Torreya taxifolia Assisted Migration
Ocoee Watershed, Tennessee
Greasy Creek Rd, Reliance TN, 1,100 foot elevation

CLINT BANCROFT resides on 18.5 acres of sloping woodland not far from Chattanooga TN. The Ocoee drains into the Tennessee River Watershed (see maps below).


  • March 2019: SECOND VIDEO documentation (50 minutes)

       Mid March 2019 Clint Bancroft took Connie Barlow on a tour of his rewilded Torreya plantings in Ocoee Watershed southeast TN. Sections of the March 2015 video have been inserted in order to show the growth achieved in four years. This new VIDEO 33 (50 minutes) offers two key findings, beyond the obvious excellent, disease-free growth.

    (1) No herbivory; the plants are in perfect condition.

    (2) With the help of Jack Johnston, Clint has established a "Torreya Bowl", intended for seed production in a wild setting. Maximizing genetic diversity there is a priority.

  • March 2015: FIRST VIDEO documentation (19 minutes)

       Clint Bancroft shows Connie Barlow the 9 Florida Torreyas he has planted on his 18.5 acres in southeastern Tennessee (plus 2 more in pots).

    At 1,100 ft elevation, and sited under deciduous canopy, 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.

        Access VIDEO 8

    BELOW March 2015: Two deciduous-canopy settings where some of the 9 torreyas were already planted.

       LEFT: Clint demonstrates his rodent-protected box for germinating Torreya seeds in soil outdoors.

    CLINT WRITES (Dec. 2014): "I am trying to establish a preserve of rare SE plants on my TN property. I have no idea of the history of the 11 potted seedlings I already obtained (prior to contact with Torreya Guardians), except in a very general sense.

    My first tree is now about four or five years old and was purchased as a gift to me by a friend in Pensacola, FL (from an unknown nursery in Tallahassee). I was told that first tree is a male. The remaining 10 came from Woodlanders in Aiken, SC, and are about two years old now.

    I have no idea if any of those are seed-grown or rootings, but all are doing well. Woodlanders wasn't sure of the answer to that question, but I believe those ten are all from rootings off the tree in the Aiken Arboretum. I believe that tree is male.  If they are from that one tree I have ten genetic clones. I have one that has two leaders/trunks."

    June 2015:

    June 2015 email: "When you visited in March you surmised that my little trees that I set out last summer were resting while they put down a taproot. Apparently they had just not awakened from winter. All of them have put on new lateral growth and even more exciting vertical growth. They are thriving with just ambient rainfall — with the exception of the four I can reach with the hose."

    November 2015:

    Jack gave Clint 150 seeds from the 2015 fall harvest, 91 of which were floaters (which Clint planted separately in order to keep track of any differences in success between floaters and sinkers).

    RESULTS (reported May 2017): "These were seeds from Blairsville given me by Jack Johnston in 2015. I did not record any counts, but as expected, there was a significant difference in germination between floaters and sinkers. The first germination came only 7 months after planting outdoors. That was a pleasant surprise — and the floaters germinated in significantly higher numbers than the sinkers. Interesting! Counterintuitive! Bottom line: Don't give up on your floater seeds."

    June 2016:

    June 18, 2016 email: I have had great success in Greasy Creek! I have not been able to get to the area where I planted a single seed from the initial 50 you gave me (from the fall 2014 harvest) so do not know what it has done. However, between the remaining 49 you gave me, plus the stratified ones Lee Barnes sent me last year, plus the ones Jack Johnston gave me from Blue Ridge last summer, over 40 of the total have sprouted to date. All are in large pots (wire covered) and the bulk of them are from the initial 50 seeds you (Barlow) brought me two years ago.

    The unstratified seeds from Blue Ridge have germinated after being in the pots for only a year or less. It has to all be beginner's luck. Many of the plants are up to 6 inches tall already and look very healthy. So far, there is no lateral growth but I suspect that is normal for the first year.

    September 8, 2016 (email):

    PHOTOS ABOVE LEFT TO RIGHT: (1) Clint's collection of seedlings in pots that he started from seeds; (2) This single small seedling is not only the tiniest of all, but it was the only one to sprout thus far from the seeds he received via Lee Barnes autumn 2015; (3) and (4) Seedlings from the 50 seeds Connie Barlow delivered March 2015 from the fall 2014 harvest by Jack.

    PHOTOS BELOW: All were germinated by Clint onsite from seeds Jack obtains from the fall 2015 Blue Ridge harvest. Clint writes, "These germinated their first summer after just one winter in the ground. All my other seedlings from other seed sources were stratified prior to planting and none germinated the first year.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a significant finding. The embryo is known to still need to mature after fruit fall; and it is well known that many tree seeds will enter quiescence (interrupting embryo maturation) if conditions become unsuitable. Perhaps the fact that Clint put the seeds into soil outdoors very soon after harvest, and if winter conditions were mild (or if frigid cold arrived only in late winter) maturation of the embryo was not interrupted. This would be interesting to explore!

    March 2017 (email from CLINT BANCROFT):

    I had learned of the Lee, Florida nursery and had ordered 7 torreyas from them.  Since they cannot ship to TN, I had them delivered to my home in Pensacola when I was there last week.  Jack also ordered 4 trees and had them sent to my address.  Nice plants!  About 16 inches tall and about 1/2 inch in circumference at the base.  Their seed source is from their "personal orchard," which is derived from trees in Madison, Columbus (GA), and Sumatra, Florida.
        I received 200 seeds from Frank Callahan [Medford OR source, fall 2016 harvest] and have them set out in large, protected pots.

    May 22, 2017 (email from CLINT BANCROFT):

    I am preparing to plant out on my property, the 33 seedlings I have managed to grow from the 50 seeds Connie Barlow gave me [from fall 2014 harvest via Jack Johnston]. As I plant each one on the property, I am labeling it with the source of its seed.

       I believe we have had success rooting SOME of the Columbus GA tree cuttings. They all looked beautiful until late spring of this year, even having put out new growth, then several died suddenly. The remainder seem to still be in good shape. I had kept most of them indoors in heated and unheated rooms, and a few were left outdoors. This week I will be moving the indoor group out into my propagation area.

    I have easily (have not counted) an additional 30 trees sprouted from seeds Jack Johnston gave me from Blairsville.

    None of the 200 seeds from the Medford OR 2016 harvest have germinated thus far.

    I think I have located a Florida source for seed grown Taxus floridana and hope to get some plants this fall. I am on a waiting list with 2 nurseries who anticipate having stock. I currently have 3 unsexed specimens from Woodlanders.

    LEFT: Potted seedlings protected from deer.

    October 2017 (email from CLINT BANCROFT):

    NOTE ON FLORIDA YEW: I just happened to be at my home in Pensacola when the lady from the nursery [in Tallahassee] called to let me know that the trees are in stock. They have to be picked up in person since they do not ship and cannot ship T. floridana across state lines anyway. I have a chance to come on additional T. floridana, also seed grown, from another Florida nursery that is supposed to have some this Fall. Update on the seed-grown Taxus floridana I hoped to get. Jack and I together scored most of the ones that became available (at the nursery in Tallahasse). Jack got 7 plants and I ended up with 19 with the probability of getting another 3. We took several cuttings from each plant immediately as insurance against loss. All of my Taxus floridana plantings will be surrounded by 4ft wire cages to protect from deer.
         I have managed this year to purchase a total of 22 seed-grown Taxus floridana by driving to several different nurseries who all received plants from the same grower in Florida. I am supposed to be getting a few more from another nursery which has not yet received their shipment from this same grower. My total Taxus floridana collection now stands at 27!

    June 2018 (email from CLINT BANCROFT):

    We had a very harsh winter here and I lost a lot of rare plants which were in pots. Chief among those were the 2016 cuttings Jack and I took [from the one remaining mature Torreya taxfolia in Columbus GA]. They were doing very well before the winter but it appears I lost almost all, if not all, of them.
         In contrast, the Highlands cuttings look to be OK. I kept most of them in the house over their first winter. And most of those were in an unheated room. A few I put into a heated space. Most look good, but I have not done a tug test to see if they have rooted.
         The Medford seeds [Fall 2016 harvest from 2 trees in Medford OR] have not yet germinated, but Jack says his have begun coming up. I am planning to go over to his place next week or so.
         A squirrel got into the Highlands seed pot [Clint and Jack collected seeds in the mature grove October 2017] and cleaned it out completely. That was the bulk of that collection. I had planted the sinkers separately and that pot was not gotten into, but so far, no germination. I hope past experiment results with sinkers are repeated since I previously had a higher success rate with floaters than with sinkers.
         The nursery in Tallahassee FL, which had seed-grown Taxus floridana this year, would not sell to me because they are wholesale only. But by traveling all over Florida and Georgia I was able to acquire almost their entire output from their several retailers. I have acquired probably over 30. I heard from one of her retailers that she is not going to grow them again. Something ate 10 of them almost to the ground, but they are alive and coming back nicely. The predator also ate 5 T. taxifolia similarly. Not sure what got them, since I had them all in "protective custody". The enclosure was too small for a deer to get into. Jack thinks it was a groundhog, since they can climb, and I do have a groundhog on the property. I sprinkled mothballs around the survivors and have had no further predation.

    Editor's note: I then asked Clint, "Do you have any suggestions for giving young rooted branchlets more protection than sprouts from seeds in harsh cold?" His answer:

    1. ROOTED BRANCHLETS: In retrospect, the cuttings may have survived if I had packed mulch all around the set of pots containing rooted branchlets.... Jack lost a lot of things in pots too. I lost 4 Elliottia, 5 Ashe magnolias, 7 Chapman's rhododendrons and other less rare things. It was an awful winter.

    2. OUTPLANTED TORREYAS: My outplanted Torreyas [under natural forest canopy] are fine. The ones far from the house are all in 4 ft wire cages as will be the yews. (It has probably gotten too late in the year to outplant the yews now.) I know not to amend soil around outplants very much. So I usually just throw in some of those moisture-holding crystals, since my outplants are far from a spigot. (I have occasionally carried jugs of water to distant outplants when rain is scarce). Also I throw in a good amount of gravel or preferably shale pieces. Jack thinks this makes the site less inviting to tender noses of burrowing critters.

    March 2019 Site Visit

    March 2019 Site Visit by Connie Barlow: I visited Clint March 18 and video-documented the tremendous growth and health of his out-planted Torreyas. I also visited his fenced area of potted seedlings he has been germinating from seed. I captured a lot of video of his results, which you can access at the bottom of this sampling of the photographs:

       CLINT BANCROFT resides on 18.5 acres of sloping woodland not far from Chattanooga TN.

    Torreya plantings here are in the Ocoee River watershed, which drains into the Tennessee River.

    CONNIE BARLOW writes:

    The vigor of the young torreyas beneath this largely deciduous canopy is striking.


    A few weeks before vegetative budbreak, the tip of the main stem (PHOTO ABOVE) is unusual: Both the central apical bud and the 4 lateral buds appear equally ready to burst into new growth.

    Elsewhere in early spring I (Connie Barlow) recall seeing and photo-documenting that the spring budburst is one or the other on the main stem. That is, either the lateral buds on the leader are ready to burst, while the apical remains dormant, or the reverse. But March 2019 at Clint's plantings, all of the leader tip buds are being prepared for an early growth spurt.

    CONCLUSION: This may be ideal habitat for Florida Torreya in this phase of climate.

    Additionally, I have noticed that elsewhere growth occurs only in the spring or, at best, a second growth episode will happen in late summer (or even early autumn). But here, counting the growth episodes on a single older lateral branch (PHOTO BELOW), evidence suggests that this landscape, at this latitude, is capable of inducing even three growth spurts in a single year.

       Observe in all these photos the benefits for this evergreen subcanopy tree of residence beneath a mature deciduous canopy. Leaves even 5 to 7 years old are still photosynthesizing. Early spring as well as late fall may offer the best opportunities for creating and storing photosynthates.

    Then, when the oaks and liriodendrons and other deciduous trees leaf out and the subcanopy is cast into shade, this becomes the time for Torreya to channel its stored photosynthates into new growth.


    ABOVE LEFT: Clint Bancroft with his oldest Torreya planting, March 2019.
    ABOVE RIGHT: "Triplet" leaf buds ready to expand (on same plant), July 2019

    PHOTOS BELOW: Taken by Connie Barlow onsite March 2019:

    ABOVE & BELOW: This oldest planting exhibits extraordinary growth and symmetry.
    Growth appears to be equally vigorous upward and outward.

  • March 2019: SECOND VIDEO documentation (50 minutes)

       Mid March 2019 Clint Bancroft took Connie Barlow on a tour of his rewilded Torreya plantings in Ocoee Watershed southeast TN. Sections of the March 2015 video have been inserted in order to show the growth achieved in four years. This new VIDEO 33 (50 minutes) offers two key findings, beyond the obvious excellent, disease-free growth.

    (1) No herbivory; the plants are in perfect condition.

    (2) With the help of Jack Johnston, Clint has established a "Torreya Bowl", intended for seed production in a wild setting. Maximizing genetic diversity there is a priority.

    April 2019:

    Clint Bancroft proves that rooting the tip cut from a basal leader yields a tree-form Torreya

       April 24 email from Clint Bancroft to Connie Barlow:
    "Look at the new growth on this cutting from Highlands, NC! The cutting is the apical tip from a basal of one of the mature trees."

    ABOVE LEFT by Clint Bancroft is the 24 April 2019 photo of a rooted basal-tip cutting (collected October 2017 at Harbison House, Highlands NC) that displays superb vertical growth.

    ABOVE RIGHT is by Connie Barlow 2006, during a Torreya Guardians site visit to the near-century old Highlands NC Torreya grove. Notice the prolific basal sprouting, of various ages.

    LEARNING: The original cuttings of wild specimens in the Florida panhandle were collected three decades ago (by scientists working for institutions implementing the official recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act) from lateral branches rather than basal tips. Lateral branch cuttings notoriously assume shrubby growth forms. Wild stock was so weak that cutting of basal terminals would not have been appropriate. However, thanks to this report by Clint Bancroft, we now know that when collecting vegetative growth from healthy horticultural plantings in northward states, apical growth of basals are essential for ultimately producing tree forms.

    June and July 2019:

    Herbivory devastation, then recovery!

    JUNE 2019 CLINT WROTE: "... You video-documented the herbivory on my 3-yr-old Torreyas (from Blairsville seeds). Happy to report that even the one(s) that had only a couple of needles left have all established new vertical growth. So that is where this accidental experiment stands at this moment. Of course the recovering survivors are being held in extreme protective custody.

    "And now we have yet another unintended experiment under way. I had an apical cutting of a basal from Highlands NC, about 6 inches tall, that had rooted. This year it put up a 6 inch vertical (no lateral growth, and looked beautiful, obviously happy). SEE PHOTOS IMMEDIATELY ABOVE.

    "I left it sitting on top of my cage, 4 feet off the ground, and damned if something did not eat ALL of the new vertical, and also about 2 inches of the original cutting. PHOTOS BELOW. I suspect it will survive but I have lost a whole year's growth. It will be interesting to see if a chopped off, rooted, apical cutting will establish a new leader."

       JULY 2019 UPDATE
    by Clint Bancroft


    "Regarding my accidental experiment in which a rooted apical cutting had put up a new 6 inch vertical and then all but a few inches of the whole pant was eaten:

    "In just 2 months or so, the eaten-down stump is putting up what appears to be a new vertical leader."

    (See note below by Connie Barlow.)

    Note by Connie Barlow, August 2019:

    I am reading about Coast Redwood basal growth and propagation now. Genus Sequoia and Torreya, ancient members of Cupressaceae Family, have probably survived this long thanks to their ability to produce new stems from basal growth if the original stem fails (or is logged). The term for what we see in the above photo is an axillary bud doing what it evolved to do — produce a new vertical leader. Apparently all single leaves produced on the vertical main stem each carry on their upper side a suppressed axillary bud. For redwoods, each of those buds can become either a vertical leader or a root, depending on whether it senses air or soil when hormones direct it to wake up. Apparently Torreya can do the same, so we can actually obtain more than one vertical clone from each basal sprout we cut from.


    Return to HOME PAGE.