Jungle Music Palms and Cycads Nursery

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Phone: (619) 291-4605
Fax: (619) 574-1595
Email:
phil.bergman@junglemusic.net

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THE BEST CYCADS FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA


by Phil & Jesse Bergman
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads

Description of Article:
 


This article lets the reader know which species are the best cycads to grow in Southern California.  Most of these species should survive well in Southern California, especially in the coastal areas.  This includes the genera of Ceratozamia, Cycas, Dioon, Encephalartos, Lepidozamia, Macrozamia, Stangeria and Zamia.  Almost all of the species shown below will perform for enthusiasts in coastal So Cal and are available at our nursery.

 

 

 

CYCADS FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

INTRODUCTION 

This is a presentation of many of the totally different types of rare cycads that will perform well in most Southern California gardens.  It is not meant to be an all-inclusive presentation but rather a good assortment of species for the enthusiast to try.  As there are nearly three to four hundred different species of cycads, all species cannot be shown in this series.  Some don't grow well here.  So, I've selected some of our favorites for our locality.  I've included pictures of plants from their habitats where possible but also from botanical gardens and private homes.  I'll include some photographs of leaves as well as occasional pictures of plants from our nursery to show you something one could purchase.  On the latter I'll show larger plants when possible, but realize that we probably have smaller plants available as well. 

If you live far inland or in a California desert area, many of these species may do well for you.  But, you must alter the plant exposure to your hotter sun.  This would apply to inland areas such as Palm Springs or Borrego.      

When reading this series, pay special attention to the mature plant size, the overall appearance, sun requirements and cold tolerances.  Decide if you like it and if you have room in your garden.  Also, can you give it the conditions it needs?  Almost all of these plants can be used in areas outside of Southern California.  This would include southern parts of Texas, a good part of the lower Gulf States including Florida and some areas of Central and northern California.  In desert areas like Palm Springs or Phoenix, many of these will do fine but will need lesser sun exposure. 

Finally, cycads are water conserving plants.  As you'll see below, one can have that "tropical look" without using a lot of water.  Cycads are ideal plants for upscale landscape projects where conserving water resources is important.  The photographs below are mostly our stock cycad photos although some are from Internet websites with credit given.  In terms of presentation and order, I will do it by genera and alphabetically.  I'll include descriptive and cultural information as well.

 

Jungle Music Palms and Cycads
619 291 4605
Nursery: 450 Ocean View Ave, Encinitas, CA 92024

 

 

 

 

CERATOZAMIA

 

Ceratozamia are New World cycads.  Most are from Mexico or Central America.  In habitat, they are often found in forest areas and under other trees.  So, the general rule is that many like filtered light.  However, on the coast in CA, some take full sun.  Sizes of Ceratozamia range from dwarf to medium.  A few species are taller with overhead leaves.  All have spines on their leaf stems.  Leaflets can be soft to the touch while a few are sharp.  Growth rate is medium.  Most species tolerate temperatures in the lower 20's F.  There are many other very rare species not shown below.

 

 

 

 

CERATOZAMIA "EL MIRADOR"

As the name suggests (translation “the looker”), this is a very attractive Ceratozamia.  It comes from Veracruz, Mexico.  This is a medium sized species which can get up to a few meters eventually, though it would be quite uncommon to see anything with that kind of size on it.   Like many cycads, this species is rare in cultivation.  It complements most tropical looking landscapes, though it can fit into a more Mediterranean landscape style as well.  Generally, this is a shade loving species though I can tolerate a couple hours of sun coastally.  This species is hardy into the low 20’s F.  It has horizontal leaves that are six feet long or more, so it needs some room in the garden.  Figure trunk heights at several feet mature.  Note the presence of revolute margins on the undersides of the leaflets.  Leaf color is green.

Ceratozamia el mirador
Ceratozamia el mirador

Ceratozamia el mirador
Ceratozamia el mirador
Coning sized nursery specimen
Ceratozamia el mirador
Ceratozamia el mirador
Ceratozamia el mirador


CERATOZAMIA HILDAE

 

This is a dwarf to semi-dwarf species that is rarely over five to six feet tall maximum.  Its hallmark is the grouping of the leaflets and dwarf size.  You can see this leaflet grouping best on the second picture.  The number of leaflets in each group is variable.  The leaflets are short and come to a soft tip.  Leaf length is usually three to four feet.  Caudex size is up to eight inches.  They will cluster forming a group of plants.  This is a filtered light species and cold hardy to the low 20's F.  It makes a great potted or patio plant as well.

 

 

Ceratozamia hildae

 Ceratozamia hildae

Ceratozamia hildae
A nice nursery plant to start in garden
 


CERATOZAMIA KUESTERIANA

 

This species is native to the area of Tamaulipas, Mexico.  It is a small to medium mature sized plant.  Leaf length is usually about five feet.  Caudexes are typically less than ten to twelve inches in size.  Leaflets are rather long and narrow.  Newly emerging leaves can be maroon or red-brown.  This species likes strong filtered light or can take coastal sun.  Cold tolerance is into the low 20's F.

 

 

Ceratozamia kuesteriana

CERATOZAMIA KUESTERIANA
Boxed specimen at nursery
 


CERATOZAMIA LATIFOLIA

 

This is another smaller, filtered light loving cycad from Mexico.  It is native to the regions of San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo.  Leaf length averages four, perhaps five feet maximum.  Leaves lay in a more horizontal position.  Caudex size is less than ten inches.  So, you can see that overall leaf crown width is under six feet or so.  The striking trait of this species is the red-orange emergent new leaves as shown here.  The leaflets are wide and un-armed.  We recommend filtered light for this species.  Cold hardiness is certainly the lower 20's F. or lower.

ceratozamia latifolia

 Ceratozamia latifolia
Nursery specimen

CERATOZAMIA LATIFOLIA
more of a red emergent form


CERATOZAMIA MEXICANA

 

This gorgeous cycad is green in color and native to lowland as well as mountainous areas of Vera Cruz, Mexico.  There are various forms.  Some are green emergent but we’ve seen an occasional bronze emergent type.  This is a medium to large cycad with crown spreads of eight to ten feet.  Leaves tend to be horizontal and sometimes a bit dependent, especially on older leaves.  Leaf stems are spiny.  Leaf length can be six feet easily.   Leaflets are medium width with no spines on their edges.  Caudex size can get up to two feet.  Most would grow this is a bit of sun or filtered light.  But, right on the coast, some have grown it well in half day sun.  Cold tolerance is down to the low 20’s F.  Remember to give this species room to grow.

 

 Ceratozamia mexicana

Ceratozamia mexicana
A coning sized nursery specimen, 20 yrs. old


CERATOZAMIA MIQUELIANA

 

This beautiful Mexican cycad is native to several regions but most known for its Chiapas locations.  It grows from low elevations up to about 1200 feet.  It is not as cold hardy as most of the Ceratozamias shown here but many are growing it in Southern California.  This is a smaller cycad.  Most notable are the newly emergent leaves that show a blue color.  Leaflets are shorter and wide.  Caudexes are small, typically under 8 inches.  Cold hardiness is probably in the mid-twenties F.  This is a filtered light cycad.

 

 Ceratozamia miquelliana

 Ceratozamia miquelliana

CERATOZAMIA MIQUELIANA
15 gallon nursery plant

 

CERATOZAMIA MIQUELIANA
Female cone

CERATOZAMIA MIQUELIANA


CERATOZAMIA NORSTOGII

 

This thin leaf, small to medium sized Mexican cycad is native to Chiapas and Oaxaca.  Over the years there’s been much confusion between this species and Ceratozamia plumosa described below.  Cycad taxonomists have changed these names back and forth multiple times.  Leaves are three to four feet long, upright, gently arch down.  Leaflets are long and narrow.  The leaves are usually not twisted as you’d see with C. plumosa.  Leaves can emerge a brown-red color.  Trunk size averages one to two feet mature.  Leaf stems are very prickly with spines.  This plant can grow in strong filtered light or perhaps coastal sun.  Cold hardiness is down to the low 20’s F.

 

Ceratozamia norstogii

Ceratozamia norstogii CERATOZAMIA NORSTOGII
Smaller nursery plant


CERATOZAMIA "PALMA SOL"

This is a beautiful and tropical looking species from Veracruz, Mexico.  It has bright green leafs, in small to medium in stature (not exceeding about 5-6’) and is a slow to moderate grower.  It is quite uncommon to come across this species, even in cycad collections.  It is somewhat sun tolerant, and on the coast can take full sun.  In far inland areas or the desert it needs partial sun or filtered light.  This cycad definitely complements a tropical garden due to its fat tropical leaflets which are a bright green (as opposed to an olive or dark green).  This species, like most Ceratozamias, is fairly cold tolerant and will go into the low 20’s F.

 

CERATOZAMIA "PALMA SOL"
This and next photograph from habitat
CERATOZAMIA "PALMA SOL" CERATOZAMIA "PALMA SOL"
Good starter size in a 5 gallon pot

CERATOZAMIA "PALMA SOL"
CERATOZAMIA "PALMA SOL"
A more juvenile plant


CERATOZAMIA PLUMOSA

 

This has always been one of the favorites of cycad enthusiasts.  It is similar to C. norstogii above with thin leaflets.  But, this species has even more thin leaves and definitely a more upright crown.  Also, individual leaves twirl so they look very plumose or fluffy.  If one could “un-twist” the leaves, they’d be reminiscent of C. norstogii.  Leaf length is about four feet with leaflet length four to five inches long.  Leaf stems are very prickly.  Plants hold five to ten leaves.  They emerge with a new bronze-red color.  Sometimes they are darker burgundy color.  Plants are not big, rarely over six feet tall ground to leaf tips.  This would be a part day sun or strong filtered light plant with cold hardiness into the low 20's F. 

 

Ceratozamia norstogii

 Ceratozamia norstogii

Ceratozamia plumosa

CERATOZAMIA PLUMOSA
Smaller nursery plant
CERATOZAMIA PLUMOSA
Another


CERATOZAMIA ROBUSTA

 

This is a very robust cycad that is of good size and has upright green leaves.  Native to southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, it is the largest species of the Ceratozamia genus.  Specimens are spectacular if one has the room.  It is described as a variable species with different forms.  Some forms are smaller.  Leaves can be six to eight feet long, are very upright and have heavy spination on the petioles.  Overall height can reach twelve feet with six foot trunks.  New leaves are green or sometimes bronze.  As this species comes from a more tropical area compared to other species, it’s probably not quite as cold hardy.  I’d estimate cold tolerance at 24 to 25 degrees although others say it’ll take more cold.  It does best with filtered light.   

 

Ceratozamia robusta

 Ceratozamia robusta

CERATOZAMIA ROBUSTA

CERATOZAMIA ROBUSTA
CERATOZAMIA ROBUSTA
Female cone and spiny leaf stems
CERATOZAMIA ROBUSTA
Another nursery boxed specimen
CERATOZAMIA ROBUSTA
Smaller plant at nursery

 

 

CYCAS         

 

Cycas is a genus of Old World plants native to areas stretching from China southwards through Asia, into Australia, surrounding areas and west over to Africa.  There’s even one native to Madagascar.  In general plants are larger than the Ceratozamia in the last section.  There are over one hundred species in this genus.  The common Sago Palm, Cycas revoluta, is a member of this group of cycads.  Most species have a cylindrical trunk with leaves emerging from the top.  These trunks can sucker from the base or even fork overhead.  Most are green in color although there are some difficult to grow blue species.  There’s even some species (see below) that are quite different and have branching leaves, much like the Fishtail Palms.  As a group, Cycas are fast growing compared to other genera.  There are some dwarf species.  But, expect a height of at least six feet or more on most species with some even having eventual heights of over twenty feet.    

 

 


CYCAS ANGULATA

 

This species is native to hot regions of the Northern Territory of Australia.  It is known for its blue or blue-green leaves.  It likes hot and dry and not too much cold.  It doesn’t really tolerate a freeze.  So, it’s typically not a great choice for people right along the coast because of the humidity in the coastal area.  We've found them very difficult to grow at our nursery locality.  But, if you live in a more desert area where you don’t freeze, perhaps you can grow it.  But, it’s not easy.  Mature size can be over twenty feet.  The photo here shows what looks like a shorter plant.  Trust that they do get well overhead.  Cold tolerance is minimally below a freeze if at all.   

 

CYCAS ANGULATA

 


CYCAS BIFIDA
AKA
 CYCAS MULTIFRONDIS
 

This interesting and fairly cold hardy Cycas species is native to southern China and Viet Nam.  It has long upright green leaves.  But, this is not a bifurcating leaflet stem species (like multipinata below).  Rather, it puts out two leaflets off a single stem.  Or, single leaflets seem to split into two leaflets.  Historically, this is one of the species that started out being called "Cycas micholitzii".  Later it was called Cycas multifrondis.  But, Cycas bifida is now the correct taxonomic name.  Leaves are upright and long.  Expect somewhere in the eight to ten foot length.  Plants usually just carry three or four leaves and have a small caudex, not over about 10 inches, mostly subterranean.  It prefers filtered light or morning sun.  Cold hardiness is definitely down to the low 20's F. 

 

 

cycas bifida

 cycas bifida

CYCAS MULTIFRONDIS 

Cycas bifida
Two 15g plants at nursery

Cycas bifida


CYCAS CIRCINALIS

 

This species has a worldwide representation and is commonly known as the Queen Sago.  In actuality, the Queen Sago is really Cycas rumphii, and has been commonly misidentified as C. circinalis.  Whereas circinalis is similar in appearance, it has thinner leafs and in smaller in size.  Its widespread distribution throughout Asia, India and the Pacific Islands.  It is a large species as shown can see in these pictures.  Plants can get to 30 feet tall and can branch overhead.  Color is deep green.  Leaves can be six to eight feet long with a crown width of fifteen feet.  This species, like other Cycas, has been susceptible to Asian Scale infections in Florida over the past ten years.  Along our coast it tolerates full sun.  Cold tolerance is somewhere between 20 and 24 degrees F.  For those who like a big, showy cycad, this species is a good choice.  Although there are spines on the leaf stems, the leaves are soft to the touch.  A footnote is that one should be very cautious about purchasing any type of Cycas that comes from an area infested with Asian Scale.  This includes Sago Palms from the popular exporting state of Florida.  

 

Cycas circinalis

 Cycas circinalis

Cycas circinalis
Large specimen at nursery that is probably a
Cycas rumphii.  (see text)


CYCAS DEBAOENSIS

 

Native to southern China, this is one of the most striking, different and beautiful cycads in the world.  It is extremely rare.  Leaves are upright, definitely arching and branch to the second and sometimes third order.  Leaf length is up to eight feet.  In my experience, this species is not as upright as C. multipinnata below and has a very full appearance.  Leaves are fluffy.  It prefers filtered light, has cold hardiness to the low 20's F. and is being grown successfully in Southern California.  Stem size is small, often subterranean and not over eight to ten inches. 

Cycas debaoensis by RPS
photo by Rare  Palm Seeds

Cycas debaoensis 
Cycas debaoensis 

 Cycas debaoensis

Cycas debaoensis
A nice nursery plant

CYCAS DEBAOENSIS
CYCAS DEBAOENSIS


CYCAS MEDIA

 

This attractive green leaf, pinnate cycad is native to Queensland and the Northern Territory, Australia, New Guinea and some nearby islands.  It lives in scrubby forests, valleys and gullies.  It reaches an overall height of about ten feet in many decades with a trunk diameter of about a foot.  Leaf length is about four feet with an 18 inch or more bare petiole.  Leaf color is green, darker on the underside.   There are small barbs on the petioles.  This is a full sun or part day sun plant along the coast.  Cold tolerance is somewhere in the mid to low 20’s F.  If the Cycas circinalis above is too big, this might prove to be the right choice with a similar look.

Cycas media
Gorgeous plant at nursery

 Cycas media

CYCAS MEDIA
Another very old nursery plant

CYCAS MEDIA
Female cone
CYCAS MEDIA


CYCAS MULTIPINNATA

 

This is a drop dead gorgeous cycad.  But, it is extremely difficult to find.  Native to Southern China and northern Viet Nam, its leaf stems are complexly branched just like the Fishtail Palm.  Caudex size is small, typically under ten inches and mostly underground.  Leaf color is green to blue green.  Leaves are upright, gently arching and can get over ten feet long.  This species likes a little sun or strong filtered light.  This species is hardy to the mid 20’s.  A lucky few are growing it in Southern California. 

Cycas multipinnata

Cycas multipinnata

 


CYCAS MULTIPINNATA

CYCAS MULTIPINNATA
CYCAS MULTIPINNATA
Smaller nursery plant


CYCAS PANZHIHUAENSIS

 

This is another Chinese Cycas species.  It should be thought of as a smaller Sago Palm with a bit different color.  Leaves are green to blue-green.  Trunk height is rarely over four feet.  Leaves are four to five feet long.  So, mature, it is much smaller than Cycas revoluta.  Also, it is extremely cold hardy.  It easily tolerates temperatures into the upper teens with reports of surviving into single digits F.  Growth rate is medium.  This is a full sun cycad that should appeal to people who don't like the inevitable larger size of the common Sago Palm.

Cycas panzhihuaensis

Cycas panzhihuaensis

 Cycas panzhihuaensis
A good starter size for the garden

CYCAS PANZHIHUAENSIS

Cycas panzhihuaensis 

 

CYCAS PECTINATA

This Cycas species has one of the largest distributions of any cycads.  It is found in India Nepal, Burma, southern China (Yunnan), Bangladesh, Burma, Malaysia, Cambodia, northern Thailand and Vietnam to name just some of the countries.  Despite its vast distribution, this species has steadily been declining in its native habitats.  This is due to the fact that this plant's leaves, stem and seeds are eaten for food and medicine, and it is used in products like shampoo.  This species is a sun loving and can eventually become quite large (over 10 meters), though plants this large would mainly only be seen in the wild or perhaps old botanical gardens.  Another interesting thing about this species is that it can vary in color from a dark green color to an almost blue color.  This species is a moderate to fast grower and is cold tolerant down to the mid 20’s F.

CYCAS PECTINATA
CYCAS PECTINATA
Good starter size for garden

 


CYCAS REVOLUTA

THE SAGO PALM

 

This is the most commonly seen cycad worldwide.  Native to Japan (and surrounding islands, e.g. Okinawa and Ryukyu), this plant has been propagated so much that you can find it in almost every temperate or warmer country worldwide.  It is a large and full species.  Cute and smaller plants from the local nursery eventually turn into overhead plants that can be over twenty feet tall with an eighteen inch thick trunk and fifty "babies" at the base.  For this reason, it often overwhelms the average homeowner's space.  Leaves are green.  Leaflets are a bit prickly.  It tolerates coastal sun but not hot summer desert sun.  Desert growers have to sun protect their plants in summer.  Cold hardiness is somewhere in the mid to upper teens F.

Cycas revoluta

 Cycas revoluta

 Cycas revoluta

Sago Palm
Sago Palms
Affordable size at nursery
Sago Palm
Nursery plants
Sago Palm
Sago Palm in a large box


CYCAS RUMPHI

This species (commonly called a Queen sago) has a fairly large distribution and can be found throughout most of South East Asia.  It is part of the Cycas circinalis complex.  The thing that separates this species out from C. circinalis is that it tends to be more robust, i.e. it has larger leaves, has a thicker trunk and also tend to make more pups (basal suckers).  It is a fast growing species which can get multiple meters tall and is very palm-like in appearance.  This species is very versatile in the exposures it can take as it thrives in sunny or shady conditions, though I think it tends to look more tropical in a slightly protected spot.  This species is hardy to the mid to upper 20’s F.

CYCAS RUMPHI

CYCAS RUMPHI
CYCAS RUMPHI

CYCAS RUMPHI
Fairly old nursery plant
CYCAS RUMPHI
Crown of leaves, nursery plant
CYCAS RUMPHI
Petioles nursery plant

CYCAS RUMPHI
A different nursery plant

CYCAS TAITUNGENSIS
AKA CYCAS TAIWANIANUM

This is a great green Cycas from Taiwan.   It is a good grower and does well in full sun to part sun conditions.  It is similar in appearance to a Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta), except there are a few key differences:

1)    This species is not quite as cold hardy as a Cycas revoluta, but can tolerate most conditions in Southern California (can withstand the upper teens F).

2)    The leaflets are longer and softer.

3)    Instead of being tightly keeled (“v” shaped) they’re more relaxed.)

4)    It is a more robust plant, i.e. it makes a larger and taller trunk and has longer leafs.

5)    It carries a thick reddish tomentum (plant hair) toward the top of the trunk.

6)    It is certainly rarer than a Sago, and is rare to come by in most gardens.

7)    This species is much faster growing than Cycas revoluta.  I would say it grows up to three times faster from my experience.

Cycas taitungensis is a great substitute for people who love the look of a Sago, but are not in love with how slow it grows.  This species is a bit friendlier and is overall a more attractive plant.
Cycas taitungensis
Cycas taitungensis
Interior grow plant
Cycas taitungensis
Cycas taitungensis
Nice specimen at nursery
CYCAS TAITUNGENSIS


CYCAS THOUARSII

 

This is a rather new introduction to the nursery trade.  It is native to Madagascar and possibly eastern Africa.  It is a green leaf cycad with a somewhat narrow caudex.  Size can easily reach ten to fifteen feet or more in many decades.  Leaf length is five to eight feet.  Crowns are full with dozens of leaves.  Along the coast, this species takes full sun.  Far inland areas should utilize filtered light or morning sun.  Cold tolerance is down to the low 20's.  Although not as cold hardy as the Sago, it is more user-friendly.  The leaves are much softer and it doesn't take up as much garden ground space if you remove the basal suckers.  We highly recommend this species. 

Cycas thouarsii

 

 Cycas thouarsii

Cyas thouarsii
Very old nursery specimen

CYCAS THOUARSII
Leaf of nursery plant

CYCAS THOUARSII
Cycas thouarsii  Cycas thouarsii 

  

 

 

DIOONS

 

Dioons are a New World cycad native to Mexico and Central America.  In their native habitats they see anywhere from hot and dry desert habitats to lush tropical rain forests.  So, it is a very diverse group of plants in terms of appearance and cultural needs.  Most species prefer full sun but there are some that do best in filtered light.  Sizes in general are medium.  But there are some smaller plants as well.  All species have cylindrical stems (caudexes) with various colors of leaves from the usual green to one with blue leaves.  Interestingly, one of the most cold hardy species (Dioon edule) is in this group.  Dioon edule is also one of the few cycads that can tolerate blistering hot desert sun.  As a group they are very appealing, not overwhelming in size and easy to grow.   

 

 

 


DIOON ANGUSTIFOLIUM

 

For decades, there's been an argument as to whether this "species" is a type of Dioon edule or merits its own title as a species.  Regardless, it is a beautiful and smaller plant that has very thin leaflets.  Leaf color is green to gray-green.  The hallmark of the species is the presence of very thin leaflets.  These are thinner than the average leaflets of Dioon edule.  Also, it is common to see new flushes of pink colored leaves as shown.  A mature plant rarely has a trunk height of more than three feet and leaf crown diameter is about five to six feet.  Growth rate is slow.  These will sucker from the base.  They love full sun and are cold hardy well into the teens F.

Dioon angustifolia

 Dioon angustifolia

 Dioon angustifolia
This and last plant are nice nursery specimens

DIOON ANGUSTIFOLIUM
Note very thin leaflets
DIOON ANGUSTIFOLIUM
Caudex of another old nursery plant


DIOON CALIFANOI

 

This Mexican cycad is native to the Oaxaca and Puebla regions where is grows among forest trees.  Its most striking characteristic is the sharply keeled leaves with a 90 degree angle between opposing columns of leaflets.  Leaflets are tightly spaced.  Leaf color is green to gray-green.  A very old plant may have up to ten feet of trunk (centuries old in habitat).  Also, with this kind of age, one sees trunks lay down and crawl the ground.  Leaf length is about four to five feet.  In coastal areas and many inland areas, this is a full sun plant.  In deserts, I'd recommend a few hours of sun.  Cold hardiness is into the low 20's or a bit colder.  This species is loved by enthusiasts and very coveted and sought out.

 

 

Dioon califanoi

 Dioon califanoi

 

Dioon califanoi
Leaf of a nursery plant: note keeled, tight leaflets

DIOON CALIFANOI
Nursery plant


DIOON CAPUTOI

This is one of the more rare types of Dioons.  For decades, no nursery could offer them for sale.  But, about twenty years ago seeds were finally available and a few nurseries were able to grow them.  The reason for the shortage was that locals in the habitat of the Puebla region in Mexico strictly prohibited viewing the plants or collecting seeds. There it's in a high elevation habitat in full sun.  The hallmark of the species is the presence of widely spaced and rather thin leaflets.  Leaf length is about four, perhaps five feet.  A friend of the nursery visited the habitat and saw trunks approaching ten feet tall.  This is a full sun species for most areas with a cold hardiness of about 20 degrees F. 
   

Dioon caputoi

 Dioon caputoi

 Dioon caputoi

 Dioon caputoi
Very old nursery specimen, coning size
 

Dioon caputoi
Another older nursery plant


DIOON EDULE

 

This is a very interested species of Mexican cycad.  I say this because there are many locality varieties that have been found.  Although still the same species, when you travel from habitat to habitat for this species, plants literally look different.  The difference is in terms of plant size, leaf length, leaflets, etc.  But, the cones and reproductive parts are similar so all are called "Dioon edule".  We will not present the different forms of Dioon edule here.

This is typically a slow growing and smaller cycad.  An extremely old plant would have three to four feet of trunk.  They often sucker and form clusters of stems.  One could remove the suckers and keep it as a single trunk specimen.  They love full, hot sun and this is the only species that does well with full desert sun.  Cold hardiness is into the mid-teens F.
 

Dioon edule by JO
In habitat by JO

 

Dioon edule in habitat by JO

In habitat by JO

 Dioon edule

Dioon edule


Dioon edule

 Dioon edule
Twenty year old nursery plant

 Dioon edule
Monster clustering nursery specimen


DIOON HOLMGRENII

 

This very rare cycad lives in pine and oak forests in the Oaxaca region of Mexico.  In habitat, it's reported that trunks can reach a 20 foot height.  When younger, leaves are covered with soft wool.  Leaves are much longer on this species than with Dioon edule above.  Trunks are somewhat narrow at 12 to 16 inches.  Leaf color is green.  Cold hardiness is into the low 20's F.  Along the coast, this cycad easily tolerates full sun.  Far inland areas should use part day sun.  Like many other Dioons, this species can sucker at the base.  These can be removed.  This is a very attractive species.

 

 

Dioon holmgrenii by RPS
Photo c/o TS at RPS

 

   

 Dioon holmgrenii

Dioon holmgrenii

Dioon holmgrenii
Coning sized nursery plant
DIOON HOLMGRENII
Nursery plant, new flush of leaves


DIOON MEJIAE
 

This is a much more tropical appearing species of Dioon and is native to Central America in Nicaragua and Honduras.  There it is found among thick deciduous forests.   Leaves are long, green and arch minimally.  In cross section the leaves are flat.  They are similar to the lush leaves of Dioon spinulosum but typically, on mature plants, lack any spines on the leaflets.  Trunks ten to be somewhat narrow, under twelve inches.  But, a mature plant in habitat can reach heights of over 20 feet in a century or two.  An attractive thing about this species are the super soft, wooly and yet fragile new leaves as they emerge.  See last photo.  One is so tempted to feel them.  Leaf color is green with a length of about six feet.  This is a super attractive plant for morning sun or strong filtered light.  Cold hardiness is into the low 20's F. 

 

 

Dioon mejiae

 Dioon mejiae
plant with blue colored leaves

Dioon mejiae

 
Nursery boxed specimen

Dioon mejiae
New super soft leaves emerging on nursery plant

Dioon mejiae  dioon mejiae 

 


DIOON MEROLAE

 

This has always been one of our nursery favorites.  It's a slow growing species from Chiapas, Mexico.  Trunks can, over centuries, get up to ten feet tall.  Trunk thickness is about a foot on average.  They can branch overhead and pup from the base.  Leaf color is green or a definite gray-green as shown in the second photo.  A plant with a 3 foot trunk can easily be a hundred years old.  Leaves are gently keeled and leaflets are spined and reflected backwards toward the ground.  Thus, in cross section the leaf looks like the wings of a bird.  The span of leaves on a healthy plant is five to eight feet.  Along the coast this species takes full sun.  In far inland areas, I'd give morning sun.  Cold hardiness is down to about 20 to 22 degrees F.  It's not as cold hardy as Dioon edule but, I think, a lot prettier.  The third picture is of one of the old specimens at the nursery.  It has over 30 inches of trunk.
 

 Dioon merolae

Dioon merolae Dioon merolae
Super old nursery specimen
Dioon merolae

 Dioon merolae
Centuries old plant in habitat - photo by JO
DIOON MEROLAE

DIOON MEROLAE
DIOON MEROLAE
Another 100 year old specimen
DIOON MEROLAE
Another old specimen

 

DIOON PURPUSII

 

This is a very nice species from Oaxaca, Mexico.  It is known as the fish bone cycad because of how its leaves look (spaced leaflets which have a similar took to a fish’s skeleton).  This beautiful cycad has green leaflets which have a fine silvery/white tomentum.  It is hardy to sun, though it can tolerate a partial sun exposure.  This species is slow growing, but can get to heights several meters tall.  This would not be typical in cultivation though.  D. purpusii is quite rare in cultivation and is a real treat to see in person.  It is hardy down to the mid 20’s.

DIOON PURPUSII
Habitat by MM
DIOON PURPUSII
Habitat photo by MM
DIOON PURPUSII
Juvenile garden plant
DIOON PURPUSII
Good sized nursery plant
DIOON PURPUSII

 

DIOON RZEDOWSKII

This tropical looking species is from Oaxaca, Mexico.   It is similar in appearance to Dioon spinulosum and Dioon mejiae (known as the D. spinulosum complex).  The main difference you can see in this species which sets it apart as unique is that it is hardier to sun than either of its counterparts and it carries leaflets down to the base of the petiole.  This species is a slow to moderate grower and can get about 7-8 feet tall in cultivation, though much taller specimens exist in the wild.  It has beautiful green leaves and is moderately spined.  This species is not tremendously hardy, but can tolerate into the mid to upper 20’s F
DIOON RZEDOWSKII BY JO
Habitat photo by JO
DIOON RZEDOWSKII by JO
Habitat  by JO
DIOON RZEDOWSKII by jo
Photo by JO
DIOON RZEDOWSKII
Photo by JO

DIOON RZEDOWSKII jo
Habitat by JO
DIOON RZEDOWSKII
Nice boxed specimen
DIOON RZEDOWSKII


DIOON SONORENSE

 

This cycad species comes from Sinaloa, Sonora, Mexico and has two forms.  One of these is blue in color.  They come from a very hot and dry, almost desert-like environment.  And, they are found at high elevations.  So, they are a pretty tough species.  A very old plant might have two to three feet of trunk.  Leaves are flat in cross section and leaflets are long and narrow.  Leaf color could be green or a silver-blue.  I've seen specimens almost as blue as a blue Encephalartos.  They tolerate sun along the coast and are probably cold hardy into the upper teens F. This is a very rare species to find.  Of note, historically this plant was grouped with a related species Dioon tomasellii.

Dioon sonorense

 Dioon sonorense by JSD
photo by JS

DIOON SONORENSE

 


DIOON SPINULOSUM

 

This larger species of Dioon is native to rainforest areas in east and southern Mexico.  There it grows to elevations up to 1500 feet.  It is exotic and deeply green.  It's called the Giant Dioon although other species can match its height.  Trunks are not thick, usually less than 12 inches.  Leaves are four to six feet long and a nice crown can hold thirty or forty leaves.  Leaflets are flat and toothed at the edges with small spines.  Trunks can get up to 25 feet tall although such a plant could be many hundreds of years old. 

I'm showing extra photos of this species as there's a good chance you may come across one.  Of the Dioons, this species is the most likely one you'd see in a nursery.  They are not particularly rare.  In the tropics or right on the coast, they can take full sun.  But, they always look best without full sun.  Morning sun, a little sun or strong filtered light gives the best looking plants.  If you like this species, consider Dioon mejiae instead for full sun areas.  Cold tolerance is down into the lower 20's F.  This is not one of the most cold hardy Dioons at all.
 

Dioon spinulosum

 

 

 Dioon spinulosum

Dioon spinulosum

 

 Dioon spinulosum

Dioon spinulosum 
Very old nursery specimen

DIOON SPINULOSUM
Popular 15g size at nursery
DIOON SPINULOSUM
A fifty year old plant with a curved trunk


DIOON TOMASELLII

This medium sized and very attractive cycad is native to western Mexico.  For many decades it was considered to be a species with two different plant forms in conjuction with the now separated Dioon sonorense.  However, enthusiasts have recognized obvious differences between the two.  Therefore, about 20 years ago Chemnick and Gregory separated the two into two different species with Dioon sonorense given its own species status.  Dioon tomasellii is known for its arching leaves, furry leaf stems but mostly the reflexed, somewhat sickle shape leaflets.  This curve is sickle shaped with the terminal leaflet tip pointing more downwards.  One photo below demonstrates the leaflet shape.  Leaf color is green and sometimes an almost lime green in sun.  Leaves are three to six feet long and caudex height is usually six feet or less mature.  So, this is a medium sized mature plant.  It'll take sun or part sun along the coast and is cold hardy to the mid, perhaps low 20's F.  This species is extremely rare and near impossible to find in coning size. 

Dioon tomasellii

Dioon tomasellii

Dioon tomasellii
25 gallon, near coning sized plant
Dioon tomasellii
Dioon tomasellii

Dioon tomasellii
Picture of smaller plant to show the slight
sickle shape to the leaflets
Dioon tomasellii
Another smaller plant

  

 

ENCEPHALARTOS

AFRICAN CYCADS

 

The genus of cycads from Africa known as Encephalartos are by far the most popular cycads among enthusiasts and account for more than fifty per cent of the cycads sold by our nursery.  Native habitats spread from northern Africa down to the most southern regions of the Republic of South Africa.  Individual plants within this genus can be wildly different, not only in appearance, but also in overall size, leaf shape and color and growth requirements.  There are somewhere between seventy-five to one hundred different species or varieties.  And, within any given species, there may be multiple forms.  Whole books have been dedicated to this genus.  

The great thing about Encephalartos for those of us in Southern California is that they love our growing conditions, though there are few species that don't thrive here.  Generally Encephalartos like heat, and drier conditions and good draining soil.  Most are quite cold hardy and don't see threatening weather here that could jeopardize their health.  So, it's a great genus to study and pick from for the garden.  And, one bonus is that they are extremely drought tolerant and a way to save water and still have the garden look great.  There is a plant for everyone.  As there are so many species, I can only deal with part of them and not show too many pictures of each.  But at least you'll get a taste for these great plant

 

  


ENCEPHALARTOS AEMULANS

 

This green species of Encephalartos is native to one region in the Natal District of South Africa.  It can reach a height of ten feet but the trunks are not overly fat, typically twelve to eighteen inches.  Leaf length is four to six feet.  Color is green and leaflets are armed.  Compared to other Encephalartos, this would be a "medium sized" one.  Plant care is easy.  They like sun along the coast and are cold hardy to the low 20's F.

 

 

Encephalartos aemulsans by Wayne Atkinson Arkive
photo by Wayne Atkinson Arkive

 

 Encephalartos aemulans by Botony.cs webstie
photo by Botany.cs internet site

Encephalartos aemulans
Nursery specimen in a box
 


ENCEPHALARTOS ALTENSTEINII

 

Compared to the Encephalartos aemulans above, this is a faster growing and bigger species.  Leaves are six to eight feet long.  The trunk is very stout, over 24 inches if well grown.  Mature plant height can approach twenty feet in many decades.  Leaf color is green.  Leaflets are shiny.  A hallmark of this species is the lack of prickles at the base of the leaf stem.  In other words, one could grab the leaf there and not get stuck by prickles.  Along the coast, this species easily tolerates full sun and is cold hardy to about 20 to 22 degrees F.  The last photo shows a larger plant from the nursery with over three feet of trunk.

 Encephalartos altensteinii

 Encephalartos altensteinii

 Encephalartos altensteinii

 Encephalartos altensteinii
older plant at nursery

 Encephalartos altensteinii box
Another old nursery plant


ENCEPHALARTOS ARENARIUS

 

This unusual cycad is from the Eastern Cape of the Republic of South Africa.  It is known for its very prickly (prominently lobed) fat leaflets.  In terms of leaf color, there's a spectrum from green to blue.  The "true blue" E. arenarius is a very rare species that is seldom seen.  But, in habitat, leaf color can be dark green, light green or a blue green.  So, you may see this species in any of these colors.  Leaf length can be as short as three feet or as long as six feet.  Trunk height is usually less than three feet although eight or more foot tall stems exist in habitat.  

The third picture below shows the blue form of this species.  The last picture shows the leaflets.  Note the prominent and wide barbs on the leaf edges.  
                       

Encephalartos arenarius

 

 Encephalartos arenarius

 Encephalartos arenarius

Encephalartos arenarius
True blue form
Encephalartos arenarius blue
the true blue form of E. arenarius
Encephalartos arenarius
Nursery specimen
Encephalartos arenariius
Nursery specimen - Clustering specimen

 


ENCEPHALARTOS CAFFER

A DWARF CYCAD

 

This is a dwarf cycad species from South Africa.  There are several forms.  All are small.  Leaves are never over three feet long and are green to gray-green in color.  The plant is fairly compact.  On some varieties, the leaves are plumose as shown in the third photo.  Other varieties are more of a flat leaf.  The caudexes are subterranean and are generally under eight inches.  This species likes sun and is as cold hardy as most of the other plants in this genus.  They are slow growing.

Encephalartos carfer by R. Smitt, PACSOA
In habitat by R. Smitt, PACOA

 

 

 Encephalartos caffer

 Encephalartos caffer
Plant at nursery


ENCEPHALARTOS CERINUS

ANOTHER DWARF CYCAD

 

This is another dwarf species from the Natal area of South Africa.  Habitat localities are limited to a single locality.  It never has leaves over three feet long.  The caudexes are subterranean and are ten inches or less.  Leaf color is a dull or gray-green.  They get this color from a thin waxy coating that they produce (cerinus actually means “waxy”).  This sun loving species fits into the smallest of areas in the garden.  Unfortunately, it's near impossible to find with any size for sale.  Cold tolerance is the low 20's F.  Desert areas require only a few hours of morning sun. 

 

 

Encephalartos cerinus

 Encephalartos cerinus

ENCEPHALARTOS CERINUS
An affordable nursery plant

 


ENCEPHALARTOS CUPIDUS

A SUPER RARE BLUE CYCAD

This is a medium sized, cycad from the Transvaal region of South Africa.  It is quite variable in color (green, gray and blue) and leaf form.  It can develop a six foot or more trunk (in a hundred years) that’s about 12 inches in diameter.  Leaves are about three feet long, though the can be slightly longer or shorter, depending on cultivar.  Leaflets point upwards, are under an inch wide and have sharp, pungent spines at their margins.  This is a full sun species along the coast and needs protection from too much sun in the desert.  Cold hardiness is about 22 degrees F.

 

 

 

 

 Encephalartos cupidus

 Encephalartos cupidus

ENCEPHALARTOS CUPIDUS Peter Heibloom PACSOA
Photo by PH PACSOA

ENCEPHALARTOS CUPIDUS
Nursery plant
ENCEPHALARTOS CUPIDUS


ENCEPHALARTOS DOLOMITICUS

BLUE, RARE AND SUPER EXPENSIVE

 

This is an even rarer species from the Transvaal region of South Africa.  It develops a trunk that can be up to six feet tall and be decumbent (laying down with leaves emerging upward from the end).  The leaflets are blue, about six inches long and point upwards.  But, one often sees the position of the leaflets spiraling around the axis of the leaf.  This may be subtle.  Leaves are keeled and the leaflets point distally at a 45 degree angle.  Leaflets may be a bit curved and come to a pointed end.  Leaf length is usually four to six feet.  This is a full sun plant along the coast with a cold hardiness of about 22 degree F.  Because of rarity, most nurseries rarely have one and when they do, they are very expensive.

Encephalartos dolomiticus

 

 Encephalartos dolomiticus

Encephalartos dolomiticus

 

Encephalartos dolomiticus 
specimen at nursery
ENCEPHALARTOS DOLOMITICUS
Another nursery plant


ENCEPHALARTOS EUGENE-MARAISII

 

This is the third species in a row from the Transvaal area of South Africa.  Some of the most unusual and interesting cycads come from there.  This species, although not inexpensive, is a bit more affordable.  It is a blue to blue-green cycad.  The plant shown here is very attractive and shows a nice blue color and overlapping upright leaflets.  Leaf length can reach six feet and so can the trunk.  Leaflet point upwards and are laying side by side, like dominos lined up in a row.  This plant is a very attractive species.  It’s a full sun species along the coast with a cold tolerance similar to the others from this region.

 Encephalartos eugene-maraisii

 Encephalartos eugene-maraisii

Encephalartos eugene-maraisii

 

 

Encephalartos eugene-maraisii

 

 ENCEPHALARTOS EUGENE-MARAISII
A nice nursery plant

ENCEPHALARTOS EUGENE-MARAISII
Another nursery plant

 


ENCEPHALARTOS FEROX

CYCAD WITH A RED CONE

 

I am showing a lot of pictures of this popular green leaf cycad that produces red cones.  It’s from Natal, South Africa. Remember, cycads have two sexes – male and female.  On this species, almost always, the cone is a fire engine red.  Occasionally it’s more of an orange color.  The males tend more toward the orange color.  The leaves are about six feet long.  The leaflets resemble the “holly fern” with prominent lobes as shown here.  This species really doesn’t produce much vertical trunk.  It can sucker.  But, you almost never see a mature plant over seven or eight feet tall from the ground to the top of the leaves.  This cycad can take filtered light or part day sun.  Cold hardiness is 22 degrees F.


Encephalartos ferox

 

 Encephalartos ferox

Encephalartos ferox

 

 Encephalartos ferox by Cycad Soc webpage
female cone, photo by Cycad Society webpage

Encephalartos ferox male cone 
male cones

 

 Encephalartos ferox

Encephalartos ferox
specimen at nursery

ENCEPHALARTOS FEROX 
Crown of leaves, nursery plant


ENCEPHALARTOS FEROX
Nice wide leaves on nursery plant


ENCEPHALARTOS FRIDERICI-GUILIELMI


This is an attractive blue/green species from South Africa (Eastern Cape Province and KwaZulu-Natal).  It is a medium to slow grower and does best in full sun (for most areas in Southern California).  The leaves are thin and pointed and are held in a keeled arrangement, which curl toward the ends; somewhat like a Sago or other thin leafed varieties of cycads.  These plants can eventually have a few meters of trunk, but those plants are hundreds of years old.  Typically these plants are below five feet, with a three to four foot spread.  E. friderici-guilielmii are one of the more cold hard species of Encephalartos and can withstand the upper teens F.

 

Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi
Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi

Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi
Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi
25 gallon nursery plant - near coning size

ENCEPHALARTOS FRIDERICI-GUILIELMI


ENCEPHALARTOS GRATUS

 

This Central African cycad is native to Mozambique and Malawi.  It is a medium to large cycad with a thick trunk that can get to eight feet tall.  Leaves are upright and a nice green color.  With age, old leaves may hang downwards.  Leaf length is six to seven feet, perhaps a bit longer in shade.  Leaflets are wide and somewhat armed.  Interestingly, the cones are a brown-red in color.  This is a fast growing plant that takes sun or part day sun along the coast.  In the desert it needs filtered light.  Cold hardiness is somewhere between 22 and 24 degrees although such temperatures would probably just burn the foliage.  Compared to plants native to more southern locations, it's not quite as cold hardy as them.  But, for most of Southern California it's a cinch to grow.

 

Encephalartos gratus

Encephalartos gratus

Encephalartos gratus  

 Encephalartos gratus

Encephalartos gratus 
Specimen at nursery

 

 ENCEPHALARTOS GRATUS
This and the next are great boxed specimens

ENCEPHALARTOS GRATUS


ENCEPHALARTOS HILDEBRANDTII

 

This Central African cycad is of medium size and native to Kenya, Tanzania and possibly Mozambique.  In habitat, it grows at anywhere from sea level to 2000 feet elevation.  When I think of this species I remember two things:  New leaves emerge vertically in a V-shaped crown.  And, that the leaflets have multiple thin points on the end, sort of resembling a pitch fork.  New emergent leafs are generally green but can sometime have a copper color.  Leaves are green and about six to eight feet long.  The trunk is stout and up to eight feet height.  Leaves are a glossy green color.  Growth is vigorous and it's been said that it can cone in less than a decade.  Trunks can get up to almost twenty feet and in my experience are about 18+ inches thick when well grown.

 

 

 

 Encephalartos hildebrandtii

 Encephalartos hildebrandtii

Encephalartos hildebrandtii
Plant with new flush of leaves

 

 Encephalartos hildebrandtii
Nursery specimen

ENCEPHALARTOS HILDEBRANDTII
A more affordable 15g size

 


ENCEPHALARTOS HORRIDUS

 

THE MOST POPULAR BLUE CYCAD 

There's a saying in the nursery trade that "you can never have too many Encephalartos horridus".  I would agree.  No matter how many we have in stock, we routinely run out of one size or another.  This strikingly blue cycad is from the Eastern Cape district of the Republic of South Africa.  It is not a very large mature cycad.  A two foot tall trunk would be considered "very large", though they can get a bit taller. 

Leaves are three to four feet long.  They typically curve downward, sometimes prominently.  The striking things are the color and the extremely spiny and lobed leaflets.  And, one lobe along the margin of the leaflet is "flipped" back.  It's quite noticeable.  Color varies from silver to aqua blue to a silver blue.  I like to think of the color of this species resembling a blue sky with a little fog mixed in.  They love sun and heat, but not in the desert.  There just give them a few hours of sun.  Cold hardiness is down to almost 20 degrees F.

Encephalartos horridus

 Encephalartos horridus

Encephalartos horridus

 

 Encephalartos horridus

Encephalartos horridus

Encephalartos horridus
Specimen at nursery
ENCEPHALARTOS HORRIDUS
A smaller nursery plant

 ENCEPHALARTOS HORRIDUS
Another very large nursery specimen

ENCEPHALARTOS HORRIDUS
Another dwarf form of E. horridus

  


ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS

ONE OF THE MOST SOUGHT AFTER SPECIES
NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND

This is one of the most sought after of all the South African cycads.  When a nursery has one and tells customers, it is typically sold within a day or two.  It's native habitat is in the Mpumalanga Province in South Africa where fewer than three hundred plants remain in the wild.  Plant stems are under ten feet mature and rather narrow for this height - about ten to twelve inches.  Leaves are three to five feet long and have a blue-green to blue color.  Leaflets often hang down in a dependent fashion as shown here.  Also unique are the falcate/sickle-shaped leaflets.  This is also seen with Microcycas and Dioon tomasellii.  The latter is often called "The poor man's inopinus". 

Seeds are seldom available and most nursery plants come from the removal of offsets from a parent plant.  (see photo).  These are difficult to establish and can be lost to rot.  Because of these factors, it's near impossible to find a plant of this species.  If an enthusiast likes it, he should buy when available because this seldom happens.  It is a sun cycad with a cold tolerance into the low 20's F.
ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS
ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS
ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS

ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS
Close up of the leaf of a nursery plant to show
the sickle shaped leaflets curving downwards

ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS
ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS
A spectacular specimen in a garden

ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS
ENCEPHALARTOS INOPINUS
A removed offset -ready for rooting after
trimming off some leaf.  This is how most
plants are grown and offered for sale.


ENCEPHALARTOS KISAMBO
 

 

This good sized Central African cycad comes from the Voi region in Kenya.  Discovered about fifty years ago, it is known for rather long and upright green leaves.  Trunks get to eight feet in many decades and are 18 to 24 inches thick.  Leaves are somewhat rounded at the end, narrowed toward the base and get over ten feet long.  There is a slight keel to the leaves.  This is a vigorous growing species that like coastal sun and protection inland.  Cold tolerance is somewhere between 22 and 24 degrees F.

 

 

 Encephalartos kisambo

 Encephalartos kisambo

 Encephalartos kisambo

ENCEPHALARTOS KISAMBO 
This and next photo of boxed specimens at nursery
ENCEPHALARTOS KISAMBO 


ENCEPHALARTOS LATIFRONS

UNBELIEVABLY RARE

 

This species is native to the Eastern Cape region in South Africa.  There it is essentially extinct in the wild.  Extremely old specimens have eight to ten feet of thick trunk.  On these habitat plants you'll see rings of old brown leaves hanging down.  Fresh leaves are a glossy green and three to five feet long.  They curl back completely.  Leaves and leaflets are stiff, hard and green in color.  Leaflets are prominently lobed.  If one looks at the cross section of the leaf, it is prominently keeled, even more so toward the distal leaf.  Leaflets are wide, have many lobes.  They overlap like stacked dominos.    Once you've seen one up close, you'll remember the look.  The closest species to this cycad is Encephalartos arenariusE. latifrons wants full sun on the coast and is cold hardy to the lower 20's F.  Plants are unbelievably expensive as there are seldom any for sale.  It's a coveted and sought out species for collectors. 

Encephalartos latifrons

 

Encephalartos latifrons

 Encephalartos latifrons

Encephalartos latifrons 

 ENCEPHALARTOS LATIFRONS
A small plant at the nursery


ENCEPHALARTOS LAURENTIANUS

LONGEST LEAFED CYCAD IN THE WORLD

 

This cycad species with massively long leaves is native to the Kwango River rain forests in southwest Democratic Republic of Congo.  It is known for having the longest leaves of any cycad.  They can reach lengths of over twenty-one feet!  They are strong leaves with dark green leaflets.  They emerge and go straight up.  Old leaves may flex down somewhat.  Trunks can reach twenty feet and the crown spread of leaves is enormous, perhaps thirty feet.   Being from deep Central Africa, this species is not as cold hardy as many others.  Yet, many still grow it in our locality.  My recommendation is to maybe try one if you are frost free.  Sun (coastal/mild climates), part day sun or shade for all other climates would work.  They are near impossible to find but from time to time we have this rare species available.

 Encephalartos laurentianus

 encephalartos_laurentianus1[1] (Custom).jpg

 Encephalartos laurentianus
An eight year old plant at the nursery
 


ENCEPHALARTOS LEBOMBOENSIS
 

 

This medium sized, green leaf cycad comes from the Lebombo Mountains in the Republic of South Africa.  It has several habitat locations.  In more recent times, the species of E. senticosus was split from this complex.  E. lebomboensis has a trunk that is fairly narrow for its trunk height of ten to twelve feet. I call this a "medium" size because leaves are typically only four to six feet long with widths of about two feet.  Leaflets are a glossy green, not very long or wide and mildly armed.  In the average garden, don't expect more than four to six feet in your lifetime.  This is a full sun species and cold hardy to the low 20's F. 

 

 

 Encephalartos lebomboensis

 Encephalartos lebomboensis

Encephalartos lebomboensis

 

 Encephalartos lebomboensis 
Plant at nursery

 ENCEPHALARTOS LEBOMBOENSIS
A boxed specimen at nursery


ENCEPHALARTOS LEHMANII

ANOTHER BLUE CYCAD WITH LESS SPINES

 

This is a popular blue cycad from the Eastern Cape area of South Africa.  I say this because some people don't like spines and prickles.  The leaflets of this species are narrow with only a point at the end.  The leaves and crown are very neat and uniform.  The nearest species to this one is Encephalartos princeps.  Trunks can get to five feet, but one with two to three feet of trunk is very old.  Leaves average about four feet long and are strongly curled.  Sometimes they'll almost do a 360 degree re-curve.  Leaf color is intensely blue like E. horridus.  But, you'll only see this color with full, hot sun.  In shade or inside a greenhouse they are often green.  Cold hardiness is about 21 to 22 degrees F.  In the desert only give it a few hours sun.  Next to Encephalartos horridus, this is the second most popular cycad we grow.

Encephalartos lehmannii

 Encephalartos lehmannii

 ENCEPHALARTOS LEHMANII

 Encephalartos lehmannii
Specimen at nursery

Encephalartos lehmannii

 
Encephalartos lehmannii
This an next photo of nursery specimens

Encephalartos lehmannii


ENCEPHALARTOS LONGIFOLIUS
 

Discovered in the late 1770's, this was one of the first fully described species of Encephalartos.  It's native to the Eastern Cape region of South Africa.  In a century or two, trunks can reach up over fifteen feet and divide overhead.  Suckers are produced at the base.  Leaves are strongly curved downwards in a very attractive manner.  Leaf length is three to six feet.  Leaf color is variable.  They can be anywhere from a dark olive green to a brilliant blue.  Leaves are keeled and leaflets overlap and stack.  

In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful cycads in the world.  Yes, it can get tall, but long after an average person's life span.  It likes coastal sun and partial sun in the desert.  Cold hardiness is down to the very low 20's F.

Encephalartos longifolius

 Encephalartos longifolius

 ENCEPHALARTOS LONGIFOLIUS 

 Encephalartos longifolius

 
large double caudex from nursery

 ENCEPHALARTOS LONGIFOLIUS 
A nice 15 gallon plant

 ENCEPHALARTOS LONGIFOLIUS 
A green leafed nursery specimen
 


ENCEPHALARTOS MANIKENSIS
 

 

This green Central African cycad is native to Mozambique and Zimbabwe.  It is a prototypical cycad for a group of similar "species" in this region that are known as the "Manikensis complex".  This would include such varieties or species as E. bandula, concinnus, chimanimaniensis and others. Taxonomists are still working out which plants deserve species status. 

In any case, E. manikensis  is a medium sized green cycad with trunks up to four to six feet.  Leaf lengths are also four to six feet long with glossy green leaflets.  This is a quick growing species good for coastal sun or part sun and is cold hardy into the low 20's F.  

Encephalartos manikensis

 Encephalartos manikensis

 Encephalartos manikensis
Specimen at nursery

ENCEPHALARTOS MANIKENSIS 
ENCEPHALARTOS MANIKENSIS 

ENCEPHALARTOS MANIKENSIS 
Another boxed specimen
ENCEPHALARTOS MANIKENSIS 
Another

ENCEPHALARTOS MIDDELBURGENSIS

 

This a beautiful blue species from South Africa.  It used to be a sub-variety of Encephalartos eugene-maraisii, but was later separated out as its own species.  It is quite rare in cultivation and is highly sought after among collectors.  This a species grows moderately-slowly and prefers full sun.  It can reach heights of a few meters, but under most circumstances does not exceed 5-6 feet.  The leaflets are armed, but are nothing too vicious and the petioles have some prickles/thorns.  This species can tolerate the mid to lower twenties F.





ENCEPHALARTOS MIDDELBURGENSIS

ENCEPHALARTOS MIDDELBURGENSIS ENCEPHALARTOS MIDDELBURGENSIS

ENCEPHALARTOS MIDDELBURGENSIS
plant with a six inch caudex
ENCEPHALARTOS MIDDELBURGENSIS
Another


ENCEPHALARTOS MSINGANUS
AKA ENCEPHALARTOS MSGINGA

This species is a green species from the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa.  This species does well in sun and is a moderate to slow grower.  In cultivation this plant is quite rare, and according to some reports, is completely extinct in the wild now.  This species is smaller (not exceeding a couple meters ever) and has very spiny leaflets and petioles.  It is similar in appearance to Encephalartos piet reteifii (now E. lebomboensis), though is less robust and slower growing.  This plant is fairly hard and can tolerate the mid 20’s F.

ENCEPHALARTOS MSINGANUS
ENCEPHALARTOS MSINGANUS

ENCEPHALARTOS MSINGANUS
Coning sized specimen at nursery
encephalartos msinganus
Boxed specimen
encephalartos msinganus

ENCEPHALARTOS MUCHII



This attractive and rare species of African cycad is native to central Mozambique.  It is not a large mature plant and has a stem length mature of about three feet.  The interesting thing is the leaf color - it is variable.  Color ranges from a sea-foam or soapy green almost to a true blue color.  Leaf length is three to four feet and the leaflets are armed.  This is a very rare species and seldom is available in coning size from any nursery.  Enthusiasts are very keen to this plant and seek it out.  Along the coast it can take full sun but many grow it in part day sun.  Cold tolerance is into the mid to lower 20's F.





ENCEPHALARTOS MUCHII

ENCEPHALARTOS MUCHII
ENCEPHALARTOS MUCHII

ENCEPHALARTOS MUCHII
ENCEPHALARTOS MUCHII
A nice 15g plant for the garden


ENCEPHALARTOS NATALENSIS
 

This versatile green cycad is a mainstay of every cycad collection.  There's not a cycad enthusiast who's not growing this species.  It is native to the Eastern Cape in South Africa.  There it is found in various regions with differences in plant appearance from area to area.  Thus, there are probably about six varieties of this species, all a bit different.  So, when you see an Encephalartos natalensis in a garden, it may look a bit different than the next one you see.  Trunks get up to twenty feet in a century or two.  

Leaves are five to eight feet long, straight or minimally arched, and more compact in bright sun.  Growth rate is medium to fast.  I'd consider this a medium to large species.  Cold tolerance is about 22 degrees F.

 Encephalartos natalensis

 Encephalartos natalensis

 Encephalartos natalensis

 Encephalartos natalensis
Very large specimen at nursery

 

 Encephalartos natalensis
Another nice nursery plant

ENCEPHALARTOS NATALENSIS 
Another

ENCEPHALARTOS PAUCIDENTATUS

This is a beautiful green species from South Swaziland area of South Africa.  It is somewhat similar in appearance to Encephalartos heenanii, but is less erect in its leaf habit and generally is more robust and spinier.  It does not have the "basket" shape to the leaf crown like heenaniiIt prefers sun coastally and needs some protection inland (half day sun or less) to look its best.  This cycad is very rare in cultivation, and is generally only seen in avid cycad collectors’ gardens.  It can reach heights over 5 meters and looks very palm-like, but I have never seen one over 8-9 feet in any garden setting in our area.  It is a moderate grower and generally will flush (make new leafs) once a year.  E. paucidentatus is a bit cold sensitive and will only really tolerate the mid to upper twenties F without protection.


ENCEPHALARTOS PAUCIDENTATUS
ENCEPHALARTOS PAUCIDENTATUS
ENCEPHALARTOS PAUCIDENTATUS

Encephalartos msinganus

Encephalartos msinganus
A nice 15g for the garden

ENCEPHALARTOS PAUCIDENTATUS
Note narrow leaflets
encephalartos paucidentatus
Another nursery plant

ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS


A GORGEOUS BLUE SOUTH AFRICAN CYCAD


This deeply blue cycad is native to the Eastern Cape region of the Republic of South Africa.  From that area, this species is considered the most desirable and sought after of the four "basic blues" from Natal.  It is similar to Encephalartos lehmannii, but the leaflets are rotated on their leaflet axis toward the central plant and appear more "stacked".  Leaf length averages about four feet, sometimes a bit more.  The caudex is tan in color, has gold collars near the attachment of the leaf stems and is typically twelve to eighteen inches in diameter.  A three to four foot tall stem would be a very mature trunk although they can get somewhat taller with lots of age.  Leaves are blue.  This is a sun species along our coast but needs some protection in the desert.  Cold tolerance is about 22 degrees F.  This species is hard to find and  typically expensive.

ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS
ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS

ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS

ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS
ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS
Specimen plant at nursery
Encephalartos princeps
Crown of leaves, different nursery plant

ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS
Another boxed specimen
ENCEPHALARTOS PRINCEPS
Another


ENCEPHALARTOS SCLAVOI

This Tanzania species is very attractive and is critically endangered.  Earlier collections of this plant were confused with another species from the area (Encephalartos turneri) because they share some similar traits.  This species looks its best with some sun protection, i.e. half day or less in most areas.  It will tolerate full sun coastally, but I think that it tends to be a bit less green than it would be otherwise.  This species has very cupped leaflets which are moderately to heavily spiny and the petioles do have prickles and thorns.  And interesting variable to this species is that there does seem to be two distinctive cultivars, one has larger, less cupped leaflets which are green emergent.  This variety also tend to be the more robust of the two.  The other cultivar has a reddish/brown emergent leaf which is more cupped and shorter.  Both types are quite nice, though I am partial to the reddish/brown emergent one.  Like many of the Central African species, this one is not very cold tolerant.  At best is will tolerate the mid-twenties F without protection.

Encephalartos sclavoi
Encephalartos sclavoi Encephalartos sclavoi
Note cupping to leaflets
Encephalartos sclavoi
Coning sized specimen at nursery
Encephalartos sclavoi
Old spent male cones on previous nursery plant


ENCEPHALARTOS SENTICOSUS


This species medium sized green species can be found in both Mozambique and South Africa.  This is a sun loving species and is a moderate grower.  These are moderately rare as far as Encephalartos go, but is generally not seen in cultivation.  This species is fairly spiny both on the leaflets and petioles.  It can get about 6-7 feet tall and about the same width.  This species is hardy to the mid 20’s F.



ENCEPHALARTOS SENTICOSUS

ENCEPHALARTOS SENTICOSUS

ENCEPHALARTOS SENTICOSUS
ENCEPHALARTOS SENTICOSUS
Large specimen plant at nursery
ENCEPHALARTOS SENTICOSUS
Another


ENCEPHALARTOS TRANSVENOSUS

A LARGE AND EVENTUALLY TALL GREEN CYCAD
 

This spectacular cycad from the Modjaji Forest in northern South Africa will eventually resemble a palm tree in its appearance.  It has very long leaves and develops a very thick trunk over thirty feet tall.  The third photo from habitat shows such an appearance of several plants.  From a distance, you'd mistake it for a palm.  As this species suckers, lower stems can lie on the ground and crawl (last photo).  Leaf length is always over six feet and usually eight feet or longer.  Color is always green and close inspection show a bit of a gray "dust" on the leaflets, almost like a light over-spray of gray paint.  If you get this species, give it lots of room.  The crown of dozens of leaves can take a fifteen foot circle.  Plants take full coastal sun and cold hardiness is into the low 20's F.
 

 Encephalartos transvenosus
Centuries old specimens in habitat

 Encephalartos transvenosus
Super old plants in domestic planting in South Africa

 Encephalartos transvenosus

 Encephalartos transvenosus

 Encephalartos transvenosus
Nursery specimen

ENCEPHALARTOS TRANSVENOSUS

Another boxed specimen


ENCEPHALARTOS TRISPINOSUS

ANOTHER SPINY BLUE SOUTH AFRICAN CYCAD

 

This species is quite similar in appearance to E. horridusIt is also from the Eastern Cape region of RSA and has a brilliant blue color when grown in bright sun.  Overall size is small over time.  The last picture shows a decades old caudex that's about fourteen inches in diameter.  Leaves are about four feet long, strongly curved or arching, leaflets are heavily lobed and spiny.  Crowns of leaves are compact.  This is a full sun species with excellent cold hardiness to the low 20's F.  Remember, in desert areas, give it just a few hours of sun.

 Encephalartos trispinosus

 Encephalartos trispinosus

 Encephalartos trispinosus

 Encephalartos trispinosus

 Encephalartos trispinosus
Specimen at nursery


ENCEPHALARTOS UMBELUZIENSIS



This smaller African cycad comes from the Umbeluzi river region in Swaziland and Mozambique.  In habitat is is slow growing under the leaves of overhead Oak Trees.  Leaves are about four to six feet long, leaflets are narrow and armed and caudex size is usually under ten inches.  It does sucker and can form a clump of plants.  It never achieves any vertical trunk height.  Historically, this species has been confused with the similar E. villosus.  The main difference is that umbeluziensis leaf stems are free of prickles or spines in the lower (closest to stem) six inches.  Leaflets decrease in length toward the base of the leaf but not to prickles.  Growth rate is slow.  This species prefers strong filtered light and has a cold hardiness into the mid, perhaps low 20's F. 
ENCEPHALARTOS UMBELUZIENSIS
ENCEPHALARTOS UMBELUZIENSIS

ENCEPHALARTOS UMBELUZIENSIS
ENCEPHALARTOS UMBELUZIENSIS
ENCEPHALARTOS UMBELUZIENSIS
A good starting size, 15g at nursery

 

ENCEPHALARTOS VILLOSUS

FILTERED LIGHT SPECIES WITH A GOLD COLORED CONE 

This species is native to the East London area of the Eastern Cape.  It's interesting because it doesn't form much of a vertical trunk.  Most of the caudex is subterranean so the overall size of the plant is mostly due to the leaf length.  The latter are upright, lay down with age and have a length of six to eight feet.  Thus, a plant is rarely over eight feet tall.  Leaflets are thin, mildly armed and green in color.  An amazing thing is the color of the cones, especially the female cone.  They are gold in color.  When the red seeds poke through, it's quite attractive.  This plant can take half day sun or more along the coast but also does well in bright filtered light.  Cold hardiness is about 22 degrees F.

 

 

 Encephalartos villosus

 Encephalartos villosus

Encephalartos villosus

 

 Encephalartos villosus
Specimen at nursery

Encephalartos villosus
Another nursery plant, coning sized in full sun

 


ENCEPHALARTOS WHITELOCKII


This desirable cycad species first appeared on the market two to three decades ago.  At that time it was known as the "Uganda Giant" and an assortment of other common names.  This species was named after the famous cycad author Loran Whitelock.  It proved to be a quick growing species with very long, upright leaves.  Stems are very thick and can get up to almost fifteen feet tall over time.  Leaves are long - up to twelve to fourteen feet long.  They are green in color.  Leaflets are narrow and armed.  It is quick growing and will tolerate full sun along the coast.  But, I think they look best in part day sun.  If one lives far inland or in a desert area, try strong filtered light.  It has some trouble with dry Santa Ana winds.  Although most enthusiasts can grow it, because of its natural habitat in Central Africa, it is not as cold tolerant as species from colder South Africa.  Figure it'll take perhaps into the mid-twenties F. before showing cold burn.
ENCEPHALARTOS WHITELOCKII

ENCEPHALARTOS WHITELOCKII ENCEPHALARTOS WHITELOCKII

ENCEPHALARTOS WHITELOCKII

ENCEPHALARTOS WHITELOCKII
Specimen plant at nursery - double caudex


ENCEPHALARTOS WOODII

EXTINCT IN THE WILD - NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND

 

I'm mentioning this species as the last Encephalartos here because it is quite famous.  This is because it is totally extinct in the wild with only one male plant known to exist (not in habitat).  This one male has suckered and given progeny that have made their way around the planet.  There are no females.  So, no "seedlings" are impossible - only suckers are available rarely from existing larger plants.  This is a medium to large plant with wide, stacking leaflets, a thick trunk and prominent, wide barbs on the leaflets.  Leaves arch strongly.  Leaf color is green.  It's a coastal sun species and cold hardiness is about the same as others of the genus.  Plants are almost never available.
 

Encephalartos woodii

 Encephalartos woodii

Encephalartos woodii

 

 Encephalartos woodii

Encephalartos woodii
 

eNCEPHALARTOS WOODII
eNCEPHALARTOS WOODII


 


END OF SECTION ON ENCEPHALARTOS

There are many other species of this genus which one can grow in Southern California.  But, I limited the numbers of species discussed to keep the size of this article manageable. 

 Assorted cycads

 


LEPIDOZAMIA
 

Lepidozamia is a genus of two individual species, both native to and only from Australia.  These two species are both large cycads with softer green foliage and no armor.  Depending on how they are grown, leaves can stretch out and occupy a large area of the garden floor.  We will only discuss one species below.  The other species, Lepidozamia hopei, is quite similar to peroffskyana but gets taller and has wider leaflets.  We have both for sale at the nursery.

 

 


LEPIDOZAMIA PEROFFSKYANA

 

I often tell customers that this is the most “user friendly” cycad that there is.  I say this because this plant has absolutely no armor or spines – anywhere. You can kiss the leaves.  Native to Australia, it lives in habitats stretching from northern New South Whales into Queensland. It is named after a Russian nobleman.   In habitat, a centuries old plant could be up to about eighteen feet tall.  It could hold forty to fifty leaves, each six to eight feet long.  The leaflets are long and narrow, shiny green in color and soft to the touch.  This species will take full sun right on the coast but tolerates part sun or strong filtered light.  Cold hardiness is down to the low 20’s F.  Just give it plenty of room to grow!
 

 Lepidozamia peroffskyana

 Lepidozamia peroffskyana

Lepidozamia peroffskyana

 

 Lepidozamia peroffskyana

Lepidozamia peroffskyan
Throw of leaves on older plant

 

 Lepidozamia peroffskyana

Lepidozamia peroffskyana
Specimen at nursery

Female cone on older nursery plant

Lepidozamia peroffskyana
Specimen at nursery

  

 


MACROZAMIA
 

All Macrozamias are native to eastern Australia in Queensland or New South Whales.  There are about 40 species known to exist.  Several are larger, easy to grow species.  These are the ones we'll concentrate on here.  There are also rare, difficult to find and smaller species that are seldom seen.  I'll not be presenting these presently.  As a group, the ones shown below are medium to larger species that like full and hot sun.  Cold hardiness is excellent.

 


MACROZAMIA COMMUNIS

 

This Australian species of cycad is native to New South Whales.  Trunk height maxes out at about six to seven feet in many decades.  Leaves are four to seven feet long with long, thin green leaflets.  The latter come to a point.  Leaf width is about 18 inches.  An important thing is to notice that leaves are flat in cross section.  M. moorei below is keeled.  The first photo shows plants in habitat.  But, don’t be fooled.  A well grown specimen can get sort of large.  This is a full sun species in most areas and is cold hardy into the upper teens at the coldest.  Dug plants often die.

 Macrozamia communis

Macrozamia communis Thompson & Kennedy
Photo by Thompson & Kennedy, PACSOA
 

Macrozamia communis
Specimen at nursery

 

 Macrozamia communis
Female cone on nursery specimen

Macrozamia communis
A more affordable 15g plant

 


MACROZAMIA JOHNSONI

 

This species is also from New South Whales, Australia but is somewhat taller and bigger than M. communis above.  Trunk height gets to about ten feet, although shorter is more common.  Leaves can easily get to eight feet long.  A distinguishing characteristic is that individual leaflets angle forward toward the leaf tip at a 45 degree angle.  Leaf color is green.  This is a sun species and has similar cold tolerance at the other described here.

 

 

 Macrozamia johnsoni

Macrozamia johnsoni 

Macrozamia johnsoni
 


MACROZAMIA MIQUELII



This Australian species of Macrozamia is known for not getting very large.  Caudex size is maximum a few feet with five foot long green leaves that arch slightly.  Leaflets are narrow and there is no blue in the leaves.  Growth rate is slow to medium.  This is a great species for a smaller garden that cannot handle the larger Macrozamia moorei.  Along the coast one can grow this species in full sun, part sun or it'll do ok in strong filtered light.  Cold hardiness is into the low 20's F. easily. 


Macrozamia miquellii
Macrozamia miquelii by Chris Gray, PACSOA
Photo by Chris Gray, PACSOA
Macrozamia miquellii at nursery
Near specimen size at nursery


MACROZAMIA MOOREI
 

Of these Macrozamia being described in this series, this is by far the largest when mature.  They can make palm tree looking plants.  Specimens in habitat have attained an overall height of thirty feet.  Fifteen feet is more the rule.  Leaves are also longer than the other species and deeply keeled.  Leaf color is green or blue green.  This is another plant that needs room to grow.  In the SF Bay area, I was told this species was the best grower up there.  It wants full sun and can go into the teens F.

 

 

 

 macrozamia moorei

 Macrozamia moorei

Macrozamia moorei
Specimen at nursery

 


MACROZAMIA RIEDLEI 

Of the Macrozamias shown here, this is probably the smallest of the four.  Trunk heights are two feet to five feet.  Leaves are either flat or sometimes keeled and a gray green in color.  This species is native to the north-west part of Australia near or south of Perth.  Leaves are about five feet tall.  Cones are short.  This species likes full sun along the coast and is cold hardy to the low 20’s F.  

 

 

 Macrozamia riedlei


  

STANGERIA

 

Stangeria is a monotypic genus.  There is only one species.  This cycad seems to resemble more a fern than any of the other cycads shown in this series.   You can read about it below.  They are native to South Africa.

 

STANGERIA ERIOPUS

CUTE AND SMALL, SUN OR FILTERED LIGHT 

Stangeria eriopus is the only species in this genus and is native to forests in South Africa.  The leaves more resemble a fern than a typical cycad.  It is most closely related to another cycad which branches, Bowenia, from Australia.  It is often described as having two forms: the grassland and the mountain form.  What I’ve found culturally with one batch of seeds is that there seems to be more variation plant to plant than from “variety to variety”. 

Leaves are typically under three feet long but have been reported to get over five feet.  Leaflets are rounded at the end, sometimes have serrations and are soft to the touch.  I’ve not seen leaves much over three to four feet long.  Caudexes are small as well.  An eight inch caudex would be large.  They can cone when the caudex is four inches.  They like filtered light or part day sun right on the coast.  We’d found they tolerate temperatures of 24 to 25 degrees F. with no problem.  They are a very cute and small plant
.
 

 Stangeria eriopus

Stangeria eriopus 

Stangeria eriopus
 

 Stangeria eriopus

Stangeria eriopus
Female cone on nursery plant

Stangeria eriopus
Coning sized plant at nursery
Stangeria eriopus
15g nursery plant

 

 

 ZAMIA 

This is a group of widely diverse appearing cycads with natural habitats that stretch from the southeastern area of the United States, down through Mexico and Central America and into the Caribbean Islands and northern South America.  With so many habitats of different climates, you can imagine how plants from all these areas may look very different.  And, they do.  There are thin leaf, simple appearing plants.  And, there are lush and tropical species.  Of the seventy-five or more known species, many are easy to grow in our area in Southern California.  But, there are also quite a few that are super exotic and don’t take cold weather.  We call this later group “Tropical Zamias”.  I’ll mention several below, but my emphasis on species that you can grow here.
 

 

 

ZAMIA ABLYPHYLLIDIA

 

This semi-dwarf cycads is native to Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Cuban botanists feel that there are three different varieties or subspecies in Cuba alone. Caudex size is six inches or less with leaves from two to along five feet long.  I’ve seen mature plants where the top of the leaves is almost five feet.  But, most plants are shorter.  Leaflets are four inches or less long and have rounded ends.  It likes strong filtered light or perhaps more sun right on the coast.  Cold hardiness is into the mid-twenties.

 

 Zamia amblyphyllidia

Zamia amblyphyllidia Zamia amblyphyllidia
Orange female cones on nursery plant
ZAMIA ABLYPHYLLIDIA

 


ZAMIA FISCHERI
AKA ZAMIA VASQUEZII

DWARF, CUTE, TAKES FILTERED LIGHT 

This dwarf yet exotic cycad species comes from the Tamaulipas area in Mexico where it lives in tropical forests.  It is a definite dwarf plant and is rarely over two feet tall.  Trunk size is up to a foot long with eighteen inch leaves that are two to three inches long and serrated along the edges and ends.  It is a filtered light species with a cold hardiness in the mid to upper twenties F.  Such cold weather may defoliate it but it usually comes back.  It is an ideal yet smaller patio plant for filtered light.
 

 ZAMIA FISCHERI

ZAMIA FISCHERI
ZAMIA FISCHERI
Zamia fischeri
Very old plant at nursery



ZAMIA FURFURACEA

THE CARDBOARD CYCAD 

This semi-dwarf species is native to Veracruz, Mexico.  It has a mature plant height typically of three to four feet.  I’ve seen a rare “large” specimen to five feet.  It suckers and tends to form a clump of plants.  In habitat, trunks can get over two feet tall.  This is rare.  An eight in wide and one foot tall caudex is more often seen.  Leaves vary in length from two feet to five feet, depending on growing conditions.  Bright light or sun makes plants smaller and more compact.  Leaves are wide, rounded at the ends and without spines.  This plant can take full sun along the coast and is cold hardy to about 23 degrees F.  In filtered light the leaves will “stretch” a bit.

 

 

 

 ZAMIA FURFURACEA

 ZAMIA FURFURACEA
Mature specimen at nursery


ZAMIA INTEGRIFOLIA 

This thin leafed and small species is native to Florida, Georgia and some Caribbean Islands.  Caudexes are small, typically ten inches or less.  Leaves are composed of very narrow leaflets, dull green in color and leaf length is 18 inches to three feet.  Sun or part sun would work for this species.  Temperature tolerance uncertain but probably into the mid-twenties F.

 

 

ZAMIA INTEGRIFOLIA
 


ZAMIA KICKXII
 

This rare dwarf species is native to Cuba.  Trunks are six inches or smaller.  Leaf length is between one and two feet.  The interesting thing are the rounded, somewhat puffy leaflets.  They are firm to the touch.  They are tightly stacked along the leaf stem.  The leaf crown diameter of a well grown plant may only be two feet.  This species is for bright filtered light or perhaps a bit of sun.  Cold tolerance is into the mid to upper twenties F.

 

 

 

 ZAMIA KICKXII


ZAMIA NEUROPHYLLIDIA

 

For decades, this tropical and trunk forming species was confused with Zamia skinneri (below).  It has habitats in Costa Rica and Panama and perhaps other Central American countries.  The hallmark of the species are green emergent and gorgeous wide, large plicate leaflets.  Trunks are narrow.  Trunks can reach overhead with six foot long leaves and ten to twelve inch leaflets.  The leaflet surfaces are  grooved.  This is what we’d call a “Tropical Zamia” in that the average grower in Southern California will have trouble with this species.  If you can pull it off, it’s a show stopper.  Filtered light is the rule.  If you get very cold, this species might be a challenge for you.
 

 

ZAMIA NEUROPHYLLIDIA Wikipedia 
photo c/o Wikipedia

 

ZAMIA PAUCIJUGA



This dwarf species or cycad is native to western Mexico where it lives under a Pine Tree forest type of environment.  These plants never get very large.  Caudexes are limited to about five inches and will freely form offsets.  The leaflets are variable and sometimes have small spines.  Overall height of the plants is usually about two to three feet and cones are small.  Grow this species is part day sun or filtered light.  It tolerates temperatures into the mid-twenties F.  It is rare and I apologize that, because of this, I have no pictures from gardens or the wild.


ZAMIA PAUCIJUGA
Coning sized nursery plant


ZAMIA PICTA
AKA ZAMIA VARIEGATA

THE WORLD’S ONLY VARIEGATED CYCAD 

This exotic cycad is known as the only variegated cycad in the world.  It is native to various countries in Central America where it is found on the rainforest floor.  It is not particularly a dwarf species as it can develop trunk height and have leaves up to three feet long or more.  In habitat, a healthy plant could be over six feet tall.  Leaflets are about four to six inches long with serrated edges.  But, the hallmark is the variegation.  It has yellow splotches or streaks on a dark green background.  Leaflets come to a point.  These traits are seen well in the second picture.  Note that the degree of variegation is variable as shown.  This is a filtered light species with a cold hardiness into the mid-twenties F.
 

 Zamia picta variegata - unknown author

 Zamia picta

ZAMIA VARIEGATA
Female plant in cone - remember, it's a dwarf

ZAMIA VARIEGATA
Variegation on nursery plant leaflets

ZAMIA PORTORICENSIS



This species is native to the Susua Forest in southern Puerto Rico.  This locality constitutes the derivation of the species name.  It is a small species with subterranean stems less than a foot in length.  Its leaves are green, three to four feet long with pointed thin leaflets.  It is fairly easy to grow in frost free areas.  It can be grown in sun or partial sun. 


ZAMIA PORTORICENSIS

ZAMIA PORTORICENSIS
Coning sized plant at nursery



ZAMIA PSEUDOPARASITIC

THE WORLD’S ONLY EPIPHYTIC CYCAD BUT A DIFFICULT PLANT TO GROW HERE 

A plant that is epiphytic is supported by something else (such as a tree) but not detrimental to that thing which supports it.  Orchids and many Bromeliads are epiphytic.  This cycad species is a true epiphyte.  It lives on the limbs and in limb crotches high above your head in the tree’s canopy.  Caudexes are typically small, not over a foot.  Leaves are up to six feet.  They emerge from the caudex, arch down and hang well below the cycad’s stem.  The picture shown here is being basket grown specimen.  Leaflets are long.  Leaf color is green.  If grown in a container, a fast draining mix is needed.  This species does not tolerate a hard freeze and needs filtered light.  On cold winter nights, it's best to protect it.

 


 

ZAMIA PSEUDOPARASITIC

ZAMIA PSEUDOPARASITIC photo by RMo


ZAMIA SKINNERI

THERE ARE GREEN AND RED EMERGENT FORMS

 

It might be too scientific here to discuss the history of this gorgeous species and how other similar looking and new species has been named.  Rather, we’ll treat all as “Zamia skinneri”.  All are beautiful plants. The most impressive specimens are found in Panama.  Leaves are very wide with groves on the dorsal surface.  Emerging color can be red (as shown) or green, depending on the variety.  Leaflets exist in the wide that are two feet long and almost a foot wide.  And, total leaf length can be eight feet with a long petiole free of leaves.  This plant is one of the most exotic and shockingly beautiful cycads in the world.  They are hard to locate and always expensive.   One needs filtered light and a frost fee area to grow it.  It’s another “Tropical Zamia”.
 


This and next three photos below by R.M.

 

 

 Zamia skinneri by RM

Zamia skinner by TS at RPS 
photo from RPS Website


ZAMIA STANDLEYI 

This semi-dwarf cycad is native to Honduras where it lives in dry rainforests.  Leaves are three feet long or less.  Leaflets are long, have serrated edges and come to a point.  Leaflet color is green.  However, some plants can have newly emerging red leaves.  This is a filtered light species that can perhaps tolerate temperatures into the upper twenties F.

 

 

 

ZAMIA STANDLEYI
 

 ZAMIA STANDLEYI

ZAMIA STANDLEYI

 


END OF PRESENTATION OF CYCADS FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA


I hope that you liked this presentation.  As mentioned at the beginning, there are certainly lots of other desirable species from all the cycad genera that you can probably grow.  The species presented here are not only exciting to grow but will end up being gorgeous garden plants.  Also, they conserve water.  Also, realize that cycads, as a group, are extremely rare and endangered in the wild.  In fact, there are even international laws protecting their movement between countries.  Propagation is only through expensive seeds or by removal the very slow establishment of offsets from garden plants.  These things extrapolate out to sometimes expensive prices when one purchases unusual cycads.  But, remember that cycads as a group are the most rare plants on the planet.  If you decide you want to grow some in your garden, please consider our nursery.  We have been in the business of growing cycads for almost forty years and would do out best to assist you.
 

 

Assorted cycads Assorted cycads

 

MORE TO READ:

Other Articles on Cycads - Species/Culture/Characteristics

Buy Cycads - Prices and Sizes

Cycad Photo Gallery - Lots of Other Species  

Jungle Music Palms, Cycads & Tropical Plants

Email:

phil.bergman@junglemusic.net

Website:

www.junglemusic.net

Nursery Location:

 450 Ocean View Ave., Encinitas, CA  92024

Nursery Phone:  619 291 4605
Nursery Hours:

 Monday - Saturday, 9AM - 4PM
 Sunday typically closed

Directions to Nursery: Freeway Close. Take Freeway 5 to Encinitas
(10 minutes south of Oceanside, 30 minutes north of San Diego). 
Exit Leucadia Blvd West (toward ocean).
Immediate left on Orpheus Ave, left on Union St,
Right on Ocean View Ave to Nursery, which is at 450 Ocean View Ave

 

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