Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Florida Torreya and Torreya State Park

One of the most remarkable trees in the world grows along the steep bluffs and ravines overlooking the Apalachicola River in Gadsden and Liberty Counties, Florida.

The Florida Torreya was discovered at Alum Bluff during the early 1800s by Hardy Bryan Croom, a noted early botonist. He noticed groves of the unusual tree and became curious when he did not recognize it as a known species. He sent samples to the leading botonists of the era, who determined that he had indeed discovered a new species of tree. Croom named it the Torreya, in honor of Dr. John Torrey, a famed scientist of the era.

Early settlers of the region used the Torreya, which they called the "stinking cedar," for a variety of purposes. It made excellent fence posts and shingles and was also used as fuel to power paddlewheel steamboats on the Apalachicola River. They also developed a legend that it was the "gopher wood" from which Noah built the ark.

During the 20th century, a blight infected the groves of Torreya trees along the Apalachicola River and they were almost wiped from the face of the earth. No adult trees survived and seedlings would die when they reached a certain age. There is a deliberate effort underway now to save the trees through careful plantings and strict preservation.

The best place to see the Torreya tree is at Torreya State Park between Bristol and Chattahoochee. To learn more, please visit

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