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Plant Profile: California Nutmeg (Torreya californica)

Torreya_californicaIndemic to forested areas of California, California nutmeg is not related to the spice nutmeg, Myristica fragrans. It is similar, however, to some of the plum yews and podocarps in regard to its foliage and fruit. The persistent leaves are linear, 1-3 inches long, dark yellowish-green maturing to reddish brown and have a shiny upper surface and two distinctive white bands on the lower surface. Sharp spines emerge from the tips of the leaves and a pungent odor results when the leaves are crushed. The fruit is drupe-like, similar to an olive, with a fleshy green covering over a thick walled seed. Male cones are larger than female cones and are on different plants. The crown of the tree is conical or rounded and the branches occur in open whorls and may be somewhat drooping. The thin, smooth bark is grayish brown tinged with orange. Californai nutmeg is grown as an ornamental tree. It grows best where temperatures are cool but tolerates some heat.

Type: Evergreen tree

Outstanding Feature: Foliage

Form: Broadly conical becoming rounded with age

Growth Rate: Slow

Bloom: Male and female cones are produced on different trees; pollination in spring

Size: 40-100’ H x 20-40’ W

Light: Shade to partial shade

Soil: Moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 7

Care: Low maintence

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed (with 9-12 months stratification).

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