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Despite its longtime discovery, this very interesting cycad is still very much of a mystery. Seed of it continues to drift into collections from many sources, but definite localities are still very sketchy. Originally located in the Normanby Ranges and named for them, this species has also been sighted near the south Burdekin River and in the adjacent range districts.
I could not find much data on the Normanby Range area, however, Vince Winkel, one time curator of Cairns Gardens, who has always been a keen plant researcher, came into that range country while on a plant finding ramble west of Bowen. Vince states further that the species C. normanbyana is still in colonies throughout the range along with a very tall form of C. kennedyana. As for C. normanbyana, it predominates.
The best stand I have seen is the double row of these plants at the Old Gloucester Park Resort just north of Cannonvale and Dingo Beach. This Gloucester Park colony, if it can be called so, grows in grey coastal wallum sand and in typical wallum scrub. Banksia, Melaleuca and Casuarina are natural to the area.
Possibilities are that only remnants of them remain in any natural habitat, so if there is any danger that the area may be developed again, government authorities should preserve this stand for all time, as an island owner did with the ancient stand of C. media on Brampton Island off Mackay. The male cones of the plants viewed were very interesting and colourful, shaped like a Moscow minaret, in elongated form, the deeply ferruginous cone has an enhancing golden orange hue.
The female megasporophylls are quite distinctive, generally
having only 2 ovules which are orange-brown, and when mature
hang pendantly. The caudex of fine diamond shaped leaf bases,
is stout and firm being approximately 2m in height (in
specimens seen) the fronds arching perfectly from the apex of
the plants in multiple dense rows. The mature fronds are dark
shiny green and in some ways they have similarities to
Cycas revoluta. This species seems to revel in a
L. P. Butt from Palms & Cycads No. 27, Apr-Jun 1990.