California nutmeg, California torreya, stinking cedar (Peattie 1950).
Syn: Torreya myristica Hooker; Tumion californicum (Torrey) Greene (Hils 1993).
"Trees to 20(25) m; trunk to 90(120) cm dbh; crown conic or, in age, round-topped. Branches spreading to slightly drooping; 2-year-old branches reddish brown. Leaves 3-8 cm, abaxial side with 2 deeply impressed, glaucous bands of stomates, flattened on adaxial side, emitting pungent odor when crushed. Pollen cones whitish. Seed (including aril) 2.5-3.5 cm; aril light green streaked with purple. 2n = 16" (Hils 1993).
USA: California. Rare and local along mountain streams, protected slopes, creek bottoms, and moist canyons of the Coast Range and Sierra Nevada, at 0-2000 m elevation (Hils 1993). Hardy to Zone 7 (cold hardiness limit between -17.7°C and -12.2°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001). See also Thompson et al. (1999).
The largest known living tree, near Swanton, California, was 203.7 cm DBH and 29.3 m tall when measured in 1992. A former champion was 144 cm dbh and 43 m tall when it was logged (F. Callahan email 2011.08.21).
The oldest known is represented by a disk from a tree that was logged from a dry south slope in a canyon west of Willits, California. It contains 480 rings in a distance of about 45 cm. The disk is owned by Frank Callahan (email 2011.08.21), who also has another disk from a former national champion tree (noted above) that has 286 rings.
Arno and Gyer (1973) indicate that it can be found in "draws and basins on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County;" along "the road entering Yosemit Valley from El Portal" (Yosemite National Park); at "the entrance to Boyden Cave in Kings Canyon" (National Park); and "the trail to Crystal Cave and near Clough Cave in Sequoia National Park."
I have found it on the road towards Giant Forest a few miles beyond the Foothills Visitor Center in Sequoia National Park (36° 32.558' N, 118° 46.912' W). My notes report: "Here I find what is definitely the most prickly conifer I have ever encountered. This They're growing amidst evergreen oaks, blue oaks, tanoak, a few small incense-cedars, and an understory with a xeric analogue of ladyfern, shrub oak, and probably poison oak. There's active regeneration, trees and seedlings growing both above and below the highway. Within 100 m of the sample point there are probably 50 stems taller than breast height, the largest has a dbh of about 25 cm. These trees are growing on a south- or southeast-facing slope. It seems to be a relatively dry microsite, but the torreyas are on locally concave topography. Slopes are 60-70%. We only find fruits on the largest, sun-grown specimen. Seedlings, of which the smallest I can find are about 15 cm tall, basically look the same as the larger plants except that their needles are shorter, about 1.5-2 cm vs. 4 cm on sun foliage in the mature trees."
On the coast, Samuel P. Taylor State Park near Point Reyes has some very large trees, including two that were 30.25 and 32.3 m tall in November 2011 (Steve Sillett email 2011.11.19).
I also have a report that they occur in Sequoia National Park on the lower part of the trail from Potwisha campground to Marble Falls (Roy Malahowski email 2011.03.13).
I have also seen them near Cascade Falls on the Big Oak Flat Road in Yosemite National Park.
Last Modified 2012-11-23