Freitag, 27. April 2012

Plant of the Day (April 28, 2012) - Torreya nucifera (L.) Sieb. & Zucc.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is a new conifer. This time, it's Torreya nucifera (L.) Sieb. & Zucc. From the Taxaceae family, so it's related to Taxus baccata L. (yew), which I have already shown you in my blog before. In English, this plant is known as “Japanese nutmeg-yew” while the common German Name is “Japanische Nusseibe” (means the same). In Japan, the homeland of this species, this species is known as “Kaya” ().

T. nucifera - habitus

It's a evergreen tree, which can reach heights between 15 and 25 metres (49.2 to 82.0 feet). The bark has a brown color, while the branches are very long and slender. They give the tree a pyramidal look. The green, smooth needles are arranged in parallel rows (however, they are originally arranged in a spiral pattern, but the leaf-base is twisted). They have two white stomata-lines on their ventral site.

T. nucifera - bark

T. nucifera is normally dioecious, with male and female individuals. However, some trees can be monoecious or even bisexual. In Botany, such a plant is also called subdioecious. The male cones are globular and only a few millimetres long. They're arranged in doubles under the shoots and have a bright colour. Female cones are green and arranged in clusters at the end of the shoots with three to eight cones.
As with all Taxaceae, the seed of T. nucifera is surrounded by a fleshy layer: the Aril. In contrast to T. baccata, this Aril has a green colour. It's eaten by birds, which spread the seed.

T. nucifera  - leaves (dorsal site)

As the name suggest, T. nucifera is native to Japan (Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu) but can also be found on the Island of Jeju-Do, an autonomous province of South Korea. It's also planted in other parts of the world, especially in Botanical Gardens or parks. It grows on moist soils, but is otherwise very undemanding and can grow in shade or semi-shade and on sand, loam and clay.

T. nucifera - leaves (ventral site with white stomata-lines)

The wood has a beautiful, yellow colour and was used in Japan as timber. In past, they were used to make “Go” boards (“Go” or “囲碁” is a popular, Japanese Board Game), but because of overcutting, the tree is now protected. The seeds are also used to make vegetable oil.

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