Photo Ken Hill
The Cycad Pages
Cycas multipinnata

Cycas multipinnata C.J. Chen & S.Y. Yang, "Acta Phytotax. Sin. 32: 239, 480-481" (1994). H—PE
"TYPE: China, Yunnan, S. Jianshui County, near Red River, 1100 m, April 1987, S.Y. Yang 9202 (holo PE)."

Etymology: From the Latin pinnatus, pinnate, with the compound prefix multi-, many, referring to the complexly branched leaflets.

Literature: Wang 1996

Illustrations: Wang 1996.

Historical notes: Although known for several decades, this remarkable species was only recognised as distinct in 1993 by Chinese botanist C.J. Chen.

Distinguishing features: The bipinnate leaves immediately distinguish this species and the closely related C. debaoensis within the genus. C. multipinnata is distinguished from the latter by the longer leaves with broader, thinner leaflets that are broadest above the mid-point, and the smaller megasporophylls with shorter teeth on the apical lamina. The subterranean habit, the small, soft microsporangiate cones, the loose, freely peeling sarcotesta lacking a fibrous layer and the verrucose sclerotesta are features shared by a wider group of related species (Section Stangerioides).

Distribution and habitat: Known from a limited area in the Red River gorge in eastern Yunnan, with a disjunct occurrence in Yen Bai Province, northern Vietnam. In both occurrences it is found growing in closed evergreen forest on limestone on very steep slopes. Much of the forest habitat has been cleared or severely degraded. Putative hybrids with C. bifida are known.

Conservation status: This species is under heavy pressure from horticultural collectors and from habitat loss, and is already severely depleted in the Chinese occurrences especially. It is regarded as endangered. IUCN (1994) Red List status DD, possibly EN.
Photo Ken Hill


Stems acaulescent, 14-25 cm diam. at narrowest point; 1-2 leaves in crown.

Leaves deep green, highly glossy, 200-400 cm long, slightly keeled (opposing leaflets inserted at 120-150° on rachis), with 14-36 leaflets, with white tomentum shedding as leaf expands; rachis consistently terminated by paired leaflets. Petiole 100-250 cm long (50-65% of total leaf), petiole glabrous, spinescent for 90-100% of length. Basal leaflets not gradually reducing to spines, 500-720 mm long.

Median leaflets dichotomously branched, strongly discolorous, 400-600 mm long, 15-22 mm wide, inserted at 45-70° to rachis, 160-200 mm apart on rachis; section flat; margins flat; apex softly acuminate, not spinescent; midrib raised above, flat below.

Cataphylls narrowly triangular, soft, pilose, 40-60 mm long, articulated.

Pollen cones fusiform, cream, 25-40 cm long, 6-8 cm diam.; microsporophyll lamina soft, not dorsiventrally thickened, apex level or raised, apical spine absent.

Megasporophylls 11-13 cm long, brown-tomentose; ovules 2-6, glabrous; lamina ovate, 60-70 mm long, 50-60 mm wide, deeply pectinate, with 20-22 soft lateral spines 30-40 mm long, 1.5-2 mm wide, apical spine distinct or not distinct from lateral spines, 30-40 mm long, 3-4 mm wide at base.

Seeds flattened-ovoid, 25 mm long, 21 mm wide; sarcotesta yellow, not pruinose, 2 mm thick; fibrous layer absent; sclerotesta verrucose. Spongy endocarp absent.

The Cycad Pages

© 1998-2012 Royal Botanic Gardens Sy dney
Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
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