Poor Man’s Cycad, Encephalartos villosus

Encephalartos villosus is a South African cycad, or Palm-like plant. Commonly named, poor man’s cycad. The species is a member of the Zamiaceae family. It’s a common cycad between the East London vicinity and the northern border of Swaziland. The plants can be found growing several hundred miles inland.

Very little of the plant is visible. E. villosus has a largely underground trunk. This has led it to be improperly categorized as a dwarf species. The crown of the plant is made up of tightly packed bracts covered in dense wooly grey hair. Its scientific name “villosus” actually means hairy.

E. villosus is a dioecious plant. This means that there are separate male and female specimens for reproduction. Male plants may produce up to 15 cones. The female plant usually carries only about 1 or 2 cones. Its seeds are embedded in bright red flesh and are largely distributed for reproduction by common birds in the area.

Image Caption: Poor Man’s Cycad, (Encephalartos villosus). Credit: Tato Grasso/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)