Encephalartos ferox

Encephalartos ferox is a small species cycad plant from the Zamiaceae family. Its name is derived from the Latin word “ferocious,” likely due to spine-tipped lobes on the leaves of the plant.

E. ferox has a subterranean trunk that averages about 13.77 inches wide. It’s been observed to grow up to 3 feet in height. It has contracting roots and it is thought that this happens to help prevent seedlings from desiccation (drying) as they develop. The leaves are compound and typically hard-textured and green. Leaves can grow up to 6 feet in length. The younger leaves are hairy and range in color from dark green to coppery brown. Each leaflet usually measures about 6 inches long and up to 2 inches wide. The leaflets can be flat, or twisted, and broad; they are equipped with spine-tipped lobes.

E. ferox tends to grow relatively fast when compared to other cycads. It reproduces using a dark salmon cone. This plant has separate male and female specimens. Males can have up to ten, 15.75- to 19.65-inch-long cones, while females can have up to five, 9.85- to 19.65-inch-long cones at one time. The cones emerge in succession, instead of simultaneously.

E. ferox can be found naturally on the south-eastern coast of Africa. It is an extremely popular cultivated plant, mostly utilized for its starch contents. It grows in abundance along the southern coast of Mozambique and in northern Natal. It can also be found growing close to the ocean on white beach sand.

Image Caption: The E. ferox and its cones at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Miami, Florida. Credit: Wendy Cutler/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)