E. nubimontanus

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This cycad grows in a small area in the Northern Province, where the remaining plants cling to sheer cliff-faces. Several forms of E. nubimontanus exist with leaflets ranging from entire, to very thorny, with stems up to 2m tall.

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“Blue Cycad

Encephalartos nubimontanus(Latin: nubis, black, and montanus, mountain) used to occur in the Drakensberg in the Limpopo province, South Africa. Plants were found in low open deciduous woodland on cliff faces and in direct sunlight, along the mountain range to the north and east of Penge. Occurred at an altitude of 1,000 m.

It was originally known from 66 plants, only 8 were counted in a 2001 survey and none could be found in a 2004 survey despite very careful searching. The species is popular with collectors and there has been much poaching activity in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

It is most similar to E. cupidus, differing in the larger and arborescent habit and the longer leaves with longer petioles and often recurving tips. Apical cone-scales are in both seed and pollen cones of E. nubimontanus. They are sterile and extended, unlike those of E. cupidus, and cones are glaucous rather than dark green. Fully adult leaflets also tend to be entire.


full sun blue very low watering fast growth frost-resistant rare
full sun blue very low watering fast growth frost-resistant rare

Encephalartos nubimontanus is the fastest growing blue leaved African cycad, more vigorous than other members of the ‘Eugene-maraisii complex’, it forms clusters of offsets, handles wetter conditions and prefers full sun. It is hardy, adaptable and striking in appearance. As a garden subject, it is one of the most spectacular of all cycad species and is quite adaptable in cultivation.

When young they can be grown as a container plant and eventually transplanted into the garden. As a garden plant, this cycad will usually hold two or three crowns of leaves, all in good condition. Likes lots of water in the growing season.

Growing rate: This species is a fast grower and in 5 to 8 years will develop into a nice plant. It responds well to cultivation provided it is grown in sun, is well drained, with sufficient moisture in frost-free conditions. It is best to grow young seedlings on until the leaves are about a meter high before planting in the open ground.

Soils: It grows in all sorts of soil type, but prefer well drained, gritty soil with plenty of water, especially in dry weather.

Transplanting: This species transplants easily as a mature plant, although it is recommended to remove all of the leaves before doing so. This makes for easier handling and the plant will recover sooner due to less moisture loss.

Exposure: It thrives and grows best in filtered sun or shade. When grown in full sun, the leaves are a little shorter and less likely to be damaged by wind. The leaves of those plants grown in the shade can become stretched out and damage the caudex if they break off close to their base.

Watering: In cultivation prefers moist soil with good drainage for optimal growth. But it is eventually drought resistant. Irrigation systems can be detrimental to cycads, damaging the leaves and stems from the pressure of the water as well as over-watering.

Propagation: It may be propagated by seeds. They are among the easiest plants to germinate, but appears to need shade for successful germination. It is sown on a bed of clean coarse sand which has a bottom heat of 25-28°C. The seeds are pushed into the sand so as that they are level with the surface of the sand. Water each day and within two months the seeds begin to germinate by producing a root followed by leaves. Within 10 months the seedlings are removed and potted into a 3 litre plastic sleeve containing a well-drained growing medium which contains some agricultural lime. Within a year these seedlings need to be repotted into 30 cm pots to encourage the plants to develop. Keeping encephalartos in small containers prevents them from growing. Once in the open ground they develop well.

Fertilization: Naturally undemanding for nutrients, it responds very well to regular applications of fertilizer. Growth can be greatly improved through the application of fertilizers. Most growers find that a fertilizer having an even NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) balance, and supplemental trace elements, provides a good start for cycads.

Wind tolerance: It prefers a sheltered position providing protection from the prevailing winds.

Hardiness: It is suited to subtropical and warm temperate regions. Frost may burn the leaves but will not easily kill established plants.”

Source / credit: https://africacycads.com/cycads.php

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