Encephalartos msinganus occurs in a small area in the Msinga district, in the drainage area of the Buffels River, which runs into the Tugela, east of Tugela Ferry, KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. It grows in short grassland on steep north-facing slopes, usually amongst boulders in scrub clumps. Plants are less commonly found on sandstone cliff faces, more or less in direct sunlight. Unconfirmed reports suggest that plants growing on different aspects had slight differences in leaf morphology.
The trunks are well developed, often sprouting from the bases to form clumps. The trunk is erect but usually leaning to some extent, up to 3m tall and about 350mm thick, covered with the usual geometrical pattern of old leaf bases and the crown is covered with dense brown wool.
The leaves are of medium length, 1100mm to 1500mm long, rigid, usually straight but sometimes slightly arched and dark glossy green. The petioles (leaf stalks) are thornless, hairless, and short at 20mm to 100mm long.
The leaflets at the basal end of the leaf are progressively reduced in size towards the base of the leaf with the lowermost in the form of prickles. The leaflets situated at about the middle of the leaf are pointed towards the apex of the leaf at an angle of about 60° with the leaf axis (rachis). Opposing leaflets are placed with an angle of about 90° between them, they are spaced 15mm to 25mm apart, not overlapping or with the lower margin slightly overlapping the upper margin of the leaflet below it when viewing the upper surface. The leaflets are hard in texture, narrowly ovate, without teeth or with teeth on both margins. The apices end in sharp and hard spines. The leaflets are 140mm to 170mm long and 16mm to 20mm wide.
The male cones are on stalks up to 70mm long, 2 to 4 per stem, very narrowly egg-shaped, appearing hairless, pale yellow, and 300mm to 400mm long and 110mm to 120mm across. The exposed faces of the cone scales are rhombic, and drawn out into prominent drooping beaks towards their terminal facet which is the only facet to be clearly defined.
The female cones are sessile (i.e. not stalked), egg-shaped, one to two per stem, initially greenish yellow but turning brighter yellow as they become mature but with the colour to a greater or lesser extent masked by a cloak of brown, felt-like hair, and about 420mm long and 220mm across in the typical example measured. The exposed faces of the cone scales have poorly defined facets, are more or less raised towards the terminal facet, and warty. The seeds have a bright red sarcotesta (fleshy covering layer).
|semi-shade||dark green||very low watering||fast growth||frost-hardy||rare|
Encephalartos msinganus appears to be free from vices and tolerant of maltreatment. Plants grown from seed in Stellenbosch, a place with cool wet winters and short summers, grow about as fast as E. aemulans, E. lebomboensis, and E. natalensis. Like all cycads, E. msinganus grows under very well-drained conditions. In addition, temperatures are decidedly high, rainfall probably not much higher than 600mm per year, and they grow more or less in blazing sunlight.”
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