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Goal: Apply Knowledge Globally Detecting the pathogen that stalks the Florida torreya, a critically endangered tree

The critically endangered Florida torreya tree has a limited range of only three counties in Florida and Georgia. (Courtesy photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

Introduction

Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) is a critically endangered conifer with a very limited range in the U.S. A canker disease caused by the fungus Fusarium torreyae is suspected as the cause of its current decline. SRS scientists developed an accurate method for detecting this pathogen. The new detection method will be critical to restoration and preservation efforts – it will allow plant material to be tested for the pathogen before it is planted in new, non-infected locations.

Summary

Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) is a critically endangered conifer with a very limited range in the U.S.: two counties in northern Florida and one in southwest Georgia, along the Apalachicola River. The species was once abundant in its small native range. However, in the late 1950s to early 1960s approximately 99 percent of Florida torreya trees died. Recently, a canker disease caused by Fusarium torreyae was identified as the primary cause of current Florida torreya decline.

Efforts to restore and preserve the species in situ and ex situ are hampered by lack of pathogen-free planting stock. Methods to verify whether the pathogen is present in seeds and seedlings will make restoration efforts much more effective. SRS researchers developed a new diagnostic method that enables detection of the pathogen and allows conservation programs to ensure germplasm is free of the pathogen prior to planting.

Principal Investigator
Tyler Dreaden, Plant Pathologist
RWU
4160 - Forest Genetics and Ecosystems Biology, Forest Health Research and Education Center
Strategic Program Areas
Invasive Species
Resource Management and Use
Publication
Detection method for Fusarium torreyae the canker pathogen of the critically endangered Florida torreya, Torreya taxifolia
CompassLive Article
Detecting the Pathogen That Stalks the Endangered Florida Torreya
External Partners
Jason Smith - University of Florida
Tania Quesada - University of Florida
Atlanta Botanical Garden