Breadtree, Encephalartos altensteinii

Encephalartos altensteinii is a cycad plant species that resembles a palm. It belongs to the family Zamiaceae. Common names of the plant are the Breadtree, Broodbroom, and the Eastern cape giant cycad.

The species name, altensteinii, is homage to Altenstein, a German patron of science and chancellor from the 19th Century. It is he who is credited for the plant’s discovery.

E. altensteinii can grow over 22 feet tall and may be branched or without branches. The leaves of this cycad can either be curved backwards or straight and up to 10 feet in length. The leaves are rigid and fairly broad, with toothed margins. This particular cycad can appear similar to E. natalensis. It is distinguishable by the lack of prickles at its base. On average there are 2 to 5 cones of greenish yellow that can grow a length of up to 20 inches. These cones, which contain scarlet seeds, are poisonous to humans.

E. altensteinii is indigenous to South Africa; widespread in the Eastern Cape and southwestern Natal provinces. It tends to grow near the coast in open scrub, along steep rocky slopes, in forests and valleys, and alongside river banks.

Image Caption: The oldest living European cycad in Lednice Greenhouse, Czech Republic. Credit: Mildasb/Wikipedia