E. natalensis

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There are a considerable number of recorded leaf variations found within the E.natalensis complex. This cycad occurs from the Transkei, through KwaZulu Natal to as far north as the Vryheid district. The leaves are green,1.3-3.2m long and are usually straight although sometimes with a recurving umbrella-like foliage. The stems can grow up to 7m tall.

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“Natal Giant Cycad

Encephalartos natalensis is a species of cycad that is found in Qumbu and Tabankulu areas of the northern part of the Eastern Cape, through most of KwaZulu-Natal up to the upper catchment areas of the Mkuze and Umfolozi rivers near Vryheid in South Africa.

It is an evergreen quick-growing cycad, up to 6.5 m high and with a stem or trunk of about 0.4 m in diameter. The stem sometimes branches, but reclines only when other stems emerge from the base. It has a golden, woolly crown, which increases on production of cones or new whorls of leaves. The leaves are of medium size, about 1.5-3 m long and slightly curved or straight. The leaflets are about 160-230 x 25-45 mm, dark green and entire or with 1-5 teeth on one or both margins. The lower leaflets are reduced to spines. New leaves and cones are covered with yellowish brown wool. There are separate male and female plants; both genders produce 2 or 3 orangy-yellow to orangy-red cones.

The male cones are cylindrical, yellowish-green, velvety, about 450-500 mm long, and 90-120 mm across, and shed their pollen in April to June. The female cones are oblong to oblong-ovate, about 500-600 mm long and 250-300 mm in diameter. The faces of the cone scales are wrinkled. The cones disintegrate spontaneously from November to January, each yielding 415-510 bright red seeds which are about 25-35 mm long and 12-18 mm in diameter.

The specific name natalensis means from Natal, which is now KwaZulu-Natal. This cycad is the most variable of all Encephalartos species.


semi-shade dark green low watering fast growth frost-resistant common
semi-shade dark green low watering fast growth frost-resistant common

Propagate from seed. Encephalartos natalensis grows relatively quickly and thrives in light shade or sun. Plant it in a well-drained rich soil mixture and give it moderate moisture. Some forms of E. natalensis are much more frost resistant than others, but give all of them some protection from cold when young. Plant seedlings into the garden when about 3 years old, and with leaves about 1 m long. Remove any old and dead leaves.”

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