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a) habit of female E. hildebrandtii
b) seed cone of the same, and
c) seed cone of E. villosus
CITES Appendix I (CITES)[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnospermae
Division: Cycadophyta
Class: Cycadopsida
Order: Cycadales
Family: Zamiaceae
Tribe: Encephalarteae
Subtribe: Encephalartinae
Benth. & Hook.f.
Genus: Encephalartos
Type species
Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi
     geographical distribution of genus

Encephalartos is a genus of


All the species are endangered, some critically, due to their exploitation by collectors and

CITES Appendix I
which prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except for certain non-commercial motives, such as scientific research.


Several of the species possess stout trunks. In E. cycadifolius, the main trunks are up to 10 feet (3.0 m) high, and several of them may be united at a base where a former main trunk once grew. The persistent, pinnate leaves are arranged in a terminal spreading crown, or ascending. The rigid leaflets are variously spiny or incised along their margins. The leaflets have a number of parallel veins and no central vein.[6] The chromosome count is 2n=18.


Male cones are elongated, and three or four may appear at a time. Female cones are borne singly, or up to three at a time, and may weigh up to 60 pounds (27 kg). In some species, male cones with ripe pollen emit a nauseating odour. When the pollen has been shed and the males cones decay, a strong odour of acetic acid has also been noted.[7]


Colonies of the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme occur in apparent symbiosis inside the root tissue,[7] while the rootlets produce root tubercles at ground level which harbour a mycorrhizal fungus of uncertain function,[7] which is however suspected to facilitate the capturing of nitrogen from the air.[8]

Food value

Human consumption

In several species the pith of the trunk contains a copious amount of high quality starch below the crown. This was formerly cut out by native people as food.

King William's Town was utilised by the Africans and Hottentots as bread. The pith was removed and left till sourish, before it was kneaded into bread.[7][10]

Animal food

Their large seeds consist of an often poisonous kernel covered by an edible fleshy layer.[8] Female cones are consequently destroyed by baboons, as they relish the pith around the seeds.[7] Vervet monkeys, rodents and birds also feed on the seeds, but due to their unpredictable toxic qualities they are not recommended for human consumption.[8]


The early larval instars of some

aposematic, day-flying looper moths are specific to cycads, and genus Encephalartos is one of their food plants.[11] They include the leopard magpie (most Encephalartos spp., other cycads, etc.), Millar's tiger (cultivated E. villosus), dimorphic tiger (cycads under forest canopy), spotted tigerlet (E. villosus), inflamed tigerlet (E. villosus), Staude's tigerlet (E. ngoyanus, cultivated E. villosus and Stangeria) and pallid grey (E. natalensis).[12]

In cultivation various scale insects attack the leaves of the genus. These include cycad aulacaspis scale, zamia scale and latania scale.[13]


The genus was named by German botanist Johann Georg Christian Lehmann in 1834. All cycads except Cycas had been regarded as members of the genus Zamia until then, and some botanists continued to follow this line for many years after Lehmann had separated Encephalartos as a separate genus. His concept was originally much broader than the one accepted today, including also the Australian plants we now know as Macrozamia and Lepidozamia.[14]


Phylogeny of Encephalartos[15][16]

E. gratus Prain (Mulanje cycad)

E. humilis Verd. (Dwarf cycad)

E. concinnus Dyer & Verdoorn (Runde cycad)

E. pterogonus Dyer & Verdoorn (Toothed-cone cycad)

E. relictus Hurter

E. transvenosus Stapf & Burtt Davy (Modjadji's palm)

E. trispinosus (Hooker 1861) Dyer (Bushman's River cycad)

E. marunguensis Devred (Marungu cycad)

E. brevifoliolatus Vorster (Escarpment cycad)

E. striatus
Stapf & Burtt Davy

E. septentrionalis Schweinfurth ex Eichler (Nile cycad)

E. hirsutus Hurter (Venda cycad)

E. kanga Pócs & Luke (Mnanasi pori)

E. arenarius Dyer (Alexandria/dune cycad)

E. laurentianus De Wild. (Kwango giant cycad)

E. paucidentatus Stapf & Burtt Davy (Barberton cycad)

E. turneri Lavranos & Goode (Turner's cycad)

E. munchii Dyer & Verdoorn (Munch's cycad)

E. caffer (Thunberg 1775) Lehmann (Eastern Cape dwarf cycad)

E. macrostrobilus Scott Jones & Wynants

E. horridus (Von Jacquin) Lehmann (Eastern Cape blue cycad)

E. lehmannii Lehmann (Karroo cycad)

E. villosus Lemaire (Poor man's cycad)

E. msinganus Vorster (Msinga cycad)

E. natalensis Dyer & Verdoorn (Natal giant cycad)

E. woodii Sander (Wood´s cycad)

E. longifolius (von Jacquin) Lehmann (Thunberg's cycad, Broodboom)

E. friderici-guilielmi Lehmann (White-haired cycad)

E. ghellinckii Lemaire (Drakensberg cycad)

E. chimanimaniensis Dyer & Verdoorn (Chimanimani cycad)

E. sclavoi De Luca, Stevenson & Moretti (Sclavo's cycad)

E. equatorialis Hurter

E. ituriensis Bamps & Lisowski (Ituri Forest cycad)

E. dyerianus Lavranos & Goode (Lillie cycad)

E. nubimontanus Hurter (Blue cycad)

E. cupidus Dyer (Blyde River cycad)

E. dolomiticus Lavranos & Goode (Wolkberg cycad)

E. eugene-maraisii Verd. (Waterberg cycad, Bergpalm)

E. tegulaneus Melville (Kenyan giant cycad)

E. delucanus Malaisse, Sclavo & Crosiers

E. hildebrandtii Braun & Bouché (Mombasa cycad)

E. schmitzii Malaisse (Schmitz's cycad)

E. kisambo Faden & Beentje (Voi cycad)

E. whitelockii Hurter (Uganda giant cycad)

E. barteri Carruthers ex Miquel (West African cycad)

E. cycadifolius (von Jacquin 1803) Lehmann (Winterberg cycad)

E. inopinus Dyer (Lydenburg cycad)

E. laevifolius Stapf & Burtt Davy (Kaapsehoop cycad)

E. lanatus Stapf & Burtt Davy (Olifants River cycad)

E. latifrons Lehmann (Albany cycad)

E. manikensis (Gilliland 1938) Gilliland (Gorongowe cycad)

E. altensteinii Lehmann (Eastern Cape cycad)

E. middelburgensis Vorster, Robbertse & S.van der Westh. (Middelburg cycad)

E. aemulans Vorster (Ngotshe cycad)

E. princeps Dyer (Kei cycad)

E. bubalinus Melville (Lake Natron cycad)

E. ferox Bertoloni (Maputaland cycad)

E. umbeluziensis Dyer (Umbeluzi cycad)

E. senticosus Vorster (Jozini cycad)

E. ngoyanus Verd. (Ngoye cycad)

E. heenanii Dyer (Woolly cycad)

E. cerinus Lavranos & Goode (Waxen cycad)

E. poggei Ascherson (Kananga cycad)

E. aplanatus Vorster (Vorster's cycad)

E. lebomboensis Verd. (Lebombo cycad)

Image Leaves Scientific name Distribution
Encephalartos aemulans KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa
Encephalartos altensteinii Eastern Cape and south-western KwaZulu-Natal Provinces of South Africa
Encephalartos aplanatus north-eastern Eswatini, South Africa
Encephalartos arenarius Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Encephalartos barteri central Nigeria (near Tokkos, Plateau State), Nigeria (between Jebba and Ilorin), Benin (Borgou Department and near Savalou), Ghana (Volta River watershed), Togo
Encephalartos brevifoliolatus Transvaal, South Africa
Encephalartos bubalinus northern Tanzania and southern Kenya
Encephalartos caffer Eastern Cape Province of South Africa
Encephalartos cerinus Buffelsrivier Valley of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Encephalartos chimanimaniensis Chimanimani Mountains of eastern Zimbabwe
Encephalartos concinnus Zimbabwe (Gwanda, Matabeleland South; Mberengwa, Midlands; Runde, Masvingo)
Encephalartos cupidus Limpopo Province, South Africa
Encephalartos cycadifolius Winterberg Mountains, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Encephalartos delucanus Rukwa Region of western Tanzania
Encephalartos dolomiticus Wolkberg, southeastern Limpopo Province, South Africa
Encephalartos dyerianus northern Transvaal area, South Africa
Encephalartos equatorialis Thurston Bay, Lake Victoria, Uganda
Encephalartos eugene-maraisii Limpopo Province, South Africa
Encephalartos ferox south-eastern coast of Africa
Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces of South Africa
Encephalartos ghellinckii KwaZulu-Natal and northern Transkei, South Africa
Encephalartos gratus Malawi (Mulanje District) and Mozambique (
Encephalartos heenanii north of Eswatini and Mpumalanga Province in South Africa
Encephalartos hildebrandtii Kenya and Tanzania
Encephalartos hirsutus Limpopo Province, South Africa
Encephalartos horridus Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Encephalartos humilis Mpumalanga, South Africa
Encephalartos inopinus Limpopo Province, South Africa
Encephalartos ituriensis Ituri forest area in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Encephalartos kisambo Kenya and Tanzania
Encephalartos laevifolius KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces of South Africa
Encephalartos lanatus Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.
Encephalartos latifrons Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Encephalartos laurentianus northern Angola and southern Congo (Zaire)
Encephalartos lebomboensis Lebombo Mountains of South Africa
Encephalartos lehmannii Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Encephalartos longifolius Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Encephalartos mackenziei Didinga Hills of Namorunyang State, South Sudan
Encephalartos macrostrobilus Moyo District, northwestern Uganda
Encephalartos manikensis Mozambique and Zimbabwe
Encephalartos marunguensis Democratic Republic of the Congo (in the Marungu Mountains and on Muhila plateau) and Tanzania (about 100 km west of Marungu)
Encephalartos middelburgensis Gauteng and Mpumalanga Provinces of South Africa
Encephalartos msinganus KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa
Encephalartos munchii central Mozambique
Encephalartos natalensis Qumbu and Tabankulu areas of the northern part of the Eastern Cape, and through most of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Encephalartos ngoyanus Ngoye Forest, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Encephalartos nubimontanus Limpopo Province, South Africa
Encephalartos paucidentatus near Barberton in Mpumalanga Province, and near Piggs Peak in northwestern Eswatini, in South Africa
Encephalartos poggei DRC (Kasai Occidental, Shaba Province), Angola (Lunda Sul Province)
Encephalartos princeps Eastern Cape Province of South Africa
Encephalartos pterogonus Manica Province of Mozambique
Encephalartos relictus Eswatini, South Africa
Encephalartos schaijesii near Kolwezi in Shaba Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Encephalartos schmitzii Luapula River watershed, in Democratic Republic of the Congo (on the extreme south of the Kundelungu plateau, Shaba Province) and in Zambia (along the Muchinga escarpment in Luapula and Northern provinces). A subpopulation is also found in North-Western Province, Zambia, to the east of Solwezi
Encephalartos sclavoi Tanzania
Encephalartos senticosus Lebombo Mountains of Mozambique, Eswatini and KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa.
Encephalartos septentrionalis South Sudan, northern Uganda, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo
Encephalartos tegulaneus Eastern Province near Embu and on the Matthews Range in Rift Valley Province, Kenya
Encephalartos transvenosus Limpopo Province, South Africa
Encephalartos trispinosus Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Encephalartos turneri Nampula, Mazambique.
Encephalartos umbeluziensis Mozambique and Eswatini
Encephalartos villosus East London vicinity and Eswatini, South Africa
Encephalartos whitelockii Uganda (Kabarole District)
Encephalartos woodii KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

See also

  • List of Southern African indigenous trees


  1. ^ "Appendices | CITES". cites.org. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  2. ^ "Bread tree, n. phr". Dictionary of South African English. Dictionary Unit for South African English. 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  3. ^ "Bread palm, n. phr". Dictionary of South African English. Dictionary Unit for South African English. 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Kaffir-bread, n." Dictionary of South African English. Dictionary Unit for South African English. 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  5. .
  6. ^ "Encephalartos natalensis". TreeSA. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Smith, Christo Albertyn (1966). Common Names of South African Plants. Botanical Survey Memoir. Vol. 35. Pretoria: The Government Printer. pp. 179, 264.
  8. ^ .
  9. ^ Van Bart, Martiens (16 May 1987). "Kirstenbosch kweek nou ook broodbome vir die publiek". Die Burger. Archived from the original on 29 July 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  10. ^ Paterson, William (1789), A Narrative of four Journeys into the Country of the Hottentots and Caffraria, in 1777-79
  11. ^ Donaldson, J. S.; Basenberg, J. D. (1995). "Life history and host range of the leopard magpie moth, Zerenopsis leopardina Felder (Lepidoptera: Geometridae)". African Entomology. 3 (2): 103–110. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  12. .
  13. .
  14. ^ Alice Notten (May 2002). "Encephalartos woodii Sander". Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and South African National Biodiversity Institute. Archived from the original on 2006-10-16. Retrieved 2006-11-16.
  15. S2CID 232282918
  16. doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.14547354.v1. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help

External links