The Eastern Cape blue cycad, Encephalartos horridus

The Eastern Cape blue cycad (Encephalartos horridus) is a small, cycad species plant. The plant is found in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. This low-growing plant prefers arid shrubland with shallow soil. The name “horridus,” meaning bristly, is derived from its spiky, stiff leaflets.

The Eastern Cape blue cycad has a unique coloration in its bluish/gray leaves — colors may vary considerably. The plant reaches heights up to 3 feet tall and trunks are approximately 3 feet wide. A majority of the species’ stems grow underground and measures around 20-50 inches long; leaves are long, reaching about 50 inches.

Both male and female cones are found individually on the Eastern Cape blue cycad. Its cones are covered with a heavy layer of short, fine hairs. The plant’s cones vary in color from brown to reddish-black. Male and female cones can be differentiated by their shape. Male cones are cylindrical, while female cones are egg shaped. The Eastern Cape blue cycad contains seeds that have flattened surfaces and are triangular in shape. The species reproduces by suckering or insect pollination.

The Eastern Cape blue cycad prefers a warm climate with moderate rainfall and excellent drainage. The plant flourishes in full sunlight. Habitat ranges and soils are deep and fertile with open rocky ridges.

The Eastern Cape blue cycad grows slowly and is highly coveted. Today commercial nurseries readily make the species available but in the past over-collection of the plant caused wild Eastern Cape blue cycads to be listed as an endangered species.

Image Caption: E. horridus observed at the Botanical Garden in Berlin, Germany. Credit: BotBln/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)