California Nutmeg (Torreya californica)

Tree
T. myristica. Tumion californicum.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
California Nutmeg
Torreya californica
Cephalotaxaceae

The roots have been used as splints in basketry[257].

Wood – straight-grained, strong, light, soft, easily worked. Of no commercial value[229], though it is occasionally used for fence posts[82, 229].

  • Medicinal Use

    The nuts have been chewed as a treatment for indigestion[257]. A decoction of the nuts has been used in the treatment of tuberculosis[257]. The crushed seeds have been rubbed on the temples in the treatment of headaches[257]. They have also been rubbed on the body to cause sweating in the treatment of chills and fevers[257].

  • Edible Use

    Seed – raw or cooked[183]. The seeds are roasted and eaten[257]. They are rich in oil[105, 161]. The ovoid seed is up to 2cm long[K].

    An edible oil is obtained from the seed[177, 183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Some of the seed should germinate in the following spring though much of it might take another 12 months. Stored seed requires a period of cold stratification and can take 18 months or more to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as growth is observed and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least the next couple of winters, making sure to pot them on into larger pots as and when required. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer when the plants are at least 20cm tall. Cuttings of half-ripe shoots in late summer[1]. Cuttings do not grow well[11]. Layering.
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil, tolerating some lime[1]. Undemanding as to the soil pH[200]. Dislikes wind exposure[200]. Requires a sheltered position and either high humidity or a moist riverside soil[200]. Tolerates woodland shade very well[200]. One report says that trees are only hardy in the milder parts of Britain[1], whilst another says that trees are hardy in Britain at least as far north as Edinburgh[200]. This species is the only member of the genus that is fully adapted to cool maritime sites. It can actually grow faster in such a position than it does in the wild[200]. Trees in general grow better in the wetter western part of Britain[81]. Usually slow growing, though trees occasionally increase by 60cm in a year[185]. The bruised leaves release a powerful resinous smell[245]. The fruits are also aromatic[245]. The seed takes two summers to mature[229]. Trees often crop well at Kew, but there were no seeds formed in 1994[K]. A tree in fairly deep shade at Kew was carrying a good crop of seeds in the summer of 1996[K]. Plants are usually dioecious, but isolated female plants have been known to bear fruit in the absence of a pollinating male[11]. Plants are sometimes monoecious with dioecious branches. Male and female plants must usually be grown if seed is required.
South-western N. America – California.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.