Drooping cycad plant

Department: cycads (Cycadophyta).

Class: cycads (Cycadopsida).

Order: cycads (Cycadales).

Family: cycads (Cycadaceae).

Genus: cycad (Cycas).

Species: drooping cycad (C. revoluta).

The cycad plant has a limited natural habitat. In nature, it can be found on the island of Ryukyu and the south of Kyushu (Japan). There are unconfirmed reports that this cycad palm also grows in the Chinese province of Fujian.

The drooping cycad is found at an altitude of up to 300 m on limestone cliffs, steep rocky slopes, and cliffs along the sea coast. Easily tolerates drought, prefers bright sun, but occasionally grows in light forests in shady places.

The drooping cycad reproduces by seeds and vegetatively by offspring that form in the lower part of the trunk.

Male cones ripen in June – July, then the wind transfers pollen to female ones. Seeds fall at the end of winter and ripen already on the ground, where they are distributed by mammals.

The male cone of the drooping cycad emits an unpleasant odor, so in parks they try to plant only female individuals. However, sometimes the plant spontaneously changes sex.

A female cycad plant with a cone in the botanical garden of Funchal (Madeira, Portugal).

Cycad flower: photo, application, interesting facts

The drooping cycad is an evergreen, weakly branching tree. Grows up to 7 m in height. The trunk with a diameter of up to 20 cm is completely covered with disheveled petioles of dead leaves. A cycad flower can be called only conditionally – at the top of it there is a lush rosette, which can be mistaken for a kind of flower. The leaves are dark green, hard, pinnate with numerous narrow, slightly twisted lobes, reaching 1.5 m in length. The plant is dioecious.

As you can see in the photo of the cycad, the male cone has a conical shape, and the female cone is elliptical.

The male cone reaches a height of up to 60 cm, a width of up to 15 cm. The female grows up to 40 cm in diameter. The seeds are bright red, smooth, round-ovoid in shape with a fleshy shell, up to 2.5 cm in diameter.

The drooping cycad is popular as a park culture due to its slender trunk and elegant lush foliage. It is grown in the subtropics, as well as in temperate regions as a greenhouse or houseplant. In Vietnam, a local variety of bonsai is formed from the cycad.

The plant contains cycasin, a poisonous substance. Especially a lot of it in the seeds, which are also pleasant to the taste. Poisoning manifests itself within 12 hours, in severe cases, liver damage occurs, and death is possible. The leaves of the tree contain alkaloids, steroids, tannins, saponins, biflavonoids, and there is a lot of estragole in the cones.

On the plantations of Southeast Asia, the drooping cycad is grown for the sake of sago – the core of the trunk. It is washed from toxins and used for food. In traditional oriental medicine, the plant is used in the treatment of cancer.

Interesting Facts

Anabaena lives in the shallow lateral roots of the cycad. This microscopic algae pays for hospitality by converting nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form accessible to the tree.

Cycads are living fossils. Their heyday came in the middle of the Mesozoic era (about 100 million years ago). In everyday life, the plant is called the sago palm, but from a botanical point of view, this is not entirely true. True palms (Arecaceae) are angiosperms.

Why is it listed in the Red Book? In the past, the species was threatened by deforestation, collecting seeds and leaves for sale. Now the number of natural populations is stable and has several hundred thousand specimens. The drooping cycad is included in the collection of most major botanical gardens. Today the plant belongs to the protection category LC.

Several more species of cycads are included in the Red Book: 11 – in the protection category CR, 17 – in the EN category, 24 – in the NT category. The protection category VU has 30 representatives of the genus, the category LC – 14. Finally, two species – gray cycads (C. glauca) and spherical (C. sphaerica) – are assigned the category DD.

For wild boars, rodents and monkeys, the shell of cycad seeds is harmless. However, livestock, having eaten poisonous seeds, die, so these plants are cut down near pastures.

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