E. friderici-guilielmi

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This cycad is found in the high altitude grasslands of Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Although it experiences harsh growing conditions in its natural habitat, it is very adaptable to different climatic conditions. A slow growing cycad with leaves just over 1m and stems up to 4m tall

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“White-haired Cycad

Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi, also known as the white-haired cycad, is native to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa, at elevations of 700 up to 1400 meters. Although it experiences harsh growing conditions in its natural habitat, it is very adaptable to different climatic conditions. It is a vigorous grower, easy to cultivate and develops a stout stem. This is one of the most attractive cycad species and was named in 1834 in honour of Friedrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia, who was a patron of botany.

The stem of Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi ranges from 400-600 mm in diameter and can grow to a height of 4 m. At this height, the stem tends to lean and eventually settles flat on the ground with the crown curved upwards. Adult plants may develop up to six stems and sucker freely from the base. The crown of the stem is covered in loose brown hair, particularly when new leaves and cones are produced.

The leaves are 1.0-1.5 m long, fairly straight, and tend to spread out horizontally when the cones appear. They are blue-green and darken as they age. The leaflets are 100-180 mm long, are closely spaced with a sharp point at the tip but have no teeth on the upper or lower margins.

Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi bears the largest number of cones in the genus. Male plants produce up to 12 cones and a female plant as many as six. The cones are covered in yellowish hairs which darken to a brown or beige when mature. The male cones are 200-400 x 60-100 mm. Female cones are barrel-shaped, 250-300 x 150-200 mm, and remain on the plant for more than six months before disintegrating to disperse the seeds.


full sun blue-green very low watering average growth frost-hardy common
full sun blue-green very low watering average growth frost-hardy common

Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi requires full sun and good drainage to do well in a garden. It will not do well in the shade. This species would be ideal in a rockery surrounded by low-growing succulents.

Cycads require regular feeding to maintain a healthy plant. An annual application of well-matured compost in the autumn improves the condition of the soil. In the early spring, apply two handfuls of a mixture of bone meal, organic fertilizer and a balanced inorganic fertilizer to each plant. High pressure irrigation systems damage the leaves and stems of cycads and they need to be avoided; this species does not require a great deal of water. In very dry areas, watering with a sprinkler will be adequate.

Propagation of Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi can be done by sowing seed or removing well-matured suckers from the mother plant. To produce true to type seed it is necessary to hand-pollinate the female cone with pollen harvested from a male cone of the same species. The seed is sown in the spring on a bed of clean, coarse sand which has bottom heat of 25-28°C. This species is slow to germinate and can take up to a year before all of the seed has germinated. The radicle develops first followed by the leaves and within 10 months the seedlings are removed and potted into a 3-liter plastic sleeve containing a well-drained growing medium. The seedlings are watered sparingly until the first signs of growth appear.

Propagation by division involves removing well-developed suckers of approximately 250 mm diameter from the mother plant. Early spring is an ideal time when all leaves are removed from the sucker which is then carefully eased away from the main stem. The sucker needs to be left to dry off the wound before planting in clean sand which encourages root development. Once well-rooted, the sucker can be planted out in the open ground.

Pests encountered are scale mealy bugs, caterpillars and snout beetles. Spray with a contact insecticide. Snout beetles destroy cycad seed. Scale and mealy bugs occur on the underside of the leaves. A tiny gall midge can damage new leaves as they appear and they turn black. As new leaves start appearing, the crown of the stem needs to be sprayed with a contact insecticide once every two weeks.”


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