This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
An excellent figure is here given of this fine evergreen coniferous tree, which has been raised by Messrs. Veitch. It is said by Mr. W. Lobb to grow 30 to 40 feet high, in the elevated regions of Sierra Nevada of California. Its foliage resembles that of Cephalotaxus Fortuni The seeds are as large as nutmegs, and have the same kind of alburnum (called by botanists ruminated), whence they have gained the name of nutmegs in California. We find the following account of them in the last number of the "Pharmaceutical Journal;"
"About a year ago (says Prof Torrey) I received from the late Mr. Shelton, who had just returned from San Francisco, a specimen of what was called the California Nutmeg. I immediately considered it a species of Abnott's genus Torreya, belonging to the order Taxinesa of the great natural family of Coniferae, It had been discovered but a year or two before Mr. Shelton left the country, and had already attracted considerable attention, not only from the beauty of the tree, but from the singular character of the fruit and kernel, the latter strongly resembling the common nutmeg. Indeed, it has been frequently stated in letters from California that the Nutmeg is a native of that country. The foliage has the form and deep rich green of the Florida species, or T. taxifolia, as well as of the Yew; but the leaves are much larger, being from one and a half inch to two and a quarter inches long. They spread out on two sides, and are tipped with a sharp rigid point The fruit, as it may be popularly called, is about the size and form of a Greengage Plum, and in the dried state has a pale olive color, but this may not be its natural tint The outer covering is a thick, fleshy, nearly closed urceole, or dish, which completely invests the seed, and closely adheres to it, except near the summit.
It is smooth and even, and soft to the touch. The seed is usually oblong, and greatly resembles a large Pecane Nut, but frequently it is more ovate. The shell is smooth, thin, and fragile. On each side, near the summit and just below the non-adhering portion of the dish, is a perforation, communicating with an interior canal, similar to what I described in T. taxifolia, and the use of which is still unknown. The kernel is conformed to the shell, and has the external and internal appearance of the Nutmeg. When cut transversely the resemblance is perfect The seed, however, is wholly destitute of the delicate aromatic odor of the oriental spice, for it has the strong tere-binthine character of the Coniferae. Neither is the fleshy covering of any known use. It is more probable that, like the fleshy cup-a-berry of the Yew, it is of a poisonous nature. Still the discovery of this tree is interesting to the botanist and to the horticulturist But two other species are known besides. One of them (T. nucifera Sieb. and Zuce) is a native of Japan, and the other has only been found hitherto in Middle Florida, in very confined stations.
The latter is erroneously stated by Zuocarini to have a seed as large as a Walnut, by which he undoubtedly means the Juglant regia or Madeira-nut, as it is called in the United States. As an ornamental tree, the California Nutmeg deserves to be extensively cultivated. It must be hardy, as it grows on the mountains, where the winter is very severe. The enterprising Messrs. Parsons & Co., of Flushing, sent out a person to California for the express purpose of collecting the ornamental and useful plants of that country, and among other varieties he obtained, last year, some ripe and fresh seeds of the California Nutmeg. These germinated freely, and, when I saw the young plants last October, they had a healthy appearance, and had attained a good sue. I lave lately heard, also, that Mr. Lobb, an English collector, who has been exploring California.