Isosyntype (BM)
The Cycad Pages
Cycas beddomei

Cycas beddomei Dyer, "Trans. Linn. Soc. London, Bot., ser. 2, 5: 85, pl. 17" (1885).
"TYPE: India, Cuddapah Hills, H.H. Yarde s.n., Aug. 1882, Sep 1882 (syn. K, 3 sheets; isosyn. BM, 1 sheet)."

Etymology: Honouring Colonel Richard Henry Beddome (18 -- ), a director of the Lal Bagh, or government gardens, at Bangalore from --, and author of the `Foresters manual of botany for southern India'.

Literature: Raizada & Sahni 1960.

Illustrations: Dyer 1881, Warburg 1900.

Historical notes: Described by English botanist Sir William Turner Thiselton-Dyer (1843-1928), Assistant director at Kew from 1875-1885 and Director from 1885-1905.

The presence of this distinctive species was first observed by Beddome (1869), who recorded it (with some hesitation) as C. revoluta. Thiselton-Dyer next noted in an popular article in Gardeners Chronicle in 1881 that a small-growing Indian species that was distinct from C. circinalis had several times been introduced into horticulture in Europe, under a variety of names. The first introduction was by Colonel Beddome, who sent plants to Belgian Nurserymen during his term as Director of the Government Gardens at Bangalore. These nurserymen applied the name C. boddami to the plants. The second introduction was by Adolf Haage of Erfurt, who gave the locality as Travancore. These introductions had the name C. squamosa applied to them. The third introduction was of plants collected by Colonel Puckle, another director of the Lal Bagh (Government Gardens) at Bangalore, and imported by the English plant trader William Bull in 1877, who described it is his catalogue as `a distinct Indian cycad, from the Presidency of Madras', under the name C. pluma. Thiselton-Dyer, while recording this history, appealed to readers (of Gardener's Chronicle) in southern India for botanical specimens from the wild, in order to establish the true relationships of this plant.

His pleas were answered by H--. H. Yarde, the Deputy Conservator of Forests for the Cuddapah division, who sent both plants and botanical specimens. This allowed Thiselton-Dyer to recognise that this was a distinct species, and he described it as C. beddomei in 1883. Yarde apparently sent only juvenile plants, causing Thiselton-Dyer to firstly record that he had only seen stems a few inches high, and later (1890) to state categorically that stems were only a few inches high. The myth that this species was almost stemless was propagated in the literature from there, for example by Fischer (1928), Schuster (1932) and Raizada and Sahni (1960).

This species has been one of the few in the genus that has been fairly clearly understood from its beginning, with little misapplication of the name and no misunderstanding of the type. Schuster (1932) treated it as a variety of C. circinalis, to which it is clearly closely related. However, he showed little understanding of the limits of C. circinalis or C. beddomei, and included material from Java within his variety beddomei. Raizada & Sahni (1960) included material from the eastern Ghats that had been earlier separated as C. circinalis var. orixensis (see C. orixensis) under C. beddomei. The Eastern Ghats material is, however, quite distinct from C. beddomei (see C. spherica).

Distinguishing features: This species has in common with the other southern Indian cycads a non-pectinate megasporophyll with subglobular seeds that display a distinctive fibrous layer within the sarcotesta, and an attenuate microsporophyll apex. It can be distinguished by the very narrow leaflets with revolute margins.

Distribution and habitat: Known only from the Cuddapah Hills in Andhra Pradesh State, north-west of Madras in eastern Peninsular India. Characteristically a species of dry, open hill slopes, in open grassy woodland or grassland.

Conservation status: Although present in considerable numbers, this species faces a number of significant threats. It is well adapted to rapid recovery after fire, but frequent grassfires effectively block reproduction by burning seeds and seedlings. An even more effective block to reproduction is the use of the male cones in Ayer Veda medicines, making them a trafficable commodity which can earn peasant villagers a few desperately needed rupees. The villagers scour the hills for cones, removing all before pollen shed. C. beddomei is the only member of the genus Cycas to be listed in CITES Appendix 1, and was accorded a status of endangered by the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants category E. IUCN (1994) Red List status EN/VU?.

Vernacular: perita (tel. - Fischer 1928); per ita (Schuster 1932); konda itha (Raizada & Sahni 1960).


Stems arborescent.

Leaves grey-green, dull, 90 cm long, flat (not keeled) in section (opposing leaflets inserted at 180° on rachis), tomentum shedding as leaf expands. Petiole 15 cm long, glabrous, spinescent. Basal leaflets not gradually reducing to spines.

Median leaflets simple, strongly discolorous, 100-175 mm long, 3-4 mm wide; section slightly keeled; margins revolute; apex acute or aristate, spinescent; midrib raised above, flat below.

Cataphylls narrowly triangular, soft, thinly sericeous or lacking tomentum, persistent.

Pollen cones narrowly ovoid, orange, 30 cm long, 7.5 cm diam.; microsporophyll lamina firm, not dorsiventrally thickened, apical spine prominent, gradually raised.

Megasporophylls 15-20 cm long, brown-tomentose; ovules 2, glabrous; lamina lanceolate, 75 mm long, 25 mm wide, regularly dentate, with 10-16 pungent lateral spines, apical spine distinct from lateral spines.

Seeds flattened-ovoid, 38 mm long, 34 mm wide; sarcotesta yellow; fibrous layer present; sclerotesta smooth. Spongy endocarp absent.

The Cycad Pages

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