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SPECIES:  Torreya taxifolia
Florida nutmeg. Creative Commons image by Zoya Akulova.



SPECIES: Torreya taxifolia
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Esser, Lora L. 1993. Torreya taxifolia. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
Revisions: On 21 June 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: Florida torreya to: Florida nutmeg. Images were also added. ABBREVIATION: TORTAX SYNONYMS: Tumion taxifolium (Arn.) Greene SCS PLANT CODE: TOTA COMMON NAMES: Florida nutmeg gopherwood Florida torreya polecat wood Savin stinking cedar TAXONOMY: The scientific name of Florida nutmeg is Torreya taxifolia Arn. It is a member of the yew family (Taxaceae) [11,17]. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms [2]. LIFE FORM: Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: Endangered [17] OTHER STATUS: Florida nutmeg is state-listed as threatened [24].


SPECIES: Torreya taxifolia
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Florida nutmeg is endemic to three counties in northern Florida (Liberty, Gadsden, and Jackson) and extends 1 mile into Decatur County, Georgia [2,11]. The natural range of this species extends along the limestone bluffs on the eastern bank of the Apalachicola River and its tributaries for a 40-mile (64-km) stretch [14]. There is a small colony of 60 trees approximately 6 miles west of the river at a site known as Dog Pond in Jackson County [2,11]. Florida nutmeg is not an abundant species, and local occurrence is widely scattered along the Apalachicola River [9,11]. There is a small, introduced population of trees located in Asheville, North Carolina, on the Biltmore Estate [14].
Distribution of Florida nutmeg. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, June 21] [16].
   FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory
   FRES16  Oak - gum - cypress

     FL  GA  NC


   KO79  Palmetto prairie
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest
   K113  Southern floodplain forest

    70  Longleaf pine
    71  Longleaf pine - scrub oak
    73  Southern redcedar
    74  Cabbage palmetto
    80  Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
    81  Loblolly pine
    82  Loblolly pine - hardwood
    83  Longleaf pine - slash pine
    84  Slash pine
    85  Slash pine - hardwood
    87  Sweet gum - yellow-poplar
    98  Pond pine
   111  South Florida slash pine


Florida nutmeg is associated with oak-tupelo-cypress
(Quercus-Nyssa-Cupressus) and oak-pine (Quercus-Pinus) forests on the
eastern bank of the Apalachicola River [14].  The longleaf
pine/wiregrass (P. palustris/Aristida stricta) sandhill community is
upslope from these forests [1,21].


SPECIES: Torreya taxifolia
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE: Commercial harvesting of Florida nutmeg is nonexistant due to scant availablility [11]. The fine-grained yellow wood is, however, highly attractive and of good quality [2]. It is lightweight, hard, strong, and highly durable [14]. The wood was historically used for making cabinets and fenceposts [15]. Fences made of Florida nutmeg 60 years ago are still sound [2]. Florida nutmeg was also used for Christmas trees [14]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Various animals eat Florida nutmeg seeds [14]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES: Florida nutmeg was planted as an ornamental on the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina [14]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Florida nutmeg is almost extinct in its natural range [9]. In 1988 the Center for Plant Conservation stated that Florida nutmeg faces such a serious and immediate threat of extinction that it will be gone in 10 years unless concerted conservation steps are taken [4]. An intricate array of circumstances threatens Florida nutmeg. The population is reduced because of habitat destruction by inundation and logging and fungal pathogens that kill young trees before they reach sexual maturity [4,21]. Disease: Florida nutmeg populations are drastically reduced by stem and needle blights [2]. The fungi responsible for these blights have been identified as members of the genera Physalospora and Macrophoma. As many as 11 species of fungi attack Florida nutmeg [9,13]. How the infection begins is unknown. It may begin with fungi attacking the tree while the fungi are in their sexual reproductive cycle [14]. Sudden exposure to full sunlight following logging of other tree species may stress Florida nutmeg, leading to susceptibility to fungal invasion [12]. Fungicide: Infected Florida nutmeg trees treated with the commercial fungicide Maneb recovered markedly and produced new growth with little or no infection [12,14]. Pests: Feral pigs uproot and destroy Florida nutmeg seedlings [20]. Deer preferrentially select Florida nutmeg saplings as antler rubbing posts, and sometimes kill saplings while rubbing their antlers [21].


SPECIES: Torreya taxifolia
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Florida nutmeg is a dioecious native evergreen tree, typically from 30 to 40 feet (9-12 m) tall and 12 to 20 inches (30-50 cm) in diameter [11,14]. The largest living specimen is in North Carolina, and measures about 45 feet (14 m) in height and 35 inches (89 cm) d.b.h. Florida nutmeg bark is only about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thick on mature trees, and is irregularly divided by shallow fissures. The ovules or arils are 1.2 to 1.6 inches (3-4 cm) long. They are fleshy, turning leathery at maturity. The seeds have a woody seed coat [20].

Florida nutmeg foliage. Public domain image, w/index.php?curid=335469.


Male Florida nutmeg bear their microsporophylls within strobili.  In
contrast, the ovules of female trees are not contained within strobili
but are solitary [14].  Male strobili begin growth the year prior to
flowering, while female trees develop ovules in one growing season
[11,14].  Florida nutmeg produces male and female cones at the age of
20 [14].  Torreya species are wind pollinated.  Seeds mature in 2 years
[15].  At Maclay State Gardens, some germination occurred when seeds
were placed in rich, damp topsoil.  Of 35 seeds planted in wet spaghnum
moss, 80 percent germinated.  Germination is hypogeal, and seeds require
afterripening [14].  Viable seeds are rock hard when ripe.  Seeds
collected from diseased trees are soft and crumble easily [15].  Because
of fungal infection, sexual reproduction has virtually stopped in this
species.  Infected trees seldom bear reproductive structures.
Consequently, few trees can be identified as either male or female [21].
Few seedlings have been found in the wild since the late 1950's [14],
and current reproduction is almost solely vegetative [21,22].

Florida nutmeg sprouts from the roots, bole, and root crown following
damage to aboveground portions of the tree [14,15,20,21,22].  Numerous
sprouts are produced at the base of the parent tree, although only one
sprout usually survives after several years [14].  Basal sprouts grow
several feet before succumbing to infection [15].
Florida nutmeg is propagated with stem cuttings [21].

Florida nutmeg occurs mainly on steep, deeply shaded limestone slopes,
bluffs, and wooded ravines, but is not confined to them [8,9,14].  It
also occurs in forest hammocks and on slopes of ravines cutting through
sandhills.  The population in Jackson County, Florida, occurs on gently
rolling hills [8].  Soils are well drained [21], with a pH range from
4.0 to 8.0 [8].  The climate is subtropical, with wet summers and dry
winters.  The average annual precipitation is 56 inches (1,420 mm), and
the average growing season is 270 days [14].  Florida nutmeg
transplants grow on southern aspects of the Appalachian Mountains,
suggesting the species is more cold tolerant than its present range
indicates [21].

Common overstory associates not listed under Distribution and Occurrence
include spruce pine (P. glabra), southern red oak (Quercus falcata),
American beech (Fagus grandifolia), magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora),
American holly (Ilex opaca), Florida maple (Acer barbatum), basswood
(Tilia americana var. heterophylla), Florida yew (Taxus floridana), and
eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana).  Understory associates include
poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), greenbriar (Smilax spp.), crossvine
(Bignonia capreolata), oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), grape
(Vitis rotundifolia), climbing hydrangea (Decumaria barbara), French
mulberry (Callicarpa americana), woodbine (Parthenocissus), yaupon (Ilex
vomitoria), blackberry (Rubus spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), panicgrass
(Panicum spp.), partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), little sweet Betsy
(Trillium cuneatum), cane (Arundinaria gigantea), and American climbing
fern (Lygodium palmatum) [8,12,14].

Florida nutmeg is shade tolerant and is found in late seral and climax
communities [8].  It grows better in full sunlight at Maclay State
Gardens than in the dense shade of its natural habitat [14].  Seedlings,
however, tolerate the deep shade of pines and hardwoods [14], and
are probably more successful competitors on shady sites in their natural
habitat [21].

Reproductive structures emerge in March and April [11].  Seeds ripen
from August to October and are released from September to November
[11,14].  Midsummer aril ripening has been reported for Florida nutmeg,
but is not typical [11].  Needles persist for 3 to 4 years [20].


SPECIES: Torreya taxifolia
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Published research on fire adaptations of Florida nutmeg is lacking. A related species, California torreya (Torreya californica), sprouts from the roots, root crown, and bole following fire (see FEIS literature summary for Torreya californica). Florida nutmeg probably also sprouts from the roots, root crown, and bole after fire. 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/soboliferous species root sucker Geophyte, growing points deep in soil


SPECIES: Torreya taxifolia
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Because sprouting from the roots, bole, and root crown are natural methods of regeneration in this species [14,15,20,21,22], Florida nutmeg probably sprouts from those organs after fire. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Schwartz, a biologist with the Florida Nature Conservancy, suggested that in the past, smoke may have acted as a natural fungicide, suppressing the fungi now infecting Forida torreya. Ground fires resulting from lightning strikes were a constant feature of the region's longleaf pine forests until recently. Smoke drifting from these upland fires settled in the ravines where Florida nutmeg grew. This may have kept the fungal spore load low. After fire suppression, the spore load may have reached a critical mass, resulting in the present outbreak [21]. In August and October of 1987, 2,670 acres (1,080 ha) of a longleaf pine-slash pine (P. elliottii) forest were burned. Two of the eleven fungal pathogens identified in stricken Florida nutmeg were suppressed by smoke [13]. The Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, Florida, is currently researching the effects of smoke on the fungi that infect Florida nutmeg. The research is as yet unpublished [23].


SPECIES: Torreya taxifolia
REFERENCES: 1. Boyles-Sprenkel, Carolee. 1993. Restoring a "grass-roots" forest. American Forests. 99(5&6): 43-45, 60-61. [21284] 2. Burke, J. G. 1975. Human use of the California nutmeg tree, Torreya calidornica, and other members of the genus. Economic Botany. 29: 127-139. [19267] 3. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 4. Falk, Donald A. 1990. Endangered forest resources in the U.S.: integrated strategies for conservation of rare species and genetic diversity. Forest Ecology and Management. 35(1-2): 91-107. [13035] 5. 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] 6. Gibson, David J. 1992. Vegetation-environment relationships in a southern mixed hardwood forest. Castanea. 57(3): 174-189. [19717] 7. 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] 8. Kurz, Herman. 1927. A new and remarkable habitat for the endemic Florida yew. Torreya. 27: 90-92. [22192] 9. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1975. Rare and local conifers in the United States. Conservation Research Rep. No. 19. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 25 p. [15691] 10. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 11. 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] 12. Savage, Thomas. 1983. A Georgia station for Torreya taxifolia Arn. survives. Florida Scientist. 46(1): 62-64. [21755] 13. Self, David; Kelly, Eugene M. 1988. Rare plant monitoring and prescribed burning initiated at the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve (Florida). Restoration & Management Notes. 6(2): 91. [10144] 14. 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] 15. Toops, Connie. 1981. The `stinking cedar' is in big trouble. American Forests. 87(7): 46-49, 51. [21834] 16. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262] 17. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Endangered Species Program, [Online]. Available: [86564] 18. Woolf, Norma Bennett. 1990. Biotechnologies sow seeds for the future. BioScience. 40(5): 346-348. [11076] 19. Alfieri, S. A., Jr.; Martinez, A. P.; Wehlburg, C. 1967. Stem and needle blight of Florida torreya, Torreya taxifolia Arn. Florida State Horticultural Society. 80: 428-431. [21764] 20. Kral, Robert. 1983. Taxaceae: Torreya taxifolia Arn. SO-R8-. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 28-31 p. [21789] 21. Nicholson, Rob. 1990. Chasing ghosts. Natural History. 12: 8,10-13. [21788] 22. Stalter, Richard; Dial, Steve. 1984. Environmental status of the stinking cedar, Torreya taxifolia. Bartonia. 50: 40-42. [21790] 23. Wade, D. D., pers. com. 24. Wood, Don A., compiler. 1994. Official lists of endangered & potentially endangered fauna and flora in Florida. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. 22 p. [24196]

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