Torreya jackii - Weeping Torreya

  • Posted on: 28 November 2018

During a visit to China many years ago we documented a cultivated plant of Torreya jackii for our Dendrological Atlas project. It was more than clear that this is a most distinctive species not only in the genus, but also in comparison with a broader circle of conifers.

It took many years until we could see it in the wild in Zhejiang Province, not far from the native habitat of the Baishanzu fir, in May 1995. This was enough for taking a good series of photos – however, no (arillate) seeds were produced in that population of Torreya jackii in that year… Again, a few years have passed until in September 2003 we could see the species at another location – the Baiyun Quan National Tourist Park near Lusi village, Tonglu County, at around 500 m elevation.

This is a rather undisturbed area with subtropical vegetation containing scattered specimens of the Torreya (in both open places and shady position as an understorey plant) and Cephalotaxus fortunei (mainly as understorey). Associating plants included Ficus sarmentosa, Ilex latifolia, Lindera glauca, Lonicera hypoglauca, Philadelphus sericanthus, Smilax davidiana, Syzygium buxifolium, and others. Searched for seeds – and there were none…!

We were unlucky again. But next year our colleague Jin Xiaofeng, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, was kind enough to email some digital photos of the arillate seeds he could fortunately photograph for us in the same area. Three of these images are marked accordingly (see below).

One of them have been included in the species plate in Conifers Around the World. Thank you again for these, Jin! – Torreya jackii, as turned out after more than 20 years of cultivation in Hungary, has been withstanding severe colds down to -18 degrees Celsius, one of many experiences here with plants of subtropical climates.