Photo Dennis Stevenson
The Cycad Pages
Microcycas calocoma

Microcycas calocoma (Miq.) A. DC., Prodr. 16(2): 522-548 (1868). BAS

Etymology: The genus name literally means small Cycas which is a misnomer as discussed below. The specific epithet refers to a 'beautiful crown of leaves'.

Common name(s): Palma corcho, Cuba. from the Greek calos, beautiful, and coma, hair.

Historical notes: Microcycas calocoma was originally described as Zamia calocoma by Dutch botanist F.A.W. Miquel. in 1851 and placed in its own section of Zamia, i.e. Zamia section Microcycas. In 1861, Miquel (in Prodromus Systematis Cycadearum, p.26) thought it was possibly a new genus based upon vegetative features but because he had seen no cones reserved judgement. Subsequently, Alphonse De Candolle in 1868 described the genus Microcycas and in doing so used Miquel's suggestion and sectional name. Clearly without reproductive material Miquel's original intent was to use Microcycas to refer to a small cycad not a small Cycas.

Distinguishing features: The obviously truncated leaves with drooping leaflets that are also observable in juvenile plants distinguish this cycad. The robust arborescent habit and the large male and female cones with the two apical protuberances on the sporophylls are also distinctive.

Distribution and habitat: Endemic to Western Cuba. Microcycas grows in varied habitats ranging from montane forest at 250 meters to lowland limestone or grassland and scrub at 50 meters.

Conservation status: Microcycas should be considered endangered in the wild it would appear mainly because of habitat destruction and most importantly because it appears to set little or no seed. This in turn appears to be because the pollinator is no longer present perhaps as a result of pesticide use. The is not recent but goes back to observations published in 1942 by Foster and San Pedro (Mem. Soc. Cubana Hist. Nat. "Felipe Poey" 16: 105-121). 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Category V,I,E.
Photo Dennis Stevenson
Photo Dennis Stevenson


Stems arborescent, to 10 m, tall, 60 cm diam. at base.

Cataphylls to 12 cm long, grey-pilose.

Leaves 10-50, 0.6-1.2 m long, appearing apically truncate; petiole 0.08- 0.1 m long, not prickled; rachis bearing 50-80 pairs of leaflets, not prickled.

Leaflets linear lanceolate, margin entire, attenuate basally, acute apically, median ones 15-25 cm long and 0.8-1.0 cm wide, reflexed below the plane of the rachis.

Pollen cones 1, cylindrical, shortly pedunculate, yellowish brown, 25-30 cm long and 5-8 cm in diameter, peduncle 2-4 cm long.

Seed cones broadly cylindrical, shortly pedunculate, yellowish brown, 50-90 cm long and 13-16 cm in diameter, peduncle 2-4 cm long. Sporophylls with two rounded apical protuberances.

Seeds ovoid, 3.5-4 cm long, 2-2.5 cm in diameter, sarcotesta pink to red.

2n = 16

The Cycad Pages

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Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
Maintained by Leonie Stanberg and Dennis Stevenson 2010-2012
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