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Torreya californica

Torreya californica Torr.

California Nutmeg, California-nutmeg

Taxaceae (Yew Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A small, understory tree, usually 15-50 ft. tall, that looks like a miniature yew or glossy-leaved redwood. The branches are slender and spreading and the narrow leaves are stiff and dark green. The tree bears green, nutmeg-like fruits with purple markings. Strongly aromatic tree with conical or rounded crown and rows of slender, spreading branches.

The name "California Nutmeg" refers to the resemblance of the aromatic seeds, with a deeply folded seed coat, to those of the unrelated commercial spice, nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.). "Stinking-cedar" alludes to the disagreeable resinous odor of crushed foliage and other parts. Native Americans used to make bows from the strong wood.


From the Image Gallery

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 80 feet tall. Trunk to about 4 feet in diameter.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Notes: Flowers are inconspicuous. Pollen cones whitish.


Native Distribution: CA mts. from Santa Cruz to Mendocino & Tulare to Tehama Cos.
Native Habitat: Cool, humid, wooded slopes

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Moist, well-drained soils.


Description: Propagation from seed is possible.
Commercially Avail: yes

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Torreya californica in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Torreya californica in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Torreya californica


Record Modified: 2023-05-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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