Cycas champion

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File:Cycas surprise.jpg
Figure 1. Cycas sp. 'Champion's Blue Surprise' in habitat.

My first encounter with the Cycas of the Mt Surprise Gemfields, north Queensland, was in April of 1985 when a colony was 'discovered' beside Lower O'Briens Creek amongst granite outcrops. On subsequent visits to these Gemfields, several other colonies have been observed. All of these Cycas colonies are amongst granite outcrops and mostly on hillslope. The surrounding vegetation is mixed, low, open, grassy woodland containing Acacia spp., Eucalypts and Cochlospermum gregorii which is quite common.

These Cycas often grow in between or beside some very large granite boulders and outcrops. They have only been observed in colonies and never as scattered individuals which is the habit of many of the tree species of this fossicking area which extends in various directions for about 10km. Seed distribution is probably the influencing factor here as there is no obvious difference between sites where they occur and those where they do not. In one colony, Callicarpa candicans and Phyfiodium pulchellum were also growing in the shelter of large granite slabs.

File:Cycas surprise1.jpg
Figure 2. Mature seeds

Data Notes:

Habitat is open woodland amongst granite outcrops; decomposed granite soil. Locality of colony along Lower O'Briens Creek Mr. Surprise gemfields approximately 150km due north of Chudleigh Station. Caudex height varies from average of 1.0m to a few large plants being 3.0m from base to start of fronds. Diameter about 20.0cm, no branching observed, although suckering was found in only one instance. Leaf frond 90.0cm, rachis 82.0cm; Colour a very vivid powder blue.

Contributed by:

Len Butt (from Palms & Cycads No. 27, Apr-Jun 1990).
I.G. Champion (Figures 1&2).

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