Photo Ken Hill
The Cycad Pages
Encephalartos lebomboensis

Encephalartos lebomboensis I. Verd., Fl. Pl. Africa 27: pls 1078-1079 (1949). H—PRE
"TYPE: Swaziland, near Stegi, in garden (originally from Lebombo Mtns nearby), Keith PRE 28362a (male), 28362b (female) (syn. PRE)."

Photo Ken Hill

Etymology: From the Lebombo Mountains, northern Natal Province, with the Latin termination -ensis, place of origin.




Historical notes: A species with a confused history of misunderstanding (see E. senticosus). Described in 1949 by South African botanist Inez Verdoon. With the long standing misapplication of the name E. lebomboensis to the species now correctly known as E. senticosus, this species became widely known in horticulture as the "Piet-Retief Form" of E. lebomboensis, and also as "E. piet-retiefii".

Distinguishing features: A medium growing species with bright green glossy leaves, leaflets held in a V and yellow cones, very closely allied to and long confused with E. senticosus; both of these species also allied to E. natalensis, E. altensteinii and E. woodii. E. lebomboensis is distinguished in this group by the shorter leaves with a straight rachis, the narrower, overlapping leaflets with 2-4 prickles on each margin, the basal leaflets reducing to spines, leaving no bare petiole, and the lack of woolly tomentum in the crown around newly emerging leaves. It is distinguished from E. senticosus by the narrower leaflets and incurved leaf tips, and usually solitary or paired greenish-yellow cones. Stems are also shorter. See also E. msinganus, another recently separated species distinguished by the shorter, slightly broader leaflets and verrucose cone scales.

Distribution and habitat: South-eastern Transvaal, South Africa, a single population in the upper Pongolo River catchment near the town of Piet Retief, in grassland on steep rocky slopes.

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


Plants arborescent; stem 4 m tall, 25-30 cm diam.

Leaves 100-150 cm long, light or bright green, highly glossy, slightly keeled (opposing leaflets inserted at 120-150° on rachis); rachis green, straight, stiff, not spirally twisted; petiole straight, with 6-12 prickles; leaf-base collar not present; basal leaflets reducing to spines.

Leaflets lanceolate, strongly discolorous, overlapping downwards, not lobed, insertion angle obtuse (45-80°); margins flat; upper margin lightly toothed (1-3 teeth), or heavily toothed (more than 3 teeth); lower margin lightly toothed (1-3 teeth), or heavily toothed (more than 3 teeth); median leaflets 12-18 cm long, 15 mm wide.

Pollen cones 1-3, narrowly ovoid, yellow, 40-45 cm long, 12-15 cm diam.

Seed cones 1-3, ovoid, yellow, 40-45 cm long, 25-30 cm diam.

Seeds oblong, 30-40 mm long, 18-22 mm wide, sarcotesta red.

The Cycad Pages

© 1998-2012 Royal Botanic Gardens Sy dney
Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
Maintained by Leonie Stanberg and Dennis Stevenson 2010-2012
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