In 1895, a single clump of an unknown cycad species was discovered by John Medley Wood on the edge of a forest in South Africa. Over the next two decades, all four stems of Wood’s cycad were removed from the wild and taken into cultivation (1) (2) (4). To date, a second wild plant has never been discovered, but the successful cultivation of offsets of the original plant, has ensured the ex-situ preservation of this enigmatic species (2) (4).
In addition to its rarity, the striking appearance of Wood’s cycad has made it one of the most sought after cycad species in the world. Growing up to six metres in height, the majestic trunk is topped with an umbrella-shaped crown of two to three metre long, glossy, dark-green leaves (2) (4). In mature specimens, the trunk may branch in the crown, and, atypically for cycads, broaden towards the base to form a kind of buttress that supports the plant’s vast weight (2). In common with all cycads, the woody trunk is mostly comprised of soft, pithy storage tissue protected by a solid layer of old leaf bases (4) (5). Owing to their common origin, all the Wood’s cycads in cultivation are male, and consequently only produce the pollen bearing male cones. The bright-orange male cones are cylindrical in shape and can grow up to 1.2 metres in length (2).
- Max height: up to 6 m (2)