The Cycad Pages
Cycas spherica

Etymology: From the rounded seeds.

Historical notes: Cycas spherica was first mentioned by Roxburgh in 1814, and formally described in by him 1832. No type was cited, although reference was made in the description to plants in cultivation in the botanic gardens in Calcutta, which were said to have been introduced from the Moluccas in 1798-9. Cycas sphaerica is not known from there, although much of the description clearly applies to this species. Roxburgh had evidently confused plants of C. spherica (at the time included in C. circinalis) and C. rumphii (which had not been described at that time) that were growing in the gardens, and his description under the former name actually applies to the latter species. His description of C. sphaerica correspondingly applies mainly to the element cultivated as C. circinalis. Roxburgh did not retain a personal herbarium, but distributed his collections to other botanists. Roxburgh specimens thus do not always bear the names eventually published by him (Sealy 1957). Two Roxburgh collections from the Calcutta gardens now in BM represent C. sphaerica and C. rumphii respectively. The latter is annotated `C. circinalis', and the former bears only the annotation `C. planifolia Solander MS.'

This taxon was also described in 1924 as a variety of the closely-related C. circinalis by English forester Henry Haselfoot Haines (1867-1945), forester in India from 1888-1919, becoming Conservator of Forests for India. No type was cited, but Haines stated `Wild in the hill forests of the Mals of Puri, especially on the tops of ridges with heavy rainfall ! extending to Angul, in open forest, where it is less common ! Fl. July-Aug'. Haines' practise was to add the `!' when he had seen the plant in the wild in that locality, and does not always record the existence of a specimen.

Distinguishing features: This species is similar to C. circinalis in most respects, differing in the broader megasporophyll apex with longer teeth. The megasporophylls are somewhat intermediate between those of C. circinalis and those of C. pectinata Ham., which also shares the fibrous sarcotesta condition. Haines distinguished this taxon on the basis of a divided microsporophyll apex, but this does not appear to be consistent.

Distribution and habitat: Cycas sphaerica is from the Eastern Ghats in eastern peninsular India, in dry forests and woodlands on hills. It apparently ranges from near Madras north into Orissa at least as far as Bhubaneshwar.

Conservation status: Poorly known. IUCN (1994) Red List status DD.

The Cycad Pages

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Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
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