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Florida Nutmeg: Endangered Trees

July 28, 2016

florida nutmeg

The Flordia Nutmeg (Torreya taxifolia)

Torreya taxifolia, commonly known as the Florida nutmeg, Florida torreya, gopher wood, stinking yew, or stinking cedar (although not a true yew or cedar), is a rare and endangered tree.

The estimated 98% decline in mature individuals within the last three generations means that Torreya taxifolia meets the criteria for Critically Endangered under Criterion A2. The actual causes of the decline (the death of individuals and the reproductive failure associated with infection from a range of pathogens) is not well understood: recent surveys indicate it is continuing. The decline may be reversible in the future if those causes can be identified and controlled.

Restricted to a few ravines along the east side of the Appalachicola River in northern Florida and southern Georgia. The current population is estimated to be between 500 and 600 trees. Of these, less than 10 are known to produce male or female cones (this species is dioecious). Individuals persist as stump sprouts. Before the start of the decline in the early 1950s, the population was estimated to have been more than 600,000. Since then there has been a decline of more than 98%.

The Florida Nutmeg has been the focus of extensive conservation interventions. The majority of its range lies within protected areas. Regular census’ are carried out to monitor the state of the remaining trees. An ex-situ programme was initiated in the 1980s and clonal collections have since been established in several areas away from its native habitat. Some reintroduction work has been attempted within its natural range but this has not been successful to date. Various research programmes have been initiated to identify the causal agent of its decline: these are ongoing. T. taxifolia was listed as federally Endangered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1984. A recovery plan was formulated in 1986 and has recently been reviewed and updated (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2010).

Here you can find out more about the Florida Nutmeg.

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