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Torreya nucifera - (L.)Siebold.&Zucc.                
Common Name Kaya, Japanese torreya
Family Cephalotaxaceae
USDA hardiness 6-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Moist valley bottoms[81].
Range E. Asia - C. and S. Japan.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of cone
Torreya nucifera is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7. It is in leaf 12-Jan, and the seeds ripen from Sep to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

Synonyms Taxus nucifera.
Torreya nucifera Kaya, Japanese torreya

Torreya nucifera Kaya, Japanese torreya
Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil.

Seed - raw, cooked or used in confectionery[1, 63, 105, 183]. An agreeable sweet slightly resinous flavour[11]. An aromatic flavour[46], it is much relished and is eaten in quantity[178] though it is said to be laxative if eaten in excess[2]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[1, 2, 1, 63, 178, 183]. Used in cooking[183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Anodyne;  Anthelmintic;  Carminative;  Digestive;  Laxative;  Pectoral.

The seeds are anthelmintic[63, 147, 178, 218]. They are used in the treatment of several parasitic conditions including hookworm, tapeworms, pinworms and roundworms[279]. The plant is anodyne, carminative, digestive, laxative and pectoral[63, 147, 178, 218].
Other Uses

None known
Cultivation details                                         
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil, tolerating some lime[1]. Prefers an acid soil[200]. Dislikes wind exposure[200]. Requires a sheltered position and either high humidity or a moist riverside soil[200]. Tolerates woodland shade very well[200]. Requires hot, very humid summers for best growth[200]. Trees are probably not hardy in all parts of Britain, but should succeed quite far north. A tree at Wakehurst Place was 11 metres tall in 1970[185]. A shrub growing in the shade of coniferous trees at Kew was about 2.5 metres tall and 4 metres wide in September 1993[K], it was carrying a very heavy crop of fruit[K]. No fruit was formed in 1994[K]. A specimen at Cambridge Botanical Gardens was 6 metres tall and 6 metres wide, it was carrying an enormous crop of seed in the late summer of 1996[K]. This plant has an excellent potential as a nut crop in Britain[K]. Sometimes cultivated for its edible seed in Japan, the variety 'Shibunashigaya' is considered to be the best for seed production[46]. The seed takes two summers to mature[229]. Plants are dioecious so both male and female plants are required if seed is to be produced. Occasional trees are monoecious with dioecious branches. Solitary trees have been seen on a number of occasions with heavy crops of fertile seed, so it would appear that the tree is not dioecious[K].
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[1]. Cuttings do not grow well[11]. Layering.
Related Plants                                         
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Ephedra torreyanaMexican Tea, Torrey's jointfir23
Pinus torreyanaSoledad Pine, Torrey pine, Santa Cruz Island Torrey pine, Soledad pine, Torrey pine32
Torreya californicaCalifornia Nutmeg31
Torreya fargesii 20
Torreya grandisChinese Nutmeg Tree21
Torreya jackii 20
Torreya yunnanensisYunnan Nutmeg Yew20
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[63]Howes. F. N. Nuts.
Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.
[81]Rushforth. K. Conifers.
Deals with conifers that can be grown outdoors in Britain. Good notes on cultivation and a few bits about plant uses.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[147]? A Barefoot Doctors Manual.
A very readable herbal from China, combining some modern methods with traditional chinese methods.
[178]Stuart. Rev. G. A. Chinese Materia Medica.
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[185]Mitchell. A. F. Conifers in the British Isles.
A bit out of date (first published in 1972), but an excellent guide to how well the various species of conifers grow in Britain giving locations of trees.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[229]Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
[279] Medicinal Plants in the Republic of Korea
An excellent book with terse details about the medicinal uses of the plants with references to scientific trials. All plants are described, illustrated and brief details of habitats given.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Fri May 23 08:00:55 2003
This plant is used for traditional japanese go boards (a board game). See http://senseis.xmp.net/?Kaya
Elizabeth H.
Hans Walthaus Tue Nov 11 17:27:51 2003
Other uses:

The kaya wood is most famous for it's use in Goban's. A goban is a table for playing the board game Igo

Elizabeth H.
Sandy Harris Sun Jul 31 04:33:25 2005
The tree also yields the anti-cancer drug taxol, but since it is a slow-growing tree and there are not many of them, not enough.


Elizabeth H.
Mon Dec 3 2007
Go boards, torreya yunnanensis is also used. Would like to know the actullal quality difference of the woods.
Elizabeth H.
Sat Apr 12 2008
Alaska White Spruce are also used to make Go board and considered the best alternate to Kaya.
Elizabeth H.
dn Thu May 1 2008
From memoryaT.nucifera is pretty wind tolerent, took gales with just a little inadequate shelter. It seemed to do ok with some salt spray. I don't know how well they did compared with a sheltered spot, never seemedto grow much. Might be worth a try.
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