Billy Grant

Billy Grant with the Cedartown Tree Commission is looking to help save a tree species native to Florida by transplanting it into Peek Park. It is hoped with a change of habitat and cooler temperatures the tree might survive. (Kevin Myrick/Standard Journal)

Cedartown tree lover Billy Grant is hoping to help save the endangered Florida nutmeg tree as part of a project with the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the DNR.

A longtime inhabitant of the Apalachicola River is looking to find a home here in Cedartown as the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the state’s Department of Natural Resources are teaming up with local growers to give a species a new lease on life.

That is the great hope of officials who want to bring the Torreya taxifolia, also known commonly as the Florida nutmeg tree and many other names, back from the brink of total extinction after years of being an endangered species.

Rebecca Byrd from the Atlanta Botanical Garden was joined by local and state officials and one local man who has already planted one tree at Peek Park in Cedartown, one he has grown since 2008.

“We have 1,600 seedlings available that we’re hoping to find a home for,” Byrd said. “Our goal is bring several of those here.”

The seedlings are coming from trees that have reached maturity at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and at state research stations trying to bring the Florida nutmeg back from the brink.

Two of the trees are left in the wild in their natural habitat in the Apalachicola River valley, and have previously grown under specific conditions. The number of trees in the wild dwindled over the years due to climate change, said Cedartown Tree Commission’s Billy Grant.

Grant, who donated his own Torreya taxifolia specimen to the cause, is hoping the Atlanta Botanical Gardens will bring several seedlings to grow and hopefully prosper.

“Right now this an experiment,” Byrd said. “We’re not sure what it will do this far north.”

The hope is with a move into areas like Northwest Georgia and others experimenting with plantings across the state, they can fight the right habitat for the tree to prosper again, and then one day be able to reintroduce it back into Florida.

Though a site has been picked out in the park, there are still details to work out and planting of the new trees by Public Works officials won’t come until November.