The Gymnosperm Database


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Encephalartos natalensis

Dyer & Verdoorn 1951

Common names

Natal cycad, giant cycad; isiGqiki-somkhovu, umNgquabe (Zulu). The name isiGqiki-somkhovu is applied generally to Encephalartos species with trunks (Palmer & Pitman 1972).

Taxonomic notes


"Up to 20 feet (about 6 m) or more high, branched from the base or with a single trunk, it bears leaves up to 10 feet (3 m) long, with a twist towards the tips. The leaflets are broad - the middle ones up to nearly 2 inches (5 cm) in width - dark green, untoothed or with 1-5 prickles on one or sometimes both margins. The leaflets towards the base are reduced in size to prickles, a characteristic separating this species from E. altensteinii. ... The 2 to 3 cones are greenish-yellow and slightly woolly, the scales on the female covered with small protruberances. The seeds are scarlet and large - about 2 inches (5 cm) in length" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).

Distribution and Ecology

South Africa: "Cape-Natal border to northern Natal. Unlike E. altensteinii which it closely resembles, it is found in inland areas only. Its best-known setting is the gorge below the Howick Falls near Pietermaritzburg where, from the vantage point above, its palm-like leaves may be distinguished on the densely wooded slopes. ... A group of these trees in the Valley of a Thousand Hills has been proclaimed a National Monument" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).

Big tree

"More than a century ago a Natal botanist described one of these trees with a girth of 9 feet (2.7 m) and a trunk measuring 16 feet (4.8 m) before branching. He noted that one trunk filled a whole wagon" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).






See also

Jones (1993).

Last Modified 2017-12-29