Cycas sp Marlborough

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Not a great deal is known regarding this blue foliaged Cycas and since its 'discovery' little has been done botanically to identify it. News of it caused the usual rush by collectors, nursery persons and also, some non-caring individuals who pillage a species leaving little for even possible botanical identification.

It now appears that the species occurs right through the ranges around Marlborough, Queensland. The main habitat is in rocky, sloping and open eucalypt-forest (iron-bark country) with little vegetative surround. The soil is very poor. Much of the area contains magnasite rock which is of a hard nature. Plants occur along hilly outcrops and in lower regions near creek systems.

Could it be that the geological base determines the blueness of the fronds? If the colouring is found to be permanent after long cultivation, and in various localities, the Cycas has very good landscape potential and yet another that warrants our concern as a plant in danger. Reports at hand indicate that this Cycas grows near stands of Macrozamia miquelii and Cycas media.

It is a medium sized species having a stout caudex with a pronounced swollen base. Mature fronds are arching, especially in low specimens and are generally quite dense. The pinnae are attached to the rachis V-shaped but flattened out at a later stage. The apex is deep rusty brown and tomentose. Sporophylls are many toothed at the apex with 3 to 5 ovules per megasporophyll. Seed is light brown at maturity. An interesting observation is that the ascending centre fronds are initially sky blue and become powder blue when hardened.

Most caudices are charcoal grey, covered with dead leaf bases in diamond patterns. Offsets, severed from the parent plant, are extremely slow in forming new fronds. These Cycas all have a distinct blue colouration to both the fronds (including the rachis) and fruit. The fine, paired pinnae are very stiff with pointed apices and remain upright along the rachis throughout their lifetime. While the majority of large plants only had a trunk to 1.5m, two specimens were measured with 3m trunks. Both were in the same colony, which is the largest of any colony observed to date.

Contributed by:

L. P. Butt from Palms & Cycads No. 27, Apr-Jun 1990.

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