Tower Grove Park launches a species recovery project

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Partnering with the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tower Grove Park Arboriculture Team launched a species recovery project to prevent the extinction of critically endangered Torreya taxifolia, a species of cedar. Through management of wild populations and establishment of ex situ safeguarding collections, the team will use best practices to monitor the species growth.

Ex situ means out of its natural habitat with human intervention,” explains Andy Berg, Arboriculture Manager at Tower Grove Park.

In 1984, Torreya taxifolia was one of the first federally listed endangered plant species in the United States due to a fungal blight which killed 98% of the mature trees.

Our team of arborists will grow the rare and endangered trees as a safeguarding collection that will be used as a seed orchard for future conservation work. Berg was given five trees in 2018 and has so far planted three in private areas of the Park. The other two remain in the nursery until safe spots are ready for them to be planted.

“The trees have transplanted nicely and have decent root growth. I’m brainstorming how to protect them through their first winter. They are a Florida native, so winter may be an obstacle.” Berg and his team have built safety structures to protect the trees from winter.

In addition to Tower Grove Park, the Missouri Botanical Garden is growing Torreya taxifolia as part of the collection. Although not available for public viewing, the trees are growing well.

Forests provide an essential of life for all living things on our planet– oxygen. A tree has the power to remove harmful gases like carbon dioxide, purifying the air we breathe. It is crucial to protect endangered tree species like Torreya taxifolia.

Berg and the team will record the trees’ annual growth, management practices, and any other pertinent information that will help in the conservation effort. The Park’s new arboretum status makes it easier to collaborate with renowned institutions, like the Atlanta Botanical Garden, on plant science initiatives.

About Tower Grove Park

One of only seven National Historic Landmark parks in the nation along with New York Central Park and Boston Public Garden, Tower Grove Park features an internationally renowned collection of Victorian park architecture and an internationally recognized arboretum, serving over 2.5 million visitors annually. 

Michelle Lawrence