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Torreya fargesii

(Farges' nutmeg-yew)

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Père Paul Guillaume Farges (1844–1912)

Torreya fargesii, as described in 1899 by Adrien René Franchet (1834 – 1900), in Journal de Botanique (Morot) 13th edition, is commonly known as Farges’ nutmeg-yew; as well as 巴山榧树 (ba shan fei shu, literally ba shan torreya) in the Chinese language. The species name honors French missionary and amateur botanist Père Paul Guillaume Farges (1844 – 1912).

Description. Farges’ nutmeg-yew is an evergreen, coniferous species of shrub or small tree that grows to mature heights of 65 feet (20 m) tall, with a trunk up to 40 inches (1 m) in diameter, measured at breast height.

  • Bark is dark gray, pale brown, or grayish brown in color, with irregular, sometimes flaking, vertical fissures.
  • Leafy branchlets have an oblong to elliptic-oblong outline, measuring 2 to 5.2 inches (5 – 13 cm) long and 1.2 to 3 inches (3 – 7.5 cm) wide, with green axes in the first year, yellowish thereafter.
  • Leaves are borne at 55 to 80° angles to branchlet axes; including a 0.02 to 0.04 inch (0.5-1 mm) petiole. Leaf blades are shining green adaxially, with a linear to linear-lanceolate outline. Individual needles are straight or distally falcate, each measuring 0.48 to 1.44 inches (1.2 – 3.6 cm) long and 0.08 to 0.16 inch (2 – 4 mm) broad, with 2 longitudinal grooves, an indistinct adaxial midvein, that is 0.012 to 0.018 inch (0.3 – 0.6 mm) wide. Abaxially, stomatal bands are light-brown in color, measuring 0.008 to 0.012 inch (0.2 – 0.3 mm) wide. Marginal bands measure 0.02 to 0.048 inch (0.5 – 1.2 mm) wide. Leaf bases are broadly cuneate and more-or-less asymmetric. Needle margins are flat or very narrowly revolute. Apices are usually shortly and symmetrically tapered; as well as cuspidate. Cusps measure 0.012 to 0.04 inch (0.3 – 1 mm).
  • Pollen cones are pale yellow in color, with an ovoid shape, measuring circa 0.2 to 0.32 inch (5 – 6 mm) long and 0.18 to 0.2 inch (4.5 – 5 mm) broad, borne in bracts of 4 to 12 pairs in 4 longitudinally ridged rows.
  • Arils are pale green or slightly white in color, and powdery, with small apical mucro.
  • Seeds are ovoid to globose or broadly ellipsoid shaped, measuring 0.6 to 1 inch (1.5 – 2.5 cm) in diameter. The inner walls of seed coats are smooth or with 2 opposite longitudinal ridges. Female gametophyte tissue conspicuously and deeply ruminates internally.

Distribution. This species is native to China — Anhui, western Hubei, northwestern Hunan, Jiangxi, southern Shaanxi, Sichuan, and northwestern Yunnan provinces where it is found growing in coniferous, mixed, and broad-leaved forests, at elevations of 3,300 to 11,200 feet (1,000 – 3,400 m) above sea level.

Hardy to UDSA Zone 8 — cold hardiness limit between 10° and 20°F (-12.1° and -6.7°C).

Ethnobotany. Suitable for afforestation and reforestation. The high quality timber is used in constructing houses, bridges, and furniture, and making implements and utensils; an oil is extracted from the seed.

Attributed from: Liguo Fu, Nan Li & Robert R. Mill. "Torreya fargesii". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

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