Encephalartos delucanus

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Encephalartos delucaneus.jpg

Contents

Distribution:

In the mountains of west Tanzania within 50 km of Lake Tanganika.

Stems:

Normally subterranean, mature when 15 cm. in diameter, growing up to 25 cm. in diameter. One female plant had a stem of almost 1 metre in height above the ground and 30 cm in diameter. This plant must have been exceptionally old. A male plant that we found consisted of 50+ large bulbs, and another had around 200 separate caudices.

Leaves:

Up to 80 cm. long and a fresh green colour, slightly recurved. There were a few small spines on both margins of the leaflets and the old leaves of the plants visited had been burnt by the annual fires in the region. Plants are most attractive.

Cones:

The female cones emerge green and become a yellow brown colour on maturity. The male cones we saw were a light yellow and appeared to be scorched brown from the fires. The seeds are red.

Observations:

After a nine hour walk into the mountains we were stunned to find a single male plant of E. delucanus consisting of over 200 caudices in a huge clump measuring four metres in diameter. A search of cycad literature revealed the largest previously discovered cycad clump was the previously discovered clump of E. schmitzii found in Zambia that consisted of over 50 caudices and over one metre in diameter. This male plant of E. delucanus may be the largest ever discovered. Its age must be staggering! The species is exceptionally beautiful and very hardy.

In cultivation:

Plants of E. delucanus are extremely rare and this species is completely unknown in cultivation. Fertile seed may never be available and the plants in the areas that we visited were so widely distributed that no seedling recruitment was possible.

Contributed by:

Peter Heibloem, Cycad Gardens.
Reproduced from Palms & Cycads No. 60&61, July-Dec 1998.

External Links:

Cycad Pages, IUCN, JSTOR, Trebrown

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