Flora of Scotts Creek Watershed
Torreya californica - California Nutmeg
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Family Name: Taxaceae
Common Names: California Nutmeg, Stinking Cedar
Origin: Native to California
Habitat: Shaded coniferous forests and woodlands, and occasionally chaparrals. 30-2100 m.
Life Form and Duration: Perennial Tree, 4.5-27 m tall
Comments on overall growth: Erect, single-stemmed, crowns of young trees are broadly conical, mature trees have long clear stems and domed crowns.
Bark and Stem Description: Thin, with scaly grayish brown plates.
Foliage Type: Evergreen
Foliage Description: Leaves are needles. Linear, rigid, spine tipped, dark green glossy above, yellowish green with 2 longitudinal grooves and stomatal bloom below, 2.5-7 cm long, aromatic. Leaves arranged in flat sprays generally. At first glance foliage could be mistaken for that of a Douglas Fir, grab the needles in your hand, if it pokes you it's a California Nutmeg.
Fruit Type: Aril
Fruit Description: A fleshy appendage arising near the point of seed attachment and completely enclosing the seed, much like a drupe. Olive shaped, 2.5-4 cm long, green with purplish streaks.
Other Comments: The largest California Nutmeg is located at Swanton Pacific Ranch. It is 96 feet tall and has a diameter of 80 inches. Torreya californica is completely unrelated to the tropical nutmegs used in spices.