The Florida Torreya, Torreya taxifolia, is in grave danger of disappearing from the wild. Its range has shrunk to three counties on the Florida-Georgia border northwest of Tallahassee. Given this last opportunity to learn about the natural biome of a rare and beautiful conifer, a team of biologists will assemble at Torreya State Park on March 1-2, 2018. Experts will sample and survey the ecosystem associated with T. taxifolia from soil microbiology to flora and fauna, and brainstorm a plan to help save this beautiful tree for future generations to enjoy.
More information concerning the event is available here…
Biologists from the Florida Park Service and US FWS, conservation researchers from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, local volunteers and the UF/SFRC Forest Pathology lab gathered in the panhandle of Florida on steep ravines near the Apalachicola River to survey pockets of the wild population of Torreya taxifolia. Most of the previously mapped trees were found surviving and a new recruitment seedling was reported! However damage from deer browse was also noted, and surviving trees could not be described as thriving for the most part. It was a beautiful day to explore the habitat of this relict conifer, and to give thanks that we can play a role in learning about its place in the natural history of this area.
High above the Apalachicola River, in 1833 H.B. Croom discovered a rare native conifer. Torreya taxifolia is named for the eminent American botanist John Torrey, and the current range only extends through 3 counties on the Florida-Georgia border. It is estimated that 99% of the population has been lost in the past century, most likely from a fungal pathogen that kills the mature tree and stunts and retards new growth. No new adult trees are seen in the wild, they do not set seed and only reproduce from the stumps.
A conservation plan has been proposed that includes cultivation of seedlings, disease-free clone production from tissue culture, and continued aggressive conservation of Torreya taxilfolia in its native range. To that end, more work is needed to survey the full biodiversity of its habitat and learn what we can from studying the communities of flora, fauna and fungi that share the ecosystem of this, the rarest North American conifer.