Photo Ken Hill
The Cycad Pages
Encephalartos caffer

Encephalartos caffer (Thunb.) Lehm., Pugill. 6: 14 (1834). BAS

Encephalartos caffer var. integrifolius Regel, Trudy Imp. S.-Petersburgsk. Bot. Sada 3: 113 (1873).

TYPE: none cited.
Encephalartos caffer var. unidentatus Regel, Trudy Imp. S.-Petersburgsk. Bot. Sada 3: 113 (1873).
TYPE: none cited.

Etymology: From the Caffrara region of eastern Cape Province.




Historical notes: Described as a species of Zamia in 1775 by Swedish botanist Thunberg.

Distinguishing features: The dwarf, subterranean habit with few stiffly erect leaves in the crown place this species with E. ngoyanus, E. cerinus and E. umbeluziensis. I is distingiushed within this group by the short, dark green leaves with a spine-free petiole and entire, crowded, irregularly overlapping leaflets, and the woolly crown. Emerging leaflets are dull and densely tomentose, whereas those of E. ngoyanus are glossy and spersely hairy.

Distribution and habitat: Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, and Transkei, in grassland.

Conservation: 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants category V.
Photo Ken Hill


Plants acaulescent; stem 0.3-0.4 m tall, 20-25 cm diam.

Leaves 50-100 cm long, dark green, semiglossy, slightly keeled (opposing leaflets inserted at 120-150° on rachis); rachis green, straight, stiff, not spirally twisted or slightly twisted in some leaves; petiole straight, with no prickles; leaf-base collar not present; basal leaflets reducing to spines.

Leaflets lanceolate, weakly discolorous, overlapping upwards, not lobed, insertion angle horizontal; margins flat; upper margin entire (no teeth); lower margin entire (no teeth); median leaflets 8-10 cm long, 10 mm wide.

Pollen cones 1, narrowly ovoid, yellow, 20-30 cm long, 7-12 cm diam.

Seed cones 1, ovoid, yellow, 30 cm long, 15 cm diam.

Seeds oblong, sarcotesta red.

The Cycad Pages

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Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
Maintained by Leonie Stanberg and Dennis Stevenson 2010-2012
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