Cycas kennedyana

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Figure 1. C. kennedyana

Possibly one of the most intriguing forms of our cycadaceae, is the variable Cycas kennedyana named for Sir A. Kennedy. Every enthusiast studying Australian indigenous flora, knows just how diverse and variable to extremes the varieties can be. In our Zamiaceae Macrozamia miquelii bears witness to this. It is also apparent in our Cycadaceae, and some of our newer 'finds' may yet turn out to be forms of known species. Cycas kennedyana is no exception, and to date it appears so varied in appearance at different localities, that the word affinity should probably be used when trying to research which one is the 'type' species.

Approximately 75 kilometres southwest of Bundaberg and situated in the Burnett Ranges, Mount Perry is probably the most southern home of a form of Cycas kennedyana and according to reports, small colonies of this same type follow the ranges northward to a more pronounced sighting in the Many Peaks range south of Gladstone. Other sightings have been in the Biloela district and again it is found growing thickly on the slopes of Mount Morgan west of Rockhampton. In all cases, the nearby species is Cycas media.

The form known as Cycas Mt. Perry sp. is apparently the same as occurs near Gladstone, and despite a few botanical differences can be assessed affinity Cycas kennedyana. The narrow caudex and small compact crown distinguish this plant. The caudex is generally only 10.0-15cm thick and rises to a height of perhaps 2m. Largest plants observed between Mt. Perry and Gladstone possibly 3m in height. The very glaucous crown of fronds rise from the apex in a neat palmlike crest. The pinnae are blue-grey on both surfaces and in the male plant the cones are a rusty brown and rather narrow, 15cm x 10cm. The usual circinate new fronds are very attractive being fawn in the rachis and light powder blue in the uncoiling pinnae. The ovules are yellowish brown at maturity, and have some similarities to Cycas media. The Cycas from Biloela and again at Mt. Morgan, are also in the C. kennedyana group with the Mt. Morgan being near to the type species; The heavy glaucous coating being on one surface of the leaf. The leafy crown is larger and more prominent than the Mt. Perry form. The caudex here is noticeably thicker and fully developed specimens are reported to reach 4m in height. The male cones are similar to the aforementioned species but longer and thicker. Circular ovules observed were generally 4 to a megasporophyll, and the head of this is small and acutely pointed, having only tiny serrations along its edges.

The most northern locality is placed at Bowen. However, I have found small sightings of a very similar species at Abergowrie on the west side of the Cardwell Range and also in sandy wallum near the coast just out of the Cardwell township. Most of the habitats are in open eucalypt forest generally on steep hill slopes, or in the valleys adjacent, terrain being hard and slightly rocky. The exception being the Cardwell form.

Both the mountain range forms and wallum types are attractive and seem to settle well into cultivation even in cooler climates All fronds observed 1.0-1.5m, so the two metre fronds mentioned by some botanists must have been from a form north of Rockhampton. These forms also appear to have longer fronds. Another growth pattern observed on all forms is that the fronds twist and curve being very flexuous. Old fronds hang pendant in a ring around the top of the caudex. One time curator of Cairns Botanical Gardens, Vince Winkel, reports that while travelling west from Bowen he stumbled on that elusive range in the Great Divide where C. normanbyana is said to have first been found, the Normanby Range the latter Cycas is still growing there and also the type specimen of Cycas kennedyana has substantial colonies in the range. This form is the taller one with longer fronds.

Contributed by:

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

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