What’s New for Torreya taxifolia, North Ameica’s Rarest Conifer?
Emily E. D. Coffey, Ph.D., Atlanta Botanical Garden
Torreya taxifolia, known as the Florida Torreya, is one of the rarest conifers in the world. Once found as a canopy tree, Torreya is an evergreen dioecious tree endemic to a narrow range of bluffs and ravines adjacent to the Apalachicola River in northwest Florida and extreme southwest Georgia. In the mid-Twentieth Century, this species suffered a catastrophic decline as all reproductive age trees died from a disease (Fusarium torrayae) that remained unknown until very recently. In the decades that followed, this species did not recover. What remains is a population approximately 0.22% of its original size, which is subjected to changes in hydrology, forest structure, heavy browsing by deer, loss of reproduction capability, as well as dieback from fungal disease. Atlanta Botanical Garden’s dedication and efforts to protect Torreya has furthered understanding of its ecology and life cycle as well as the decline of this once majestic species. We present the new in-situ and ex-situ seed experiment we are conducting at ABG as part of the recovery effort for this species.