Photo Ken Hill
The Cycad Pages
Cycas media

Cycas media R. Br., Prodr. 1: 348 (1810).
"TYPE: Australia, ""New Holland, North Coast"", R. Brown s.n. (holo BM; iso K)."

Photo Ken Hill
Etymology: From the Latin media middle, possibly referring to the morphologically intermediate form of this species.

Literature: Gaudichaud 1829, Domin 1928, Stearn 1976

Illustrations: Miquel 1842, Gardner 1923, Schuster 1932, Stearn 1976, Mabberley 1985

Historical notes: Cited only as `(T.) v.v.', `T.' (`littus intra Tropicum') representing tropical Australia between the Endeavour River and Arnhem Bay, and `v.v.' (`visas vivas') indicating that Brown had seen living plants in their natural habitat. Probably collected on 16 Oct 1802 from Calder Island, in the Cumberland Group off Mackay (Groves & Moore 1989). Bennett allocated the same number (3106) to Brown's collections of both C. media and C. angulata.

Although the type specimens of C. normanbyana were labelled `Port Denison', this was merely the port from which they were dispatched to Mueller. Fitzalan in his correspondence to Mueller gave the actual locality of collection as `near the Burdekin River estuary'.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished from other Australian species by the robust habit with a tall, stout trunk with persistent leaf bases and cataphylls, the long, hard, strongly pungent, shortly pubescent cataphylls, the glabrous, glossy green leaves with more or less flat leaflets, and the relatively small seeds. The similar C. silvestris has markedly broader leaflets and a smooth trunk, and the similar C. megacarpa has usually shorter, more strongly keeled leaves with fewer leaflets, larger seeds, soft, vilous cataphylls and a more slender trunk.

Plants from near-coastal sites in the Cooktown district and north of there have wider and more distinctly falcate leaflets and smaller seeds. An isolated population on the east coast of Cape York Peninsula near the Rocky River estuary is distinguished by much longer cataphylls. These variants are recognised below as subspecies.

Distribution and habitat: Widespread and locally common in open or closed forest or occasionally rainforest in eastern Queensland, from south of Mackay to coastal Cape York Peninsula, east of Coen.

Key to subspecies

1 leaflets 5--7 mm wide, margins distinctly recurved; seeds more than 32 mm diam. -- A. subsp. media

1* leaflets 7--10 mm wide, margins slightly recurved; seeds up to 32 mm diam.

 2 Longest cataphylls more than 100 mm long -- B. subsp. ensata

 2* Longest cataphylls less than 90 mm long -- C. subsp. banksii

A. Cycas media subsp. media

Illustration: Hill 1992, fig. 3a, c-h, j.

Leaves 70--180 cm long; median leaflets 130--210 mm long, 6--8 mm wide. Longest cataphylls 60--90 mm long. Seeds 34--39 mm long, 32--35 mm wide.

Historical notes: the names C. kennedyana and C. normanbyana have been widely applied to forms of C. media subsp. media, and also erroneously to two other Queensland species from south of the range of C. media. The diagnostic features of these `taxa' as originally described occur at random through most populations of C. media subsp. media.

Distribution: locally abundant in coastal eucalypt forests, from around Cardwell south to around St Lawrence. This subspecies is usually found on sites that offer good soil drainage, often on sandy soils and on sloping sites.

Conservation status: not considered to be at risk.

B. Cycas media subsp. ensata

Leaves 140--230 cm long; median leaflets 130--240 mm long, 7.5--9 mm wide. Longest cataphylls 100--120 mm long. Seeds 33--36 mm long, 29--32 mm wide.

Distinguished by the very long, hard and sharp cataphylls.

Distribution: known from the coastal plain north of Silver Plains homestead, apparently extending as far north as Lockhart River. Locally abundant in tall eucalypt forest--rainforest ecotonal areas with Livistona muelleri on flat country, on deep alluvial sandy soil.

Conservation status: locally abundant and isolated, not considered to be greatly at risk, but warranting a ROTAP category of 2R- at least until a more comprehensive survey of the occurrence can be conducted.

Etymology: the epithet is from the Latin ensatus, a sword, in reference to the unusually long and sharp cataphylls.

C. Cycas media subsp. banksii

Illustration: Hill 1992, fig. 3b, i.

Leaves 100--200 cm long; median leaflets 130--240 mm long, 7.5--10 mm wide. Longest cataphylls 70--100 mm long. Seeds 32--36 mm long, 27--32 mm wide.

Distinguished by the shorter cataphylls and relatively broad leaflets.

Distribution: abundant in near-coastal sites, usually in tall eucalypt forests, from north of Cooktown to south of Cairns.

Conservation status: widespread and locally abundant, not considered to be at risk.

Etymology: the epithet commemorates Joseph Banks, botanist on Cook's first voyage, and first European to collect this taxon, at Endeavour River in 1770.
Photo Ken Hill
Photo Ken Hill


Stems arborescent, to 3(-6) m tall, 10-18 cm diam. at narrowest point.

Leaves bright green or deep green, highly glossy or semiglossy, 90-230 cm long, slightly keeled or flat (not keeled) in section (opposing leaflets inserted at 140-180° on rachis), with 160-300 leaflets, with orange tomentum shedding as leaf expands; terminated by paired leaflets or a spine 3-55 mm long. Petiole 30-70 cm long (20-30% of total leaf), petiole glabrous or pubescent, spinescent for 10-80% of length. Basal leaflets not gradually reducing to spines, 70-150 mm long.

Median leaflets simple, strongly discolorous, 130-260 mm long, 6-10 mm wide, inserted at 45-75° to rachis, decurrent for 2-7 mm, narrowed to 2.5-4.5 mm at base (to 30-50% of maximum width), 7-13 mm apart on rachis; median leaflets section flat; margins slightly recurved; apex aristate, not spinescent; midrib flat above, raised below.

Cataphylls linear, pungent, pilose, 80-120 mm long, persistent.

Pollen cones ovoid, orange, 15-25 cm long, 8-15 cm diam.; microsporophyll lamina firm, not dorsiventrally thickened, 25-33 mm long, 8-12 mm wide, fertile zone 16-22 mm long, sterile apex 8-11 mm long, deflexed, apical spine prominent, sharply upturned, 6-10 mm long.

Megasporophylls 20-37 cm long, grey-tomentose or brown-tomentose; ovules 4-10, glabrous; lamina ovate to lanceolate, 35-100 mm long, 17-32 mm wide, regularly dentate, with 18-32 pungent lateral spines 4-10 mm long, 1-3 mm wide, apical spine distinct from lateral spines, 15-45 mm long.

Seeds flattened-ovoid, 31-38 mm long, 26-32 mm wide; sarcotesta orange-brown, not pruinose, 3-4 mm thick; fibrous layer absent; sclerotesta smooth. Spongy endocarp absent.
Photo Ken Hill

The Cycad Pages

© 1998-2012 Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
Maintained by Leonie Stanberg and Dennis Stevenson 2010-2012
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