Herb: California Nutmeg

Latin name: Torreya californica

Synonyms: Torreya myristica, Tumion californicum

Family: Cephalotaxaceae (Plum Yew Family)

Medicinal use of California Nutmeg:

The nuts have been chewed as a treatment for indigestion. A decoction of the nuts has been used in the treatment of tuberculosis. The crushed seeds have been rubbed on the temples in the treatment of headaches. They have also been rubbed on the body to cause sweating in the treatment of chills and fevers.

Description of the plant:


15 m
(49 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Borders of mountain streams, cool shady slopes and canyons, 900 - 1400 metres.

Edible parts of California Nutmeg:

Seed - raw or cooked. The seeds are roasted and eaten. They are rich in oil. The ovoid seed is up to 2cm long. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.

Other uses of the herb:

The roots have been used as splints in basketry. Wood - straight-grained, strong, light, soft, easily worked. Of no commercial value, though it is occasionally used for fence posts.

Propagation of California Nutmeg:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Some of the seed should germinate in the following spring though much of it might take another 12 months. Stored seed requires a period of cold stratification and can take 18 months or more to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as growth is observed and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least the next couple of winters, making sure to pot them on into larger pots as and when required. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer when the plants are at least 20cm tall. Cuttings of half-ripe shoots in late summer. Cuttings do not grow well. Layering.

Cultivation of the herb:

Borders of mountain streams, cool shady slopes and canyons, 900 - 1400 metres.

Known hazards of Torreya californica:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.