Torreya californica is species of conifer endemic to California, occurring in the Pacific Coast Ranges and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It is commonly known as California torreya or California nutmeg (although not closely related to true nutmeg).
California nutmeg is an evergreen tree growing to 15–25 m tall, with a trunk diameter of 0.5–1 m (exceptionally 2 m); the crown is conical in overall shape, with whorled branches. The leaves are needle-like, stiff, sharp pointed, 3–5 cm long and 3 mm broad; they are arranged spirally, but twisted at the base to lie flat either side of the shoots.
The male (pollen) cones are 5–7 mm long, grouped in lines along the underside of a shoot. The female (seed) cones are single or grouped two to five together on a short stem; minute at first, they mature in about 18 months to a drupe-like structure with the single large nut-like seed 2.5–4 cm long surrounded by a fleshy covering, dark green to purple at full maturity in the fall.
The seeds were used by Native Americans in Northern California as food. The seeds were once mentioned in pharmacognostic literature under the Latin name nux moschata Californica. The wood was used for making bows.
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- Wiggers, H. A. L. (1855). "Bericht über die Leistungen in der Pharmacognosle und Pharmacie". Canstatt's Jber. Fortschr. Pharm. 4 (1): 1–210. Retrieved 2012.
- Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Torreya californica. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006.
- Gymnosperm Database: Torreya californica
- Torreya Guardians: Torreya californica
- Photos of foliage and mature seed cones and pollen cones and immature seed cones.