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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    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade
Torreya nucifera Kaya, Japanese torreya

Torreya nucifera Kaya, Japanese torreya


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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.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 7. It is in leaf all year, and the seeds ripen from September to November. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Taxus nucifera.

Plant Habitats

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].

References   More on Edible Uses

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].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


None known

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

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].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

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.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

TEMPERATE ASIA: Japan (Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku), Korea, South (Jeju-teukbyeoljachido)

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Ephedra torreyanaMexican Tea, Torrey's jointfirShrub1.0 0-0  LMNDM23 
Pinus torreyanaSoledad Pine, Torrey pine, Santa Cruz Island Torrey pine, Soledad pine, Torrey pineTree20.0 8-11 FLMNDM323
Torreya californicaCalifornia NutmegTree15.0 6-9 SLMHFSNM312
Torreya fargesii Tree20.0 6-9 SLMHFSNM203
Torreya grandisChinese Nutmeg TreeTree25.0 7-10 SLMHFSNM213
Torreya jackii Tree10.0 7-10 SLMHFSNM202
Torreya yunnanensisYunnan Nutmeg YewTree15.0 7-10 SLMHFSNM203

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

   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

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

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.


   Mon Dec 3 2007

Go boards, torreya yunnanensis is also used. Would like to know the actullal quality difference of the woods.

   Sat Apr 12 2008

Alaska White Spruce are also used to make Go board and considered the best alternate to Kaya.

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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