Friday 17 May
Drakensberg cycad (Encephalartos ghellinckii)
Drakensberg cycad fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Drakensberg cycad description
The Drakensberg cycad takes its common name from the stunning South African mountain range on which it is found. A medium-sized plant, the thick stems of the Drakensberg cycad are usually around one metre tall, but older stems may reach up to three metres in length, at which point they tend to lean over, sometimes becoming almost horizontal (2) (4). At lower elevations in the Eastern Province, specimens tend to be smaller and less robust than those higher up in the mountains (2) (5). Although the un-branching stems initially grow singularly, over time, individual plants may sucker from the base to form clumps of five or more stems (4). The spirally twisted mature leaves are bright olive-green, but new leaves are greyish and covered in wool (4) (5) (6). Male and female plants both produce up to five woolly, yellow to beige cones (5).
- Stem length: up to 3 m (2)
Drakensberg cycad biology
Cycads are long-lived, slow growing plants that always occur as individual male or female plants (2) (6). There is no way of determining the sex of a cycad until it begins to produce its first cone (2). For a long time cycads were thought, like cone-producing conifers, to be entirely wind pollinated (7). However, studies now suggest that the vast majority, if not all cycads, are actually pollinated by insects or more specifically weevils (2) (6) (7). To attract pollinators, male and female cones produce powerful odours, usually in the early morning or evening (2). Travelling between the sexes, the weevils pollinate the plants by inadvertently transferring pollen from the male cones to the receptive ovules of the female cones (2) (8).
The seeds produced by cycads are large and have a fleshy outer coat, but are relatively short-lived and vulnerable to desiccation. The fleshy outer layer is desirable to a range of animals such as birds, rodents and bats, depending on the species of cycad and region it occupies. However, with any luck the unpalatable seed is discarded some distance away from the parent plant in a hospitable environment in which to germinate (6).Top
Drakensberg cycad rangeTop
Drakensberg cycad habitatTop
Drakensberg cycad statusTop
Drakensberg cycad threats
Although illegal harvesting is a significant potential threat to the Drakensberg cycad, the population is still relatively large and stable (9).Top
Drakensberg cycad conservation
There are not known to be any specific conservation measures in place for the Drakensberg cycad, but it is listed on Appendix I of CITES, which permits trade only under exceptional circumstances (3). In addition, this species receives protection within the game reserves and wilderness areas in the Drakensberg (5).Top
Find out more
For further information on the conservation of cycads in South Africa see:
The Cycad Society of South Africa:
South African National Biodiversity Institute:
IUCN/SSC Cycad Specialist Group:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- The beginning of growth, usually following a period of dormancy and in response to favourable conditions. For example, the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.
- A structure within the female reproductive organs of plants that contains eggs and when fertilized by pollen, develops into seeds.
- To transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
- Animals that in the act of visiting a plant's flowers transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
IUCN Red List (December, 2009)
- Whitelock, L.M. (2002) The Cycads. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
CITES (December, 2009)
- The Cycad Society of South Africa (December, 2009)
Threatened Plant Conservation Unit (2004) A Management Plan For Cycads In Kwazulu-Natal. Biodiversity Conservation Advice Division, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Available at:
The Cycad Pages (2009)
- Jolivet, P. (2005) Cycads and beetles: recent views on pollination. The Cycad Newsletter, 28: 3-7.
- Donaldson, J.S. (1997) Is there a floral parasite mutualism in cycad pollination? The pollination biology of Encephalartos villosus (Zamiaceae). American Journal of Botany, 84: 1398-1406.
- Donaldson, J.S. (2003) Cycads, status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC-Cycad Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.