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>>Cycads >>Cycad Help & Advice >>The Sago Palm, Cycas revoluta >>Page 2


The Sago Palm, Cycas revoluta


by Phil Bergman

This is a comprehensive
two part article (at end below click on part #2) that gives information on:
   Sago Palm appearance
   Sago Palm culture
   Sago Palm propagation
   Other types of Sago Palms
   Sago Palm, frequently asked questions
 

Sago Palm Cycas revoluta

   

Clumping sago palms

Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm), with multiple "clumps".
(click photo to enlarge)

 
Introduction
The Sago Palm has become a very popular landscape item and is the most common cycad used in landscape today.  But most people don’t realize that it is not a palm at all.  Rather this plant is a Cycad, a totally different type of plant.  There are over 200 different types of cycads.  Cycads are a group of plants that are very primitive in their origins. Fossils have been found on almost every continent on the planet. It is often stated that cycads have evolved little since the days of the dinosaurs. There are species that have gone extinct, while there are others that seemed to show little evolution over millions of years. Therefore as a group, cycads are often referred to as “living fossils”. The scientific name for the Sago Palm is Cycas revoluta. Cycas refers to the genus, the genus refers to a particular group of similar plants in the Cycad family and revoluta further describes the exact species of the group Cycas. The latter was given to this species because of the revolute (to curl back) nature of the leaflets; the edges roll under the leaflet.  Many people misspell the name of this cycad as Cycas revoluta or Cica revoluta.  The genus is "Cycas".

The Sago Palm is the most propagated and sold cycad in the world. It is seen in almost all botanical gardens, in temperate and tropical locations and in many areas of the world it  is heavily promoted commercially as a landscape plant. Unfortunately, its common name "Sago Palm" has obscured the fact that it is actually a cycad.  Other names for this species include the sago palm tree, the king sago, and, because of unfamiliarity with it, the palm cycad.

Old Specimen of the Sago Palm, Cycas revoluta

Old specimens of  Sago Palms, (Cycas revoluta).
(click photo to enlarge)

 

Branching sago palms

Approximately 75 year old plant showing a branching trunk.
(click photo to enlarge)

 
Description Of The Sago Palm
Sago Palms have erect, sturdy trunks that are typically about one to two feet in diameter, sometimes wider and can grow into very old specimens with twenty feet of trunk. The leaves are a dark olive green and about three to four feet long when the plants are of a reproductive age. They can be longer if not grown in full sun. Trunks can branch multiple times, thus producing multiple heads of leaves. The trunks are rough and retain the old leaf bases of previous leaves. It is also the norm that plants will produce basal offsets or “suckers” at the base of the main trunk. Thus one gets a cluster of many plants and trunks with time. The petiole or stems of Cycas revoluta have small protective barbs or hooks that one must avoid during pruning. An older plant with a well-established trunk will have foliage overhead. Younger plants look like a rosette of leaves coming from a stem near the ground. 

cycas revoluta with leafed out pups

Picture 1. Cycas revoluta with leafed out pups.
(click photo to enlarge)

 

Sago palms can produce trunk offsets

Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm), producing suckers on trunk.
(click photo to enlarge)

 

Cycas revoluta cycad barbs on petiole

Photo showing barbs on petiole of the Sago Palm
(click photo to enlarge)

 
Reproduction Of The Sago Palm
Propagation of sago palms is either by seed or by removal of basal offsets. Offsets typically occur at ground level next to the main stem. Suckers also can actually occur above the ground on the trunk. Please read below for information on removal and propagation of suckers. 

As with other cycads, the Sago Palm has either male or female cones (the reproductive part of a cycad). Male cones protrude and are shaped like a cone or torpedo, whereas females are "cabbage" shaped and are gold or tan-yellow in color. The female cone will slowly open up when receptive to pollen. 

A female plant cannot produce viable, fertile seed unless it is pollinated. In the wild this can occur by wind dispersion of male pollen but it is believed that most of the pollination is done by native insects. However, it is quite common for an isolated female plant to produce unfertile seeds that appear to be "good". They will have the traditional red colored fruit but lack an inner embryo and will not germinate. Pollination of a receptive female cone can be done naturally by insects or artificially by man. After fertile seeds are collected, they usually need several months of storage before the inner embryo is ready to germinate. Therefore, it is best to clean the seeds of external fruit and set them aside before attempting to propagate the seeds. 

Growing Sago Palms
Growing of Cycas revoluta is not difficult if simple rules are followed. First, do give ample root depth by picking a pot or container that is deep. By this I mean preferably a pot 16 inches deep or more (a smaller container can be used when the plant is small). It is quicker and easier to grow Cycas revoluta in the ground as opposed to a container. In general, Sago Palms need sun to grow well. In coastal areas, it is best to plant them in full sun. In more interior locations or desert localities, they still prefer good sun or at least part day sun. Growing the Sago Palm in the shade typically gives one lanky, stretched-out leaves that are weak. If in too much shade, this species can actually just stall and do nothing (such as refusing to throw any new leaves). 

Sago producing suckers on trunk

Picture 2. Cycas revoluta with leafed out pups, close-up. 
(click photo to enlarge)

 

Cycas revoluta with male cycad cone

Cycas revoluta, specimen with male cone.
(click photo to enlarge)

 

Female cone of cycas revoluta

Cycas revoluta specimen with female cone.
(click photo to enlarge)

 

Example of deep pots.

Example of ideal deep plant containers.
(click photo to enlarge)

 

The Sago Palm can be grown inside the house near a bright window. Like other cycads, they do not want to be over-watered. Let the soil dry out a bit before watering. Try to avoid overhead watering; this may cause rot and possibly total decay of the plant. The soil mix should be quick draining. The plants are quite cold hardy and can tolerate temperatures below 20° F. Overall, it is an available species that is quite versatile and easy to grow. It is usually free from pests but can occasionally get into problems with scale or mealy bug, which should be treated. Fertilizing with a balanced tropical fertilizer with microelements will usually suffice. Sagos typically throw a new set of leaves during the Spring or Summer. 

Because the Sago Palm is grown so much commercially, it is not in any way threatened by extinction.  Some refer to it as the "palm sago" or "sego palm", but the true common name is "Sago Palm". First discovered in the late 1700’s, it is native to various areas of Southern Japan, it natively experiences mild to somewhat cold temperatures. It is commonly used as a potted plant and the size can be stunted if not given ample root room. For this reason, it is quite popular as a bonsai plant. It is not unusual to hear of potted specimens that are hundreds of years old. In general, the Sago Palm does much better and grows more quickly when planted in the ground. It prefers sandy, well draining soil.  For more information on sago palm care and "cycad babies" and how to remove them, go to page 2 below.

        

 To read the rest of this article, click here for Part #2 (includes interesting and Frequently Asked Questions About The Sago Palm)

Return to Cycads

 

Throw of new leaves

Throw of new leaves
(click photo to enlarge)


Cycas revoluta grown in a pot

Cycas revoluta grown in a pot.
(click photo to enlarge)

 
 

Cycad and Buddha, photo by CT
Different species of cycad with a Buddha and exotic plants.  Photo by C.T.

New Plant Arrivals at the Nursery

Clicking here will instantly show you new palms, cycads or tropical plants we are offering at our nursery.  Photos and prices given.  This will change with new additions every few days.  Popular and requested species will also be shown.
Click here to read this article

READ AND SEE MORE ABOUT DIFFERENT TYPES OF SAGOS:

INFORMATION ON OTHER TYPES OF SAGO'S (CYCADS), CLICK HERE

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