Thursday, March 10, 2011

Torreya californica - California Nutmeg

Torreya californica: Torreya named after John Torrey (1796-1873), a professor of chemistry and one of the giants of North American botany; californica from California, where it grows natively.

Also known as Stinking Cedar.

Growth rate slow to 15-20' tall (taller in native habitat) with a 12-15' spread and a trunk 1-3' in diameter. Often multitrunked with an open, broad pyramidal crown, rounded in age, rangy in forest locations, with slender horizontal branches standing out straight from the trunk in symmetrical circles, drooping at the ends.

Needlelike leaves are rigid, flat, linear-lanceolate, 1 1/4" to 2" long, shiny deep green and spirally arranged and appearing flatly 2-ranked, with sharp pointed edge and two whitish bands on the underside of the leaf. Crushed leaves have a strong scent. Current year's shoots are green but turn reddish brown by the third year.

Fruits are 1-2" long, ovoid, plumlike, pale green, with purple streaks, a blunt pointed end, and wrinkled skin when matured in the fall of the second season. Seeds have a thin hard brittle shell and germinate after 2 years.

Bark is ashy yellowish brown, finely checkered with narrow seams and short, narrow, loose, scaly ridges.

California nutmeg is found on moist, rocky sites within the shade of tall, coniferous forests 2,000' - 7,000'. It grows as a shrub on serpentine soils.

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