Photo Ken Hill
The Cycad Pages
Cycas elephantipes

Cycas elephantipes A. Lindstr. & K.D. Hill, "Brittonia 54(4): 301, fig. 3. (dated 2002)" (2003). H—BKF
"TYPE: Thailand, Chaiyaphum, Nong Bua Raheo, K.D. Hill 5089 & Poonsak Vatcharakorn, 2 Feb 2000 (holo BKF, iso K, NSW, NY)."[NSW][NSW]

Etymology: From the large mammal the elephant, and the Latin pes, foot, referring to the distinctive and very large swollen base of this species.

Distinguishing features: This species most resembles C. pachypoda from south Vietnam in the rough trunk with a swollen base and thick, dark, deeply fissured corky bark and the flat, erect dull to semi-glossy grey green leaves with narrow, keeled leaflets that are angled forwards. It differs in the overall larger stature with larger leaves and leaflets, and most clearly in the much larger male cones with longer microsporophylls and longer apical spines on the microsporophylls.

Distribution and habitat: Locally abundant in seasonally dry and deciduous open to closed woodland with predominantly grassy understorey around the summit of a broad, high sandstone massif, mainly near the tops of steep slopes or breakaway cliffs. Known only from the few high sandstone massifs or mesas in this region of Thailand.

Conservation status: the populations of this species have been substantially reduced by removal from the wild for sale. Should this practise continue, there is a significant threat to the survival of the species. There are also no occurrences in presently protected areas. The appropriate IUCN Red List category would be Endangered or possibly Critically Endangered (IUCN, 1994).
Photo Ken Hill
Photo Ken Hill


Stems arborescent, to 1-3 m tall, 15-20 cm diam. at narrowest point; 40-70 leaves in crown.

Leaves grey-green, semiglossy, 100-160 cm long, flat (not keeled) in section (opposing leaflets inserted at 180° on rachis), with 75-300 leaflets, with white tomentum shedding as leaf expands; rachis consistently terminated by a spine 6-22 mm long. Petiole 20-45 cm long (15-30% of total leaf), petiole glabrous, spinescent for 10-40% of length. Basal leaflets not gradually reducing to spines, 20-110 mm long.

Median leaflets simple, strongly discolorous, 150-250 mm long, 6-10 mm wide, inserted at 45-50° to rachis, decurrent for 2-4 mm, narrowed to 2.5-4.5 mm at base (to 30-50% of maximum width), 8-15 mm apart on rachis; median leaflets section slightly keeled; margins slightly recurved; apex acute, spinescent; midrib flat above, raised below.

Pollen cones ovoid or narrowly ovoid, orange or brown, 30-55 cm long, 12-16 cm diam.; microsporophyll lamina firm, not dorsiventrally thickened, 40-45 mm long, 18-22 mm wide, fertile zone 28-30 mm long, sterile apex 5-7 mm long, level, apical spine prominent, sharply upturned or gradually raised, 15-30 mm long.

Megasporophylls 20 cm long, grey-tomentose; ovules 2-4, glabrous; lamina orbicular or ovate, 120 mm long, 80 mm wide, deeply pectinate, with 18 soft lateral spines 45 mm long, 3 mm wide, apical spine distinct from lateral spines, 55 mm long, 4 mm wide at base.

Seeds flattened-ovoid; sarcotesta yellow, not pruinose; fibrous layer present; sclerotesta smooth. Spongy endocarp absent.

The Cycad Pages

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Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
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