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SPECIES:  Torreya californica
Califoria nutmeg in Yosemite Valley. Image by Charles Webber © 1998 California Academy of Sciences.


SPECIES: Torreya californica
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Howard, Janet L. 1992. Torreya californica. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Updates: On 01 Janurary 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: California torreya to: California nutmeg. Pictures were also added. ABBREVIATION: TORCAL SYNONYMS: Tumion californicum (Torr.) Greene SCS PLANT CODE: TOCA COMMON NAMES: California nutmeg California torreya stinking cedar stinking nutmeg stinking yew TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of California nutmeg is Torreya californica Torr.; it is in the yew family (Taxaceae) [12,16]. There are no subspecies, varieties, or forms [3]. LIFE FORM: Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Torreya californica
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: California nutmeg is endemic to California. Its range has two distinct parts: one in the Coast Ranges and one in the Cascade-Sierra Nevada foothills. In the Coast Ranges, it is distributed from southwest Trinity County south to Monterey County. In the Cascade-Sierra Nevada foothills, it is distributed from Shasta County south to Tulare County [8]. Although not rare, it is not an abundant species. Local occurrence is widely scattered throughout its range [3], and trees are often infrequent in these localities [8].
Distribution of California nutmeg. Map from USGS: 1971 USDA, Forest Service map provided by Thompson and others [30].

   FRES20  Douglas-fir
   FRES21  Ponderosa pine
   FRES24  Hemlock - Sitka spruce
   FRES27  Redwood
   FRES28  Western hardwoods
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub


    3  Southern Pacific Border
    4  Sierra Mountains

   K001  Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest
   K005  Mixed conifer forest
   K006  Redwood forest
   K007  Red fir forest
   K011  Western ponderosa forest
   K012  Douglas-fir forest
   K025  Alder - ash forest
   K029  California mixed evergreen forest
   K030  California oakwoods
   K033  Chaparral

   207  Red fir
   213  Grand fir
   221  Red alder
   224  Western hemlock
   229  Pacific Douglas-fir
   230  Douglas-fir - western hemlock
   232  Redwood
   234  Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone
   243  Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
   244  Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir
   245  Pacific ponderosa pine
   246  California black oak
   249  Canyon live oak


California nutmeg is plastic is its habitat requirements, and occurs in
many diverse plant communities.  In the Coast Ranges, it grows in
chaparral and various coastal forests such as redwood (Sequoia
sempervirens).  It is associated with canyon live oak (Quercus
chrysolepis) and California bay (Umbellularia californica) woodlands in
both coastal and inland foothill regions [10].  Inland populations are
most commonly found in the ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) belt [3,8].
It is rare in chaparral communities of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada.  It is
not a dominant or indicator species in community or vegetation typings.


SPECIES: Torreya californica
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE: Commercial harvesting of California nutmeg is almost nonexistent due to scant availability. It was logged on a limited basis in the past, especially where growing in association with redwood, but was never an important timber species. The fine-grained yellow-brown wood is, however, highly attractive and of good quality. It is strong and elastic, smooth in texture, polishes well, and emits a fragrance similar to that of sandalwood [3]. It is highly durable. Trees cut over 100 years ago have been found lying on the ground with little rot [17]. The wood was historically used for making cabinets, wooden turnware, and novelty items; and for fuel and fenceposts [3]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Various animals eat California nutmeg seeds [21]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: California nutmeg provides watershed protection and increases wildlife habitat diversity [3,21]. Sites where it has been eliminated or reduced in numbers would benefit from repopulation. Historical records of such sites are sparse, but a few are known. Logging during the early 1900's eliminated California nutmeg from the Vaca Mountains of Napa and Solano counties, and considerably reduced populations in the Santa Cruz Mountains and lower Russian River area of Sonoma County [3]]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: California nutmeg is sometimes planted as an ornamental, but the disagreeable odor of the needles detracts from its desirability. The seed oil has potential use in cooking, being similar in quality to olive and pine-nut oils. Seeds of a related Asian species, Torreya nucifera, are harvested in Japan for rendering into high-quality cooking oil. California nutmeg seeds are edible, reportedly tasting somewhat like peanuts [4]. The seeds were a highly esteemed food of California Indians. In addition, Indians used the tree roots for making baskets [4], and the wood for making bows [18]. Unlike Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia), a related species, California nutmeg is not harvested as a source of taxol [1] because it produces taxol in only extremely small quantities. It is used as a control, however, when testing other species with potential for taxol production [22]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: If thinning of California nutmeg stands is necessary, care should be taken to preserve both male and female trees as near to each other as possible in order to facilitate natural regeneration [24]. Favorable sites for potential natural regeneration such as canyon bottoms and lowland flats are unlikely to support seedlings if there is heavy logging or other disturbance above catchment areas [3].


SPECIES: Torreya californica
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: California nutmeg is a dioecious native evergreen tree, typically from 16.5 to 90 feet (5-30 m) tall and 8 to 20 inches (20-51 cm) in diameter [16,21]. A record tree growing near Fort Bragg measured 141 feet (43 m) in height and 14.8 feet (4.5 m) in d.b.h. until cut by timber thieves [17]. The crown is pyramidal to irregular in shape [10,19]. Needles persist for many years. The bark is thin, from 0.3 to 0.5 inch (0.8-1.3 cm) on mature trees [19]. Roots are described as "deep" [14]. The large, heavy seeds are from 1 to 1.4 inches (2.5-3.0 cm) long, enveloped by a drupelike aril [16,21].
CAlifornia nutmeg arils. Image by Robert Potts © 2001 California Academy of Sciences.

Male California nutmeg bear their microsporophylls within strobili.  In
contrast, the ovules of female trees are not contained within strobili
but are solitary [16].  Male strobili begin growth the year prior to
flowering, while females trees develop ovules in one growing season
[21].  Torreyas are wind pollinated [16].  Male trees must normally be
within 75 to 90 feet (23-27 m) of female trees in order to effect
pollination [24].  Seed production is erratic.  Good seed crops may be
followed by crop failure the following year [10].  Seeds mature in 2
years [19].  Being heavy, seeds usually fall near the parent plant; wind
dissemination is rare [17].  Seed predation by Steller's and scrub jay
is high [10].  Seeds require a 9- to 12-month stratification period
before germination [21].  In one study, seeds stratified for 3 months
before planting took an additional 9 months to germinate under
greenhouse conditions.  Ninety-two percent of seedlings germinated at
that time. [15].  Temperature regimes during the stratification period
were not noted.  Seeds sometimes germinate without stratification but do
so slowly [21].

Growth of trees in the understory is slow [10].  Sudworth [24] reported
trees from 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) in diameter were 60 to 110 years of
age, while those from 12 to 18 inches (30-46 cm) in diameter were 170 to
265 years old.  The growth rate needs further study, however, as rates
of over 1 foot (30 cm) per year have been reported in cultivars [3].
Preliminary data obtained from tree-ring counts of saplings on the El
Dorado National Forest shows some trees attained heights of 4.8 feet
(1.5 m) in 28 years [10].

California nutmeg sprouts from the roots, root crown, and bole
following damage to aboveground portions of the tree [3,10,19].  Some
nutmegs reproduce by layering [21], but the layering capacity of
California nutmeg is unknown.

California nutmeg grows in diverse sites such as streambanks, shaded
slopes, hot dry canyons, canyon floors, and lowland flats [3].  Best
growth occurs on moist sites.  Trees in Colusa County grow in serpentine
soil [8].

The climate is mediterranean, characterized by hot, dry summers and
cool, wet winters.  Summer climate is moderated in the outer Coast
Ranges by cool marine air and fog [29].

California nutmeg grows at elevations from 3,000 to 7,000 feet
(914-2,134 m) [16].

Plant associations:  Common overstory associates not listed under
Distribution and Occurrence include tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflora),
Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia), California bay (Umbellularia
californica), bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), white alder (Alnus
rhombifolia), and bishop pine (Pinus muricata).  Understory associates
include cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), ceanothus (Ceanothus spp.),
manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron
macrophyllum), California huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), California red
huckleberry (V. parvifolium), and Pacific bayberry (Myrica californica)

California nutmeg is very shade tolerant [9] and is found in late seral
and climax communities [3].  Following disturbance such as fire or
logging, sprouts growing from surviving perennating buds appear in
initial communities [10].

Stamens and arils are produced from March through May [16,21].  Seeds
ripen from August until October and are released from September through
November [15,21,27].


SPECIES: Torreya californica
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: California nutmeg sprouts from the roots, root crown, and bole following top-kill by fire [5,10,19]. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker Geophyte, growing points deep in soil


SPECIES: Torreya californica
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Fire usually top-kills all size classes of this thin-barked species. A few large trees have survived fire but were badly scarred [10]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: California nutmeg sprouts from the roots, root crown, and bole following fire [5,10,19]. Rate of recovery is not recorded in the literature. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Torreya californica
REFERENCES: 1. Bailey, C. D. pers. comm. 1992 2. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 3. Burke, J. G. 1975. Human use of the California nutmeg tree, Torreya californica, and other members of the genus. Economic Botany. 29: 127-139. [19267] 4. Chestnut, V. K. 1900. Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino Co., California. Contrib. U.S. Nat. Herberium. 7(1): 305-306. [19268] 5. Conard, S. G. pers. comm. 1992 6. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 7. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 8. Griffin, James R.; Critchfield, William B. 1972. The distribution of forest trees in California. Res. Pap. PSW-82. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 118 p. [1041] 9. Hamilton, Ronald C. 1991. Single-tree selection method: An uneven-aged silviculture system. In: Genetics/silviculture workshop proceedings; 1990 August 27-31; Wenatchee, WA. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Timber Management Staff: 46-84. [16562] 10. Hunter, J. pers. comm. 1992 11. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 12. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952] 13. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496] 14. Maino, E.; Howard, F. 1955. Ornamental trees. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. [19271] 15. Mirov, N. T.; Kraebel, C. J. 1937. Collecting and propagating the seeds of California wild plants. Res. Note No. 18. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, California Forest and Range Experiment Station. 27 p. [9787] 16. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1905 p. [6155] 17. Murray, M. D. 1985. The California nutmeg. American Forests. 91: 40-51. [19266] 18. Peattie, D. C. 1953. A natural history of western trees. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co. 751 p. [19269] 19. Preston, Richard J., Jr. 1948. North American trees. Ames, IA: The Iowa State College Press. 371 p. [1913] 20. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 21. Roy, Douglass F. 1974. Torreya Arn. Torreya. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 450. Washington: U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 815-816. [7768] 22. Snader, K. pers. comm. 1992 23. Stalter, Richard. 1990. Torreya taxifolia Arn. Florida torreya. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 601-603. [13420] 24. Sudworth, G. B. 1908. Forest trees of the Pacific Slope. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 441 p. [19270] 25. Trush, William J.; Connor, Edward C.; Knight, Allen W. 1989. Alder establishment and channel dynamics in a tributary of the South Fork Eel River, Mendocino County, California. In: Abell, Dana L., technical coordinator. Proceedings of the California riparian systems conference: Protection, management, and restoration for the 1990's; 1988 September 22-24; Davis, CA. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-110. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station: 14-21. [13509] 26. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 27. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240] 28. Westman, W. E.; Whittaker, R. H. 1975. The pygmy forest region of northern California: studies on biomass and primary productivity. Journal of Ecology. 63: 493-520. [8186] 29. Zinke, Paul J. 1977. The redwood forest and associated north coast forests. In: Barbour, Michael G.; Major, Jack, eds. Terrestrial vegetation of California. New York: John Wiley and Sons: 679-698. [7212] 30. Thompson, Robert S.; Anderson, Katherine H.; Bartlein, Patrick J. 1999. Digital representations of tree species range maps from "Atlas of United States trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (and other publications), [Online]. In: Atlas of relations between climatic parameters and distributions of important trees and shrubs in North America. Denver, CO: U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services (Producer). Available: [2015, May 12]. [82831]

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