The ‘Voi cycad,’ Encephalartos kisambo, is a large, very attractive species and is sought after in the horticultural trade although it is not that common in cultivation because of its large size. It is a very robust species and even quite young plants can produce some good big long leaves. The most noticeable feature of this species is the unusually swollen base of the rachis with the subsequent distinctive leaf scars on the caudex. ypical of all the family, the plants are dioecious.
Origin and Habitat: Encephalartos kisambo is found in southern Kenya on the slopes of Maungu (Marungu) Hills near Voi and from the Mulilonyi, Nyangala, Sagala, Rukinga and Kasigau hills. It is also recorded from northern Tanzania on Kisima Hill in the Mkomazi Game Reserve. It is known only from four locations and is severely fragmented. The population is estimated to number about 5,000 mature individuals.
Altitude range: 800 to 1.800 metres above sea level.
Habitat and Ecology: This species occurs in closed to open evergreen cloud forest on steep mountain slopes. They occur as infrequent populations or individuals on steep, moist, well-wooded slopes of inselberg and hills surrounded by dry savana. Although most plants occur in moist forest situations, some are found hugging cliffs and drier rocky promontories in the open. Frequent mist occurs. It is worth noting that all specimens growing in the open reached only two-thirds the size of those in partial shade with regard to both trunk and leaf development, probably indicative of the more favourable humid conditions under the forest canopy. There are lot of young plants and seedlings so regeneration is good but there is continuing decline due to collectors and habitat destruction. There is ongoing illegal targeting of plants and seeds by cycad collectors. Forest and bush is also being cleared for expanding agriculture.
Cultivation and Propagation: Encephalartos kisambo is an adaptable plant well suited to warm temperate and subtropical climates where it is one of the most spectacular and rewarding species for the home garden. It is more moisture-tolerant than most South African cycads. Even though the habitat of E. kisambo is close to the equator, the high elevation at which it occurs gives it a remarkable degree of cold tolerance, but is unlikely to handle frost. It is a vigorous grower especially when planted in raised beds in the garden or in deep pots which allow extra room for the tap root to develop. It can also be grown in full sun without its leaves burning. It is long lived and moderately fast growing. Its beauty and ease of horticulture make it one of the finest cycads for use in the garden. As a garden plant, this cycad will usually hold two or three crowns of leaves, all in good condition.
“Encephalartos kisambo” Text available under a CC-BY-SA Creative Commons Attribution License. www.llifle.com 14 Nov. 2005. 07 Mar 2021. </Encyclopedia/PALMS_AND_CYCADS/Family/Zamiaceae/29961/Encephalartos_kisambo>