A Torreya Branch
Most of the surviving Torreya
are very small, but they once
grew into large trees.
Torreya State Park
This marker at Torreya State
Park in Florida tells of the
discovery there of the Torreya
tree in 1835.
The Florida Torreya - Gopher Wood of the Apalachicola
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Florida Torreya Tree
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Florida Torreya Tree
The Florida Torreya
This healthy Florida Torreya is one of only a few
hundred of the trees growing int he world.
One of the World's Rarest Trees
One of the world's rarest and oldest known
trees grows among the bluffs and ravines of
Gadsden and Liberty Counties, Florida.

The Florida Torreya (
Torreya taxifolia) was
discovered here in around 1835 by Hardy
Bryan Croom, an early botanist. He named it
in honor of Dr. John Torrey, a well-known
19th century scientist.

Local settlers were already familiar with
Croom's rare tree. They called it the "stinking
cedar" because of the strong odor it gave
when cut or bruised. Despite its smell,
however, they used it for a wide variety of
purposes ranging from fence posts and
shingles to Christmas trees and riverboat

The tree's popularity almost spelled its
doom. It is estimated there were 600,000
Torreya trees living in the Apalachicola River
Valley during the early 1800s. Only around
200 survive today.

Modern scientists report that the Torreya
once lived across North America and is one
of the oldest known tree species on earth.
This is interesting in light of local legend that
the Florida Torreya was the Biblical "gopher
wood" from which Noah built the ark.

Because the Torreya is one of America's
most endangered trees, a major effort is
underway to save it. The Florida Park Service
is working with the Atlanta Botanical Garden
in a commendable effort to grow new Torreya
trees. Using seed obtained from living trees,
the agencies are growing seedlings that are
being planted in the ravine habitat at Torreya
State Park. Perhaps over time, the Torreya
will once again thrive along the Apalachicola.

The trees are extremely rare today, but they
are very easy to see. Two nice plantings can
be found at Torreya State Park along the brick
walkway leading to the historic Gregory
House. Other live Torreya can also be seen
along the nature trails in the park.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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