Rewilding Torreya taxifolia
to Waynesville, North Carolina (planted 31 July 2008)

21 potted seedlings to private property (Sara Evans) at 3,400 feet of south-facing mountain slope

supplement to photo-essay by Connie Barlow

THE CRUCIAL ROLE SARA EVANS PLAYED IN LAUNCHING THIS PROJECT: A 2009 article in North Carolina Wildlife magazine by Sidney Cruze features the early history of Torreya Guardians and how the 2008 plantings in Lake Junaluska (Corneille Bryan Native Garden) and Waynesville (this site) came about. Access the lengthy and beautifully illustrate article online in pdf: "Rewilding a Native". Excerpt on Sara Evan's role:
... Waynesville resident Sara Evans joined the Guardians after meeting Barlow. "When I heard about Connie's love for Torreya and her plans to move it," Evans says, "I felt a deep connection to her." Evans' mother, Maxilla, had a similar passion for Shortia galactifolia, an evergreen perennial called Oconee bells for its distinctive white flowers. In 1990 Maxilla helped establish the Corneille Bryan Native Garden, a 1-acre preserve located near Lake Junaluska that is home to 500 species of trees, shrubs, and other plants. Evans now lives on her mother's land for half the year. When she learned the Guardians were looking for planting sites, she quickly volunteered her property and the Bryan Garden....

In photos below, wherever you see an outstretched hand with palm flat toward the ground, look for the seedling directly beneath it. (Each seedling was given the name of a botanist or conservationist.)

  • UPDATE: As of May 2012, two trees had died: "Paul S. Martin" and "Thomas Jefferson."

  • UPDATE: in May 2012, 15 Torreya seeds from the 2011 harvest were individually planted in favorable habitats upslope of the 21 seedlings introduced in 2008. Access a photo-essay of the 2012 seed planting.

    Scroll to bottom for UPDATES, ASSESSMENTS, and to access INDIVIDUAL WEBPAGES (with captioned site-visit photos) for each of the 21 individual trees planted in 2008.

  • Johnny Appleseed, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)
    John Muir, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)

    Thomas Jefferson, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)
    Paul S. Martin, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)

    Mardy Murie, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)
    Ed Abbey, shown by Don Hooker (July 2008)

    Stewart Udall, shown by Michael Dowd
    Bill Mollison, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)

    Julia Butterfly Hill, shown by Michael Dowd
    John James Audbon, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)

    Charles Darwin, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)
    Joanna Macy, shown by Michael Dowd (July 2008)

    Loren Eiseley, shown by Russell Regnery (July 2008)
    Julian Huxley, shown by Connie Barlow (July 2008)

    Kokopelli, shown by Russell Regnery (July 2008)
    David Brower, by Russell Regnery, Jack Johnston (July 2008)

    Annie Dillard, shown by Russell Regnery (July 2008)
    Bob Zahner, shown by Russell Regnery (July 2008)

    Thomas (or Wendell) Berry (July 2008)
    Maxilla Evans, with Russ, Jack, Linda (July 2008)

    Maxilla Evans, close-up with Russ (July 2008)
    Celia Hunter, shown by Connie Barlow (July 2008)

    Genetics of the 21 Seedlings Planted in 2008

    Seedlings No. 11 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.

    ABOVE: Lee Barnes returns to Evans Property site November 2008. Here, by seedling "Loren Eiseley" he holds up a photo he took 20 years ago of the biggest Torreya taxifolia tree: a female in Norlina, NC, which was planted as a landscape well north of its Florida "native" habitat. She is "Mom" to all but one (all but "Celia") of the 31 seedlings that were planted in NC July 2008, because the 2 female trees that parented these seedlings were nurtured from cuttings of the Norlina tree, pollinated by a male grown from a cutting taking at the Henry Foundation in Gladwynne, PA.

    The Possible Importance of DECIDUOUS Forest Habitat for Torreya


    The Sara Evans site is excellent for testing habitat preferences of Torreya taxifoliabecause it is entirely a deciduous canopy. This will enable us to test whether this endangered North American conifer can take advantage of the dense deciduous shade during summer heat and drought, while using the late fall (as in these photos) and early spring to do the bulk of its annual increment of photosynthesis. The four photographs in this section were all taken in November 2008.

    ABOVE LEFT: Michael Dowd holds his palm over "Charles Darwin" seedling, which is downslope from the "Joanna Macy" seedling in the foreground. Compare this wide-open and sunny forest photo to the mid-summer photos of these two specimens in the "green" set of photos above.

    ABOVE RIGHT: Yellow arrow points to the "Celia Hunter" Torreya seedling. Compare the openness of this site post-leaf-fall to the jungle of green in this same location when the seedling was planted in July 2008.


    ABOVE LEFT: Chuck Dayton stands alongside the Torreya seedling "Thomas (or Wendell) Berry", which is the only evergreen visible (November 2008) in this entire section of deciduous canopy and deciduous forest floor.

    ABOVE RIGHT: Lee Barnes and Linda McFarland pause near the "Maxilla Evans" Torreya seedling (the white arrow is point to it) four months after it was planted in a jungle of mid-summer green, beneath a dense deciduous canopy. The evergreen plants in the foreground are Christmas fern.

    Click here to return to

    Access DETAILED DESCRIPTIVE AND PHOTO RECORDS of the progress of each tree
    (last photo-update of tree health is May 2012):

    11. Johnny Appleseed
    12. John Muir
    13. Thomas Jefferson dead, as of May 2012
    14. Paul S. Martin dead, as of January 2010
    15. Mardy Murie
    16. Ed Abbey
    17. Stewart Udall
    18. Bill Mollison
    19. Julia Butterfly Hill
    20. John James Audubon
    21. Charles Darwin
    22. Joanna Macy
    23. Loren Eiseley
    24. Julian Huxley
    25. Kokopelli
    26. David Brower
    27. Annie Dillard
    28. Bob Zahner
    29. Thomas Berry
    30. Maxilla Everett Evans
    31. Celia Hunter

  • NOTE: in May 2012, 15 Torreya seeds from the 2011 harvest were individually planted in favorable habitats upslope of the 21 seedlings introduced on the Evans property in 2008. Access a photo-essay of the 2012 seed planting.

    UPDATE May 2012: Connie Barlow and Lee Barnes carefully assessed and photo-documented the health of all the above specimens. Click on the individual specimen names above to peruse the captioned photos about the progress of these Torreya trees. Because some of the individuals (none of which were artificially watered beyond the first several months) are showing signs of possible water stress on the driest part of the property, this planting has become an enlightening experiment on the micro-habitats that work and do not work for this endangered conifer species. The two most luxuriously healthy plants are "Thomas Berry" and "Celia Hunter" specimens, which you can click on above. All of those individual links include captioned photos of our May 2012 site visit.

    Lee Barnes and Connie Barlow ranked the Torreya plants on the Evans property on a scale of 1 to 10 — with "10" being the healthiest and most luxurient growth. (Celia Hunter and Thomas Berry seedlings were the only two that achieved a rank of "10.") The two maps below show the names, ranks, and locations of the 21 Evans property seedlings. The two seedlings marked by X are dead. Favorable micro-habitats could explain the high ranks of "Darwin" and "Johnny Appleseed" on the otherwise too-dry (and south-facing) oak-hickory-sourwood-sassafras forest on the East Side of the Evans property. The West side seedlings (especially those planted near the creek) are associated with much more moisture-loving plants (notably, hydrangia, ferns, solomon seal, trillium, jack-in-pulpit).



    Connie Barlow created the matrix below (includes both Waynesville and Junaluska NC plantings) to help assess why some individuals are thriving, some are failing, and several died. Note that all the Junaluska trees show more luxurient growth than any of the Waynesville trees, on a "rate" system spanning 0 (dead) to 16.


    NOVEMBER 2013 UPDATE (by Connie Barlow). On a site visit in late October, I saw that none of the 2011 seeds I had planted on the Evans property in May 2012 had visibly germinated yet.

    Since I had with me approx. 200 seeds from the 2013 Torreya Guardians main seed harvest, and since I had planted the 2011 seeds onto the property with no protection against squirrels, I decided to use 43 seeds from the 2013 harvest to test 3 natural forms of squirrel protection: (1) buried beneath a fallen log; (2) protected by an overlay of thatched sticks and branches; and (3) covered by a large, flat rock I easily harvested from the streams on the property. I had no time to take photos of that effort, but the thatched-branch and flat-rock locations will be easy to see and monitor in future years.

    Sara Evans, Janet Manning, and I also looked at the health of the seedlings still alive from the 2008 effort. We were pleased to discover that three plants on the dry eastern side of the property evidenced a spurt of new growth: all grew over the course of a very wet 2013 summer new basal stems from 8 to 10 inches tall. The three revitalized plants are: Johnny Appleseed, Charles Darwin, and Joanna Macy specimens.

    SPRING 2015 UPDATE (by Connie Barlow)

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

       First video-documentation of fate of historic 2008 rewilding action of the endangered Torreya taxifolia from Florida to North Carolina. Connie Barlow films and narrates a survey of the 21 plants in wild forest on the slope of Eaglenest Mountain, near Waynesville. Most important results are both positive and negative, which help us ascertain the habitat preferences of this species (moisture, shade, slope, aspect). 54 minutes - filmed April 1, 2015.

    VIDEO REPORT: FL Torreya to North Carolina (pt 2): 2015 progress report (Junaluska, NC).

       Second half of video progress report on our 2008 rewilding to North Carolina. Key findings include recommendations for measuring vigor, perils of cohabiting with rhodies, long-term negative consequences of planting root-bound conifers, the stress of seedlings needing to re-orient growth to wild light conditions. Note: The final 12 minutes of the video include the Waynesville findings in the comparative assessment. 45 minutes - filmed April 25, 2015.

    VIDEO REPORT: Free-Planting Torreya Seeds into Wild Forest: 2015 best practices

       Preliminary results from the 43 seeds of the 2013 harvest that were "free-planted" on the Evans property near Waynesville confirm that planting beneath flat rocks and beneath a thatch of branches were both effective in deterring squirrels. However, the results are mixed for voles. 47 minutes - filmed April 24, 2015.


    CAVEATS: (1) April 1 was too early for the vegetative buds to expand, so some assessments of terminal buds (present or absent) may prove faulty. (2) A few weeks later at the Junaluska site, I noticed for the first time vegetative buds appearing through the bark of older branch segments and even the main stem itself, so bud counts at branchlet ends may under-report tree vigor. (3) Because the potted seedlings we planted in 2008 were all "root bound" (too long in the pot), some had to abort their main stem a few years after planting and put all their energy into growing the basal sprouts. As you will hear in the pt 2 of the 2015 video report (above), the Annie Dillard tree is an example of this "regression" in apparent vigor this year.

    OCTOBER 2018 UPDATE (by Connie Barlow)


    ABOVE: Maxilla, October 2018


    ABOVE: Celia, October 2018


    ABOVE: Johnny Appleseed, October 2018


    ABOVE: William Catton, October 2018 (originally planted as a seed, autumn 2013)


    ABOVE: Sally (Salamander seedling), October 2018 (originally planted as a seed, autumn 2013)

    NOVEMBER 2021 UPDATE (photos by property owner, Sara Evans)


    ABOVE: Maxilla, November 2021. Notice in right photo the corner left showing the dead original stem when the potted seedling was planted in 2008.

       ABOVE: Celia, November 2021. Notice that the original stem is still alive, while greatly curved to the left. This orientation is typical for torreya planted in full deciduous shade.

    LEFT: But notice in this close-up of the younger leader stem, enormous upward growth over the last several growth seasons. Did a new canopy opening occur to stimulate vertical growth? Notice the yellow leaf of a canopy Liriodendron (Tulip Tree) that has fallen onto the Torreya. Torreya and Liriodendron share the same mycorrhizal fungi type (arbuscular).

    ALL PHOTOS: Notice the companionship between Florida Torreya and the evergreen Christmas ferns. When these torreyas were planted, we were unaware that the two species shared the same mycorrhizal fungi. Now we regard the fern as perhaps the best indicator of excellent torreya habitat and micro-climate conditions in any eastern state.

    MAY 2023 UPDATE (photos by property owner, Sara Evans)

    "I recently visited Maxilla and Celia, who are alive and growing, but not really vigorously, to be honest."

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