This beautiful, uncommon tree is an endemic that grows only in California. Even here, it is elusive–small groves can be found in the deep woods. The needles look vaguely like redwood needles in the way they grow in a flat plane, but those of California nutmeg are sharply pointed at the tip. It has reddish, shallowly furrowed bark. Male and female trees are separate.
The seeds of California nutmeg are edible, reportedly tasting somewhat like peanuts. An oil derived from the nuts makes a good cooking oil. The tree’s name likely comes from the superficial resemblance the inside of the seed has to nutmeg. The range of California nutmeg (Torreya californica) has two distinct areas: one in the Coast Ranges and one in the Cascade-Sierra Nevada foothills.
This tree was photographed on the Stairstep Falls trail in Samuel P. Taylor park.