This cycad is restricted to the catchment area of the Mbuluzi River, ranging from northern Swaziland to Maputo. This specie is restricted to drier forest environment usually found growing in the light shade of low scrub woodland.The leaves are dark green, 1-1.5m long and are erect. The stems are subterranean 34-40cm in length and rarely produce suckers.
Encephalartos umbeluziensis occurs in a number of localities in Mozambique and Swaziland. The population is restricted to the valley of the Umbeluzi River. Occurs from 50 to 120 m. This species is found in the shade of low scrub woodland or in relatively dry savanna and bushveld. To the west the plants are found in valleys and further eastwards towards Mozambique they occur on the floodplains of rivers.
It is a small to medium-sized cycad with a subterranean, usually solitary stem with thick tuberous root up to diameter 25 cm in diameter that only branch when injured. The leaves (fronds) are few in a crown 1 to 2 m long with the rhachis straight, erect or sometimes spreading-recurved in shade. The leaf colour is a glossy bright.
Like other cycad species, E. umbeluziensis is dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female plants, and the female produces seeds while the male produces pollen. But this species has proved to be able, as a result of injures or exposure to very low temperatures, to achieve a spontaneous change of sex. It was described in 1951 by South African botanists R. Allen Dyer.
Stem: Subterranean or sometimes with crown slightly exposed, usually unbranched with thick tuberous root, up to about 30 cm long and 20-25 cm across, with densely woolly interseriate bracts.
Leaves: 1-2 m long, suberect in open situations and only recurving in shade, flat (not keeled) in section (opposing leaflets inserted at 180Â° on rachis),woolly at first except on upper surface of leaflets, hairs falling with age. Petiole 10-30 cm long, suberect, woolly at first them glabrescent with no prickles. Rachis green, straight, stiff, not spirally twisted. Leaflets, light green becoming dark green, highly glossy and weakly discolorous when mature, reduced in size towards base but not to more than 1 or 2 prickles, leaf-base collar not present. Median leaflets lanceolate, 10-20 cm long, rarely up to 30 cm, 8-15 mm broad tapering gradually to the pungent apex not overlapping, not lobed, insertion angle horizontal, and margins usually with with 1-2 prickles on upper margin and 1-3 on lower margin.
Male cones: 1-3(-4) together, peduncuÂlate, narrowly ovoid to almost cylindric, tapering slightly to apex, up to about 30 cm long, 6-8 cm across green or olive-green turning to sulphur-yellow, glabrous . Peduncles 10-12 cm long.
Female cones: 1-3(-4) together, peduncuÂlate, olive-green turning to sulphur-yellow, glabrous 25-30 cm long, 12-15 cm across. Peduncles about 15 cm long and 3.5 cm across.
Seed: Oblong 3-3,5 cm long, about 2 cm thick, angled by compression, sarcotesta orange to scarlet.
|semi-shade||green||medium watering||fast growth||frost-sensitive||uncommon|
As a garden subject, Encephalartos umbeluziensis is medium-sized cycad that, despite the harsh environment in which it lives, does seem to like regular water and a little fertiliser.
This cycad is easy to grow but hard-to-find, as it does not occur in large numbers in any of its localities, but rather in small, isolated colonies. It is very adaptable in cultivation, provided it has a well-drained soil, frost-free conditions and regular watering during the dry months. It is an adaptable plant well suited to subtropical climates. It can be grown in full sun without its leaves burning. When young they can be grown as a container plant and eventually transplanted into the garden.
Growing rate: Seedlings planted out in raised beds and carefully mulched – so the soil could never dry out – grow much faster than the seedlings kept in pots.
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 partial 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.
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.”
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