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Torreya californica

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA PINOPSIDA PINALES TAXACEAE

Scientific Name: Torreya californica
Species Authority: Torr.
Common Name(s):
English California Nutmeg, California Torreya, Stinking Cedar

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A1cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2011-04-27
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Stritch, L.
Justification:
Past logging has virtually eliminated Torreya californica from parts of its historic range and also removed most of the large trees across almost all of its range. Regrowth is reported to be very slow. On this basis a past decline of more than 50% of mature trees in the population has been inferred over the past 150 years (three generations), leading to an assessment of Vulnerable under the A1 criterion.
History:
1997 Rare (Walter and Gillett 1998)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: California Nutmeg is endemic to California where it is mainly found in the Coast Ranges and the Cascade-Sierra Nevada foothills.  In coastal areas 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.
Countries:
Native:
United States (California)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Populations are usually small and localized. The population is substantially reduced from what it was before but is now slowly recovering.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Torreya californica is a scattered understorey tree usually growing in moist and shady places in hilly to mountainous terrain dominated by tall conifers, especially Sequoia sempervirens, Picea sitchensis and Pseudotsuga menziesii. In the western valleys of the Sierra Nevada it is associated with angiosperms, mainly Acer spp., Cornus nuttallii, Platanus occidentalis, and Alnus rubra and here it strictly adheres to stream banks in steep canyons at altitudes around 1,200 m a.s.l. Its altitudinal range is from near sea level (but usually above 200 m) in the Coast Ranges to 2,500 m a.s.l. in the Sierra Nevada. On serpentine rock it becomes a stunted tree or shrub and occurs on north-facing slopes in coastal chaparral. It is capable of resprouting following disturbance such as fire although regrowth is slow.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the past, Torreya californica was used for cabinet making, fencing and bridges, as it is rot resistant. Due to its current rarity it is no longer used. California Indians used it for their bows, seeds were roasted for food and some tribes (e.g. the Pomo) used the roots for basket weaving. T. californica is the most commonly cultivated species of its genus and can grow into an impressive, wide crowned tree with striking foliage and large, pendulous, plum-like green or glaucous seeds. It is almost exclusively used as an ornamental in large gardens or planted in arboreta. The name 'nutmeg' only refers to a superficial similarity with true nutmeg fruits (from Myristica fragrans, an angiosperm tree species).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Logging in the late 19th and up to the mid 20th centuries virtually 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 (Howard 1992). Logging also eliminated many of the larger trees in the remainder of its range and resulted in a decline of mature trees in the total population, which is only now slowly being restored. As this species is dependent on forest cover, deforestation in parts of California has further contributed to a decline. On this basis it is reasonable to infer an historic decline in the number of mature trees of at least 50%. This decline has now ceased or virtually ceased.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is known from several protected areas within its range.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2013. Torreya californica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 December 2014.
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