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Japanese Nutmeg (Torreya nucifera)

Japanese Nutmeg A native of Japan, this small evergreen tree belongs to the yew family (Taxaceae). It is one of five species of the genus Torreya, two of which are native to the U.S. (T. californica and T. taxifolia). A good example of Japanese Nutmeg can be seen at the upper end of the Arboretums Dwarf Conifer Collection next to the Valley Road. The leaves are two-ranked, and when crushed, they have a pungent odor.

Japanese Nutmeg Pollen Cones Double rows of the male strobili (pollen cones) are conspicuous along the underside of some of the branches duriing winnter. The male and female cones are often found on separate branches of the same tree. The fruit is a single seed surrounded by a fleshy structure similar to the aril of yews. The nut-like seeds are edible and are pressed for a type of cooking oil.

In Japan this species may reach a height of 75 ft. The wood is highly valued for construction of boards used for the ancient game of Go. The species has been over-harvested in Japan and has become rare.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu