel pressure at Smithgall is tremendous. They will take every seed. I'll try to harvest seeds, of course, but it is hit or miss as to how many and how ripe they may be. I must harvest early due to squirrels.

  • August 7, 2008 / by Janet Manning / Bryan Native Garden Torreya seedlings doing fine!
    The seedlings look great, and I had fun checking out all their names. I watered them Monday [August 4], and will keep watch. [Janet Manning is director of horticulture at Corneille Bryan Native Garden.]

  • August 5, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / Four more Torreya seedlings to be rewilded
    Hi Connie: Now that you have visited my home [in NE Georgia] you can imagine seeing me carry water up the hill to the Torreya plants and to the new seedlings coming up. Still no rain. I looked at the photos on the website [of the July 30 action in North Carolina] and realized that anyone seeing it would sense a spirit of playful purpose in doing what we did. Nice touch.
        I go to see Russell Regnery at his home [in North Carolina] on Thurs. He was able to purchase a few Torreya at Woodlander's Nursery. 4 I think. I left a note for Bob McCartney to send me some too, knowing they would be smaller than the ones we planted. I do not know how many. I hope to get them to Jeff Zahner [in Highlands, NC]. I'll have enough from the seedlings that are coming up. I pick up the plants on Thurs. Maybe Bob had a half dozen.

  • August 5, 2008 / by Lee Barnes / The Waynesville migrated seedlings look great!
    I was just at [the site of the 3400 foot] property this morning and the Torreya seedlings look great (!) despite only scattered rain this last week. None were wilted nor showed any signs of shock. I watered each plant with about 3/4 gallon of water and will water them once a week if we do not get regular rain. I'll try to get by Corneille Bryan Gardens tomorrow to check with Janet [Manning] and folks about those seedlings. I now have a white measuring stick and intend to photograph each plant to document its initial height, double check labeling and confirm the names Connie has detailed and do mapping. We should probably want to document height growth each year.
        Thanks for everyone's help.

  • August 3, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / 31 Seedlings of T. taxifolia REWILDED IN NORTH CAROLINA!
    Wow! On July 30, Torreya Guardians undertook the first truly "assisted migration" of the highly endangered conifer, Torreya taxifolia. We planted 31 potted seedlings on two forested sites near Waynesville, North Carolina. This "rewilding" effort was documented by a writer and a photographer commmissioned by Audubon magazine. The article will probably appear in the March 2009 issue. Meanwhile, sample our journey via:




  • Lots was happening leading up to that historic event. You can gain a sense of the preparation by viewing the CHRONOLOGY of events leading up to the rewilding action.

    Also, an important academic paper, "Assisted Colonization and Rapid Climate Change," was published July 18 in the world's premier scientific journal, Science. You can learn about that document and the media attention it unleashed by visiting, our ANNOTATED LIST OF ARTICLES ON ASSISTED MIGRATION.

    That paper also signalled a shift in terminology. What once had been "assisted migration" now is "assisted colonization." You can sample the arguments for and against the shift in terminology at our What's in a Name? webpage.

  • July 2, 2008 / by Jack Johnston / Picked up 30 seedlings of T. taxifolia from Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken SC
    I am just returned from Woodlander's Nursery and have 30 Torreya taxifolia in one gallon pots in my yard. The round trip was 406 miles. It took a lot of time, but I had a nice visit with Bob McCartney. He had additional plants if anyone wants more. I would guess he had about 10 that were a touch scruffy from this seed lot, then about 10 more that looked great but were younger, and a big pot of seedlings that represents another 15 plants maybe.
         He took me to see his seed plants which are on a private estate. There are 3 cutting grown plants, one male and 2 females. One of the females was smashed by a falling oak limb and has not recovered. The two females are only about 3 feet tall and sprawl since they are cutting grown. The male is twice that size. It is so dry that the one female with seeds is aborting most of them. Since Bob has no way to water it, there may not be seeds this year, or certainly only a few.
         I'll share a bit of info regarding setting out the plants. I have found it best to get rid of all the material in the pot and try to get the roots in contact with dirt. Once the plant is in the ground it is difficult to water through the bark mix used for growing. I lost a plant last summer even though I was watering. When I pulled it up to examine the roots it was readily apparent that the water was not penetrating well, and that the plant had died from lack of water.
        Also, I am concerned about these 30 plants being planted in the shade. It is probably easier for the plants to survive the dry weather with shade, but I know they will not prosper unless light reaches the crowns. I have ample evidence of how important light is due to observations of Stewartia ovata that I grow. The plants put out leaves and grow a little in the shade, but given sun they grow fast. I think it is the same with Torreya.
        It is interesting to compare the seedlings I brought back today with the ones I have had in the ground for two years. The ones in the ground are not much taller, but they have a larger stem diameter. I asked Bob how long he thought it might take for seedlings to flower. He seemed to think about 10 years. However, the seedlings are already 3 years old, and given good conditions maybe less than 10 years?

  • June 12, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Rewilding of 31 T. taxifolia to NC July 30 and 31, 2008!
    Torreya Guardians will be planting 31 potted seedlings on one or more forested habitats on private lands in western North Carolina (near Highlands and Cashiers). Exact lands yet to be determined. July 30 was set as the date for the planting so that Torreya Guardians Connie Barlow and Jack Johnston, as well as a photographer sent by Audubon Magazine, will all be able to converge at the site. For more information, contact: Connie Barlow.

  • June 10, 2008 / by Connie Barlow / Torreya Guardians featured in May/June 2008 issue of Orion Magazine
    Orion Magazine now has available online a long article that poignantly highlights the controversy over assisted migration of plants in a time of climate change, and Torreya Guardians are the featured group in this effort. Click here for "Taking Wildness in Hand: Rescuing Species", by Michelle Nijhuis. (You can also post a comment there online.)

  • March 5, 2008 / by Lee Barnes / Distribution of Fall 2007 seeds donated by Biltmore Gardens

    Subject: 2008 Torreya Guardians Seed Distribution

    Dear Torreya Guardians,
        We are pleased to again offer packets of Torreya taxifolia (Florida Stinking Cedar) seed from the 2007 seed harvest at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. We thank Bill Alexander and his staff for collecting and sharing seeds for this grassroots distribution project. We are releasing 20 packets, each with 5 male and 5 female seeds to allow for better pollination. We are first offering seeds to the 2006 Distribution volunteers since most of them experienced low germination rates from refrigerator stored seeds. Seeds are currently being stored under natural temperatures but should be requested as soon as possible due to my recovery from hip surgery in mid-March.
        Thanks to Connie Barlow for her detailed notes taken during her site visit in December 2007 to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Ron Determann's generous sharing of their highly successful germination procedures is available from our website Connie also has provided additional photographs and additional information on rooting cuttings, as well as, more info on site selection, shading and need for periodic liming. I will provide copies of this information with each mailing.
        Key to successful germination is cold stratification to duplicate nature's cycles in ground beds that get the full range of daily temperature cycles (freeze/thaw) vs. constant 40-45 degree F. temperature storage in a refrigerator. The seeds to be distributed have only been partially stratified so you will need to plant them in protected beds where they receive natural temperatures for a month or two. Simple wire screening is recommended to protect from squirrels.
        Please email your requests to me and provide complete shipping information. Connie and I are donating all mailing and packing costs and ask that you occasionally report germination status, and plant growth, fruiting, and seed production. Volunteers need to be committed for 10-15 years before good seed production is expected and be willing to further distribute seeds.
        Thank you for your interest in preserving our national botanical treasure Torreya.
        Happy Trails, Lee

    PS from Connie:
        1. This summer, Orion Magazine will be publishing a feature article on Torreya Guardians work in a time of climate change.
        2. Also, do periodically check the comments page of our website to see what's happening, along with new ideas.
        3. Watch the rewilding page too, especially the July 2007 post I made there about Atlanta Botanical Gardens looking for INSTITUTIONS to send seeds and seedlings to. They've got a huge inventory. Unlike Torreya Guardians, they cannot send seeds to individuals, but nature centers and botanical gardens should contact Ron Determann at Atlanta Botanical Garden directly to participate.

  • December 2007 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardians webmaster / Advice (with photos) on propagating T. taxifolia

    In early December 2007, I visited Ron Determann and David Ruland at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and toured their Torreya taxifolia propagation facilities. Most impressive! I have added to this website a catalog of advice for propagating this endangered tree from seeds and from branch cuttings, and have embellished the page with lots of photographs.

  • July 2007 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardians webmaster / Seedlings available for institutions; tips for how to grow T. taxifolia from seed

    This month I received inquiries from 2 print journalists and 1 radio journalist who wanted to learn more about our efforts to rewild Torreya taxifolia. It seems that with the new interest in assisted migration in a time of global warming, journalists are looking for some actual instances of people actually intentionally doing it, in behalf of a species. Well, we are the closest it comes — and yet we aren't quite doing it yet either. With the little seed stock of this highly endangered plant that we have access to, we are still at the stage of passing seed on to individuals and institutions who commit to nurturing groves of this species. Not until those groves start producing seed themselves will we have enough seeds to gamble on planting some in wild forested landscapes on private lands, where they can grow (or not grow) as circumstances allow, and so that squirrels can become natural dispersers of the 3rd generation seeds, rather than us.
         Besides the Biltmore Gardens, where squirrels have, for decades, been engaged in planting seeds on their own, I wasn't aware of any place where rewilding was somewhat occurring — with the possible exception of Smithgall Conservation Area in the southernmost Appalachians of northern Georgia. So I called Ron Determann at Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is superbly successful at producing T. taxifolia seeds from their "potted orchard" of trees cloned some 15 years ago from remaining vegetative tissue from struggling plants in the Apalachicola "native" range. Here is what Ron (who has been working with T. taxifolia since 1989) told me:
         First, the Smithgall plantings are not rewilding, because they are planted as a grove and tended in a botanical garden setting there. Technically, rewilding won't happen until the species is returned to wild or semi-wild forest settings and starts distributing from there on its own (via squirrels). Atlanta Botanical Garden actually has an excess of torreya seedlings they would love to provide reputable institutions (at cost of shipping and handling) for safeguarding in a variety of climate settings where they will grow — as a safeguard against species extinction if problems persist in the "native" range, especially because, as with the Apalachicola, "the climate in Atlanta isn't that great for Torreya either." They also have surplus seeds from "indeterminate females", and these they are especially willing to give away. Unlike Torreya Guardians, they are not open to sending seed to individuals in private land settings. But we Torreya Guardians can spread the word among enthusiasts to try to recruit local botanical gardens or nature centers to volunteer to take seedlings, and then we ourselves can volunteer at those centers to nurture those plants.
         Also important, Ron told me that Atlanta Botanical Garden has almost 100% success with germination of seed they produce there. Here is how they do it.

    TIPS FOR GERMINATING SEED: Remove the flesh around the seed and immediately plant each seed outdoors about 1 inch deep in well-drained soil, covered with compost. He says the normal shifts in temperature during the winter in Atlanta and points north are important for stratifying them and breaking dormancy, and that a refrigerator is not cold and variable enough. Pots outdoors would get the seed too cold in harsh climates, so in the ground (or in slightly raised beds) is best. They use "welded wire" beneath the planting and above to keep rodents away from the seeds. So this means that if we ever get access to more seeds, we need to distribute them right away for fall plantings in outdoor conditions. At Atlanta Botanical Garden, they germinate the seed under oaks, with the natural fungi in the soil. His experience suggests that it is best to remove the fresh seedlings from the germination beds pretty much as soon as you see them, and get them planted where you want them, and you will have better trees.

    The Atlanta Botanical Garden reports the same thing that the Biltmore reports: squirrels are quite capable of dispersing the seed from planted orchards outward into whatever settings (beds or natural) are within range. Atlanta attempts to deny squirrels access to their outdoor potted groves of Torreya trees used for seed production, and because they use welded wire in their germination beds, they are stopping the squirrels there too. But the squirrels always manage to walk away with some, and some that the squirrels plant are not subsequently dug up and eaten: and they germinate on their own.
         Some final assessments: Ron's experience leads him to think that if seeds are taken north "those plants will adapt". From my conversation with him, I sense that the distinction we Torreya Guardians have always made — that our goal is not to assist Torreya in rewilding on public lands, but only on private lands — is a very important message to broadcast. Also, I sense that there is far more receptivity to ensuring that even on private lands, the tree is being moved into non-pristine settings. That is, the ecology has already been disrupted on lands now nurtured toward recovery, and Torreya can thus be ethically introduced there to see how it does on its own.
         Two other tips I picked up from Ron Determann: (1) Atlanta Botanical Garden donated some seeds to Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, NC. A Torreya Guardian needs to check up on those plantings and see if seeds can be nurtured from that grove! (2) Someplace near Asheville, actually in Nolina NC, is producing seeds. It would be great if a Torreya Guardian can recontact Ron and track down who and what the situation is, for possible access to seeds.

  • June 14, 2007 / by Jeff Morris / another germination from 2005 T. taxifolia seeds

    "Last Sunday, I noticed my first seedling sprout from one of the seeds. I am going on vacation, after which I will take photos, and hopefully have a couple more to photograph."

  • March 2007 / by Connie Barlow, Torreya Guardians webmaster / Don't give up hope on germinating more T. taxifolia seeds

    "Euan - Thank you for the info on the germination of 1 of 10 seeds of T. taxifolia. Don't give up hope on the other nine! It is possible that T. taxifolia co-evolved with tortoises as dispersal agents, so the seed coat might be designed tough enough to get through an animal's digestive tract intact. Absent that natural acidic treatment, it might take longer and variably among the seeds. I wrote a book, The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms, (Basic Books, 2001) in which I discovered, for example, that absent passage through a gut or physical scarification with a knife, the seeds of American honelocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) can take 3 years or more to germinate, and American Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioica) can take 7 years. I found that when I scarred them with a knife in my kitchen, all viable seeds germinated in 3 days. Here are three on-line articles that I published about that book:

    article in Natural History
    article in Wild Earth
    article in Arnoldia

    I am trying to locate someone or an institution in Florida interested in testing Torreya californica whole "fruits" on the large gopher tortoises in Florida, as in my 2001 book I surmised that the pulpy sarcotesta covering the seed might be an attractive food for the tortoise (which is known to eat the pulpy covered cycad seeds here). The experiment would not only test whether gopher tortoises find the fruit attractive but also whether passage through its gut affects germination success and timing. My hypothesis is that local extirpation of the gopher tortoise (and extinction of larger Pleistocene species of tortoise) by paleoIndians living in the tiny pocket refuge as the Ice Age waned may have prevented dispersal of Torreya taxifolia northward to its interglacial habitat in the southern Appalachian Mountains."

  • March 2007 / by Euan Roxburgh, U.K. / One of ten of Fall 2005 T. taxifolia seeds germinated outdoors in December 2006

    "Dear Torreya Guardians: I've germinated one Torreya taxifolia seed. It germinated in December 2006 outside in a pot. The other 9 seeds, sorry to say, did not germinate. The seedling is now 2 inches high. I have one other clone here of Torreya taxifolia." [Editor's note: This volunteer grower received a packet of 10 Torreya taxifolia seeds from the Fall 2005 harvest at the Biltmore Gardens of North Carolina].

  • March 2007 / by Didier Maerki, Arboretum de Villardebelle in southern France / Fall 2005 T. taxifolia seeds germinated in March 2007

    "Dear Torreya Guardians: This is to inform you that the 2 first seeds germinated and are sprouting. Both labeled as [possible] male, date of sowing 16 May 2006. Best Wishes, Didier" [Editor's note: The Arboretum de Villardebelle received a packet of 10 Torreya taxifolia seeds from the Fall 2005 harvest at the Biltmore Gardens of North Carolina].

  • August 2006 / by Connie Barlow / Visit to Torreya grove in Highlands NC and T. taxifolia grove in Asheville NC
    In August 2006, I delivered a powerpoint presentation, "Rewilding Torreya Trees to Appalachia", as part of the summer Zahner Conservation Lecture Series, in Highlands, North Carolina. Fifty-five people attended, so this was a tremendous opportunity to build support for our Torreya Guardians effort at the very place where we anticipate T. tax having spent most of its evolutionary career during the Cenozoic — and where its interglacial migrations upstream of the Apalachicola River would repeatedly have carried it (as this is the ancestral headwaters of the river system, before those headwaters were captured into the Savannah River system). Lee Barnes, coordinator of the 2005 seed distribution, accompanied me on this trip, and we both made excellent contacts for further work.

    In addition, Robert Zahner alerted us to a private grove of Torreya sp. trees that we were able to visit and study. See on this website a photo-journal of that visit to the Highlands Grove of Torreya.

    A few days later, I visited (for the third time in 4 years) the grove of mature and fruiting Torreya taxifolia at the Biltmore Gardens in Asheville, NC. I recorded my field notes in a photo-journal webpage on my Biltmore visit.

    Finally, Lee Barnes has finished the 2005 seed distribution and reports that packets of 10 were sent to institutions and individuals in

  • Ohio (2 packets to Dawes Arboretum; 1 to an individual)
  • western North Carolina (1 packet to an individual)
  • central North Carolina (1 packet to an indivdual)
  • New York State (1 packet to an indivdual)
  • southern France (1 packet to Arboretum de Villardbelle)
  • Devon England (1 packet to an individual)
  • June 2006 / by Connie Barlow / Distribution of 2005 Torreya Seeds
    I interviewed Lee Barnes (volunteer coordinator for the T. tax seed distribution effort) over the phone and am filing this progress report on distribution of seeds collected at the Biltmore Gardens in October 2005. Lee reports that Bill Alexander donated to Torreya Guardians (TG) 110 of the 140 seeds collected at the Biltmore Gardens in October 2005. Lee Barnes cleaned, stratified (in his refrigerator), attempted to sex (via intuitive dowsing), and then grouped into 10-seed packets the 99 seeds that seemed viable (11 were "floaters"). Because there is no non-invasive way to scientifically sex a seed, TG determined to distribute the seeds in groups of 10 to ensure a mixture of male and female plants and to promote genetic diversity in the F2 generations of seed production. All recipients must, thus, have the land availability to plant a grove of ten trees in this stage of the rewilding project. (Interested parties are encouraged to study the text and photos on the California Torreya pages of this website in order to ascertain the types of habitats in which T. tax plantings might thrive.)
         Lee began the process of distribution by querying botanical gardens for interest in planting the seeds in outdoor settings and for long-term participation in resultant seed distribution. Two institutions responded with interest, and 2 packets (of 10 seeds per packet) were set to them:
  • The Dawes Arboretum in Newark Ohio (near Columbus)
  • Arboretum de Villardebelle in southern France

         At this early stage in "rewilding" the emphasis is on encouraging plantings of groves of T. tax on lands (even on another continent!) that will have adequate horticultural expertise and long-term care such that seed production is assured. We are also very curious as to how well T. tax does in Ohio, and thus Lee will soon be sending The Dawes Arboretum a second packet of seeds, so that they will begin with a total of 20 individuals.
         The next step will be to send an email inquiry to all who have expressed interest in growing T. tax for conservation purposes. Distribution of the remaining 7 packets of seeds will be to those individuals who demonstrate in their responses the best chances for successful propagation and long-term participation in seed production and distribution. Because T. tax sometimes takes 2 years to germinate, seed planting will be encouraged to take place in large pots, for later transplanting. With additional years of seed donation by the Biltmore, we look forward to widening the seed plantings to include a host of different natural environments, tending more and more toward re-introduction into wild forest settings on private lands.
         Soon, Connie Barlow intends to send a query letter to Audubon Magazine, suggesting that they direct one of their reporters to cover this effort, emphasizing the historic nature of this first "assisted migration" effort in an era of global warming and how this bottom-up grassroots effort (connected via internet) is a model for actions that could be taken in behalf of other plant species, particularly if our economy collapses to such a point that professional funding for actions in behalf of threatened plants is severely limited.

       Click here to:

    Learn why "assisted migration" for T. tax is necessary.

    Access annotated photos of the 2005 seed cleaning/processing.

  • March 2006/ by Lee Barnes / Preparing for Distribution of 2005 Torreya Seeds
    I've just now sent out eight emails offering Torreya seeds to Botanical Gardens suggested by Bill Alexander (NC Botanical Gardens, Chapel Hill, NC; Bernheim Arboretum, KY; Dawes Arboretum, OH; Duke Gardens, Durham, NC; JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC; NC Arboretum, Asheville, NC; Arnold Arboretum, MA; and Arboretum de Villardebelle, FR.). I've requested their response by April 1st. I'm hoping that email requests will be received and acted upon quicker than by US Postal Service. If everyone is interested, this leaves us about 19 seeds for individuals — or two mailings. I'll wait until the 1st week in April to count requests, and then will open to other individuals who have requested seed. My sense is to ID the top interested folks that have facilities to germinate and pot up and grow out larger seedlings. Editor's note: Lee Barnes is the volunteer Torreya Guardian in charge of preparing and distributing T. tax seeds harvested by staff of the Biltmore Gardens, Asheville NC.
  • October 2005 - Seeds Collected at Biltmore:
    Bill Alexander reports 140 seeds collected from the T. tax trees at the Biltmore Gardens (Asheville, North Carolina). Unknown what percentage will be viable. Lee Barnes and Bill Alexander in communication about stratification, storage, and subsequent distribution. Note: Bill Alexander reports that this was an off year for seed production, so it is fortunate that any seeds were collected at all.

    2011 UPDATE: A private landowner in Spencer, NC, who received 10 seeds from Torreya Guardians from the 2005 Biltmore harvest reports: "Of the ten Torreya taxifolia seeds harvested in the fall 2005, I had 4 come up — all in 2007." All four are still alive and well, and one even produced its first seed this year (a single seed), after having been treated with gibberellic acid foliant spray.

  • Click for Comments on/about Current Status and related information/ideas posted by various Torreya Guardians.

       Download in PDF two articles, for and against assisted
       migration of Torreya taxifolia, published as the featured
       Forum in the Winter 2005 issue of Wild Earth. Download
       the pro and con articles separately for printing on standard   
       size paper. Or, for viewing the 2-article Forum as it
       appeared in publication (wide-screen, with all illustrations),
       download the "Forum."

      FOR assisted migration, by Connie Barlow & Paul Martin  

      ANTI assisted migration by Mark Schwartz

      FORUM (both articles for wide screen)

      "Rewilding North America" — The 18 August 2005 issue
      of the prestigious science journal, Nature contains an advocacy
      article that proposes "rewilding" close-kin of some of the
      large mammals that went extinct in North America at the
      end of the Pleistocene
    , 13 thousand years ago. By comparison,
      the proposal to "Rewilding Torreya taxifolia" looks mild! To access
      this amazing article, you can view or download it at

    Scroll down for:
    ♦ Background on the Peak-Glacial Hypothesis
    ♦ T. tax Seed Production in North Carolina (Biltmore Gardens) 
    ♦ Seed Collection at the Biltmore for Rewilding

  • The Apalachicola as a Peak-Glacial Habitat

    Palynologist Hazel Delcourt, botanist Rob Nicholson, and others have each independently concluded that the Apalachicola habitat in which T. tax is found is one of a small group of "pocket refuges" along the Gulf (and southern Atlantic) coasts in which the vast majority of warm and cool temperate plant species found crucial refuge when the Pleistocene continental glaciers achieved their peak advances during the past 2 million years. Without these refuges, it is likely that North America would have lost not only Torreya taxifolia but also its tuliptrees, sweet gum trees, bald cypress, hemlocks, and a host of shrubs and forbs (such as mayapple). How do we know this? Because Europe lost these species, presumably owing to unfortunate geography: southward migration blocked by the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Carpathian Mountains, etc.


    ABOVE left: Tuliptree.      ABOVE right: Sweetgum

    BELOW left: Bald cypress (Taxodium)      BELOW right: Franklinia


    Indeed, the species name of Franklinia, Franklinia alatamaha derives from the only place this lovely tree was found — the Altamaha River of southeastern Georgia — before it vanished from the wild. The Altamaha River thus joins the Apalachicola (and the Tunica Hills of Louisiana) as a peak-glacial pocket refuge for plants of eastern North America.

        Two important peak-glacial pocket refuges include the Apalachicola River of the Florida panhandle and the lower reaches of the Altamaha River of southeastern Georgia (both shown in yellow; orange denotes the section of the Apalachicola containing T. tax).

    Where Should "Native" Range Be During an Interglacial?

    If the Apalachicola is, in fact, peak-glacial habitat for Torreya taxifolia, then we might conjecture that, for some reason, Torreya taxifolia (as well as the equally endemic, though not equally stressed, Florida yew) was unable to migrate north in tandem with a warming climate during the past 15,000 years. Thus where might its "native" range be at this point in an interglacial?

    Fortunately, we have an excellent clue: There is only one grove of "wild"-growing Torreya taxifolia that is thriving, and this grove is located at the Biltmore Gardens in Asheville, North Carolina!

    The Beginnings of "Rewilding" at the Biltmore Gardens

    In 1939, Chauncey Beadle collected about a dozen specimens of T. tax from the Apalachicola and planted them in a small grove within the vast holdings of the Biltmore Gardens in Asheville, North Carolina (elevation 2200 feet). All the original specimens are not only still alive (see 2 photos below), but at more than 60 years old have long been producing seeds.


    Biltmore Gardens staff have intentionally planted progeny of the original T. tax trees in an otherwise "wild" ravine adjacent to the parent grove. (See photos below.)

    Squirrels at the Biltmore also regularly "plant" the progeny of these original trees, but those that sprout in the lawn are mowed over, while those that make their appearance in groomed beds devoted to other species are pulled.

    ABOVE: Saplings (foreground) of T. tax were planted by staff in a grove of pines (large trunks) at the Biltmore Gardens. The sidewalk demarcates ungroomed land in the foreground that drops off into a shallow ravine. Squirrels have also planted many seedlings — although not always in places where they will thrive (or are allowed to remain).

    ABOVE: The 15-foot-tall evergreen understory of this open pine forest (seen in the foreground) are all "rewilded" T. tax, planted by staff at Biltmore Gardens along the south-facing slope of the ravine. Many smaller saplings and some seedlings occur in that group, as well. (Note the boundary-separating sidewalk at lower left.)

    ABOVE: View of the south-facing slope of the ravine, from the rhododendron- and hemlock-clad north-facing slope. (Rhododendron is in foreground on right.) The young trees on the south-facing slope are all T. tax. (Notice the boundary sidewalk in the back.)

    Today hemlock is prominent on the north-facing slope of this slight ravine, and all the Torreya specimens (intentionally planted, as well as planted by squirrels) occur and are thriving on the south-facing slope. As to Torreya's cold-hardiness, Bill Alexander, forest historian at the Biltmore Gardens, reports that in the winter of 1985 all Torreya specimens survived unharmed an episode of unusual cold; temperatures plunged to minus 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus the world's only rewilded grove of Torreya taxifolia has already been well tested for suitability in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

    New Archival Information
    on Original Biltmore Plantings

    (contributed by Bill Alexander, October 2005)

    Biltmore archival records show that Torreya taxifolia was originally brought to the Biltmore in 1896-97 and was growing at the Arnold Arboretum at that time also. In the "Biltmore Nursery Dept. Outgoing Correspondence, Vol. I 1896-1897" there is a letter on p. 219 from C. Beadle to Prof. C. S. Sargent, Arnold Arboretum. Beadle mentions having received from a correspondent of his in Bristol, Florida,
    "a few plants each of Torreya taxifolia and Taxus floridana. I am quite interested to know if this latter species has ever been in cultivation. I know that the Torreya has; indeed, you have it at the Arnold Arboretum. If you have not plants of Taxus floridana, we will be pleased to send you some as soon as our stock is sufficently advanced to warrant the shipment."
    The letter continues with Beadle talking more about exchanging plants. The records indicate (p. 908) that on 4 March 1897 Beadle sends Sargent specimens of Taxus floridana.

    Foiled by Flatlands & Humans:
    Why the species of Torreya in eastern North America is the only of 6 world species to have failed to migrate in tandem with climate change

    Connie Barlow and Paul Martin, in a 2004 article published in Wild Earth Magazine have suggested that the reason T. tax, alone among all other Torreya species, is highly endangered is that it had no opportunity to migrate altitudinally as climate warmed over the past 15,000 years. All 5 other species took refuge in mountainous regions, and now are found significantly above sea level in their latitudinal domain

  • Click here for photos of the CALIFORNIA species of Torreya in native mountain habitats and speculations on how observations of T. californica might help in determining ideal microsites for rewilding T. taxifolia into the Appalachians.
  • In contrast, T. tax would have had to migrate 600 km north (following the rich soils and cool microhabitats along bluffs of the Chatahootchee River, upstream of the Apalachicola River) before encountering the southern Appalachian Mountains.

    Unlike the beeches and oaks whose nuts attracted long-distance fliers (blue jays and passenger pigeons), and unlike the pines and tuliptrees whose seeds are carried on the wind, the large, flesh-covered seed of T. tax would likely have depended on squirrels or tortoises as partners in seed dispersal. Such non-flighted partners may serve well in distributing Torreya sp. seed a few hundred meters up-slope in California and Asia, but perhaps not the 600 kilometers of latitudinal shift required in the eastern U.S. in order to reach mountains.

    Possibly, squirrels and tortoises could have served this purpose in eastern North America, Barlow and Martin cite evidence that pre-Columbian populations of humans living in America severely extirpated many small game species near their principal habitations, and that several large species of tortoise prominent during the Pleistocene went extinct when humans took up habitation on this continent. The Apalachicola bluffs, the only home of T. tax, surely would have been highly attractive to paleoIndians.

    Barlow and Martin 2004 also point to the role that anthropogenic fire may have played in thwarting northward migration of T. tax. Several species of conifers (family Araucariaceae) in Florida are now thought to have gone extinct in Australia, owing to the ramping up of fire when the ancestors of aboriginal humans began exerting a strong ecological role on that continent. And the recently discovered Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis), found at the depths of an inaccessible canyon, is thought to have survived only because of it pocket refuge beyond the reach of anthropogenic fire.

       Download in PDF articles pro and con assisted migration
       for Torreya taxifolia, which appeared as the featured
       Forum in the Winter 2005 issue of Wild Earth:

  • FOR assisted migration, by Connie Barlow & Paul Martin  

  • ANTI assisted migration by Mark Schwartz

  • FORUM (both articles for wide screen)
  • Recruiting Land-Owners and Citizen-Naturalists
    to Rewild Torreya in the Southern Appalachians and Northward

    Some, but not all Torreya Guardians, support the idea of "assisted migration" of Torreya taxifolia into presumed interglacial native habitat — that is, the southern Appalachians, the Cumberland Plateau, and perhaps suitable habitats farther north as well.

    As it turns out, private seed stock is available (thanks to the Biltmore Gardens) such that no governmental permits or oversight is required of such effort. We are committed to pursuing assisted migration and rewilding of T. tax in responsible, testable, and (if adverse effects result) reversible ways.

    Learn about how VOLUNTEERS CAN HELP IN REWILDING Torreya taxifolia in the southern Appalachians and points north.

       Proposed STANDARDS for assisted migration   

    in HTML         in PDF

  • Click here for photos of the CALIFORNIA species of Torreya in native mountain habitats and speculations on how observations of T. californica might help in determining ideal microsites for rewilding T. taxifolia into the Appalachians.

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    Annotated List of Papers/Reports Online re Assisted Migration