The Cycad Pages
Cycas wadei

Cycas wadei Merrill, "Phillipp. J. Sci. 60(3): 234-236, pls 1-4" (1936).
"TYPE: Phillipines, Luzon, Culion, Cogonal Grande, H. Brown s.n (isosyn. NY, A, B, G, K, L, MO, P)."[NY][NY][NY][NY][NY]

Etymology: Honouring US-born medical doctor working in the Philippines, Dr H.W. Wade, the person who brought this species to the attention of its author.

Literature: Foxworthy 1911 (as C. cairnsiana), Merrill 1923 (as C. cairnsiana), Zamora & Co 1986.

Illustrations: Zamora & Co 1986

Historical notes: Described as a new species in 1936 by American botanist E.D. Merrill. This species was first reported by Foxworthy (1911), who recorded it as sp. aff. C. cairnsiana on the basis of observations and collections made by Merrill, who had collected sterile material on an excursion inland from Halsey Harbour on Culion Island on 11 Feb 1902 (Merrill 657), and observed that his collection most resembled material of C. cairnsiana when at Kew in 1908 (op. cit.). Merrill also later recorded this species as possibly being C. cairnsiana (1923), although the same year, he obtained more complete material via Dr Wade that clearly showed that the two were not the same. Wade had transplanted a number of plants to the Culion leper colony, and from them seeds were furnished to the botanic gardens at Kew, New York and Berlin.

Schuster (1932) attached an unwieldy and quite nonsensical quadrinomial to this taxon, using Merrill's original collection (657) as the type. In placing this within his elaborate hierarchy under C. circinalis, he showed just how little he understood of this plant, which in fact belonged in a different section of the genus as he had divided it.

Merrill in the meantime had received more material from Dr A.W. Herre of Culion, which prompted him to look more closely at this taxon. On obtaining more comprehensive collections from W.H. Brown and realising its very distinctive nature, he described it as a new species in 1936. There has been little subsequent disagreement with this recognition, although Zamora & Co (1986) listed plants from Palawan under C. wadei that are quite distinct (see C. curranii).

Seeds have been quite widely distributed over the years, and a number of mature plants are present in collections around the world. Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami has been distributing seeds from their cultivated plants in recent years. Large seed collections from the wild were distributed in the early 1990's, and plants from these are now abundant in cultivation.

Distinguishing features: Readily distinguished by the combination of the symmetrically ribbed sclerotesta and the narrow leaflets. Only C. curranii shares the ribbed sclerotesta, although seeds of the latter are two times larger than those of C. wadei. C. curranii also has leaflets that are about two times broader.

Distribution and habitat: Know with certainly only from Culion Island, on low hills inland from Halsey Harbour on the west of the island. Zamora & Co also record it from Mansaly in Oriental Mindoro Province, but this has not been substantiated by specimens. On Culion, it occurs in a large open area of Imperata grassland known as the `cogonal grande' or `patag grande'. This is a seasonally dry area that suffers frequent grassfires, and the narrow leaflets would appear to be a parallel adaptation to xeric conditions similar to that seen in Australia (C. cairnsiana, C. calcicola) and India (C. beddomei).

Conservation status: Abundant at the site of the original discovery, in a population well in excess of 5000 plants, and showing good reproduction and regeneration. This land is, however, unsecured and, although currently relatively undisturbed, the future is not certain. This species has been poorly known in the wild, and was placed by the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants in category E. It is now regarded as IUCN Red List category LR,cd.
Photo Ken Hill
Photo Ken Hill


Stems arborescent, to 5 m tall, 10-20 cm diam. at narrowest point.

Leaves deep green, semiglossy (75-)130-132 cm long, flat (not keeled) in section (opposing leaflets inserted at 180° on rachis), with 160-180 leaflets, tomentum shedding as leaf expands. Petiole (20-)28-40 cm long, glabrous, spinescent for 100% of length. Basal leaflets not gradually reducing to spines (80-)170-180 mm long.

Median leaflets simple, strongly discolorous (150-)200-290 mm long, 3-5 mm wide, inserted at 100-150simple, strongly discolorous, 220–340 mm long, 9–12 mm wide, inserted at 50–75° to rachis, decurrent for 3–5 mm, narrowed to 2.5–3 mm at base (to 20–25% of maximum width), 10–17 mm apart on rachis; section flat; margins flat, or slightly recurved, not undulate; apex acute, not spinescent; midrib raised above, raised below, narrow. to rachis, 5-6 mm apart on rachis; section flat; margins flat; apex aristate, spinescent; midrib raised above, flat below.

Cataphylls pilose, persistent.

Pollen cones fusiform, 40-70 cm long, 7-9(-10) cm diam.; microsporophyll lamina waxy, not dorsiventrally thickened, 21-26(-30) mm long, 15-18 mm wide, fertile zone 25 mm long, sterile apex 6 mm long, deflexed, apical spine absent.

Megasporophylls 14-19(-22) cm long, brown-tomentose; ovules 2, glabrous; lamina orbicular, 70-80(-100) mm long, 70-80 mm wide, deeply pectinate, with 20-30 soft lateral spines 20-25(-35) mm long, apical spine distinct from lateral spines, 26-45 mm long.

Seeds subglobose to ovoid, 17-19(-40) mm long, 15-17(-30) mm wide; sarcotesta orange-brown, not pruinose; fibrous layer absent; sclerotesta longitudinally ribbed. Spongy endocarp absent.

The Cycad Pages

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Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
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