Tropicals forum: Cycads

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Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
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cycadjungle
Oct 11, 2014 8:47 PM CST
No offense to Jim who started the palm and cycad thread, but even though palms and cycads are very common companion plants, I think cycads deserve their own thread.
Cycads and cycad type plants are the oldest living seed bearing plants still on earth, going back 250 million years. They predate palms by around 125 million years. Even though the most common cycads in cultivation are called "sago palm" and "cardboard palm", palms but cycads and palms are actually at the complete opposite sides of the plant classification chart. Palms are flowering plants, or angiosperms, and cycads are cone bearing plants, or gymnosperms.
Cycads and palms grow completely different. Palms have a continuous growth pattern, where they are constantly producing a new leaf as the most recent leaf is just finishing up. Cycads have an episodic growth pattern where they produce a new flush of leaves and then store up energy until the time that they can produce another group of new leaves. This means that your whole strategy on cultivation is going to be different if you want to grow palms and cycads properly. As an example, you want to use a fertilizer that had a constant, even release when growing a palm. When using a fertilizer to force cycads to grow a new flush of leaves, you want a high nitrogen fertilizer that releases quickly, and then weans off until the next application.
I'll go ahead and finish this post up, and then get things started with some pictures. Tom
Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Cat Lover Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad
Xeriscape Pollen collector Seller of Garden Stuff Region: Florida Seed Starter Container Gardener
cycadjungle
Oct 11, 2014 9:11 PM CST
I just had a great group of master gardeners come out to my place, but they missed this cycad because it was being covered up by a large tree branch. It pushing new leaves that were being supported by the branch, so I have tied them up and supported them with piece of bamboo.
This is a Cycad debaoensis from China, that is producing new leaves that are 12 feet long. This species is becoming one of my favorite cycad species because the leaves are so amazing looking, with their branched leaflets, and they grow super fast. This plant is only 5 years old.
One reason why this species grows so fast is the special root system it has. Cycad debaoensis is in the Cycas micholitzii complex, which is a group of cycas that have branched leaflets. All of the micholitzii types have fat taproots and very little secondary roots for the first several years. Cycad debaoensis has the same type main root, but after the plant is 2 or 3 years old, the main root branches and produces a mass of equal size main taproots that looks like an octopus. This allows the plant to take in a mass amount of nutrients and energy which in turn, well help it produce huge leaves and stem diameter. For anyone who thinks cycads grow slowly, this species will change your mind. Cycad revoluta, known as the king sago, matures in about 10 years from seed, where Cycad debaoensis can mature in 3 years from seed. This 5 year old plant produced a female cluster this year.






Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Oct 12, 2014 5:28 AM CST
Fascinating stuff - keep it coming!
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
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ShadyGreenThumb
Oct 12, 2014 1:23 PM CST
Cyads are gymnosperm. I'm not plant smart but I do crossword puzzles. Rolling on the floor laughing
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Cat Lover Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad
Xeriscape Pollen collector Seller of Garden Stuff Region: Florida Seed Starter Container Gardener
cycadjungle
Oct 12, 2014 6:32 PM CST
Here is page that shows the classification of cycads and if you click on the links for the genera, pages for every species that these people recognize.

http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/PlantNet/cycad/ident.html
Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Cat Lover Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad
Xeriscape Pollen collector Seller of Garden Stuff Region: Florida Seed Starter Container Gardener
cycadjungle
Oct 12, 2014 7:25 PM CST
Encephalartos is a genus of cycad that comes from the African continent. There are more than 60 recognized species. Many come from South Africa, but they also come from northern areas such as The Congo, Sudan, and Kenya. Even though you can not generalize, the smaller, more cold hardy species will come from SA, and can look something like this, which in this case is Encephalartos arenarius.

Thumb of 2014-10-13/cycadjungle/33bf85

As you go north to find cycads, the plants have longer leaves and are more tropical in their culture. As an example, E. laurentianus from The Congo had the longest leaves of any cycad, at 22 feet long. This means that when the lower leaves flop down to a horizontal position, it can have a 47 foot spread. Here is a picture of an E. hildebrandtii from Kenya.



The cones of Encephalartos are the most colorful of any cycad genus. These plants are producing cones this time of year and are becoming receptive this month. Instead of making this a really long post, I think I will break this up in order to show you more pictures I took today for your enjoyment. Tom
[Last edited by cycadjungle - Oct 12, 2014 8:28 PM (+)]
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Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Cat Lover Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad
Xeriscape Pollen collector Seller of Garden Stuff Region: Florida Seed Starter Container Gardener
cycadjungle
Oct 12, 2014 7:42 PM CST
As I mentioned before, Encephalartos hildebrandtii comes from Kenya and had beautiful yellow confess that can be up to 24 inches tall. They can produce up to 5 female cones at a time which gives an amazing display in the garden, yet alone if you pollinate them, and sell those seeds for an extra $6000, which helps pay for your mulch and fertilizer for your garden. Here again is my male plant in the yard:



Here is a close up of the male cones on this same plant:



Here is a cone on one of my female plants, which in this case is planted right next to the male:



To give you a perspective on size, now, I don't want to hear any cracks on how you can't tell if it is a cone, or me, but here is that same cone with my hat on it.

Thumb of 2014-10-13/cycadjungle/f1eb1f

This species gets large but there are many that are larger than this one. It will get a 15 foot spread and rarely gets taller than about 10 feet tall in an average person's lifetime. The leaves will burn when the temperatures get below 23F, but these were in this location when it got down to 15F. The leaves burned up and they were flushing new leaves by April. Tom
[Last edited by cycadjungle - Oct 12, 2014 8:29 PM (+)]
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Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Cat Lover Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad
Xeriscape Pollen collector Seller of Garden Stuff Region: Florida Seed Starter Container Gardener
cycadjungle
Oct 12, 2014 8:09 PM CST
Just to show you more cones of Encephalartos, here is one of my to favorite cycad species, Encephalartos ferox. This is the species that is depicted on my logo for my nursery, and is on my website
http://cycadjungle.8m.com
This species has huge holly type leaflets and have beautiful red cones. There is a flat leaflet form and a special form with tubular shaped leaflets. Here is a huge cone on my female tubular ferox

Thumb of 2014-10-13/cycadjungle/e2e1cb

The upper cone scales are sterile, and the lower cone scales will hold seeds. If you look real close, this female is receptive right now. There is a crack between the sterile scales and the seed holding scales, and this is where I will be pouring pollen in tomorrow morning at an attempt to produce seeds. This crack will stay open for 5 days and then close shut. All cycads are insect pollinated and most are pollinated by a particular weevil species specific to each species. They will crawl into that gap and crawl around in the cone with pollen on their legs. Here again, my hat for scale:

Thumb of 2014-10-13/cycadjungle/fb590e

Here is a male cone from a flat leaf ferox:

Thumb of 2014-10-13/cycadjungle/2ec5c2

Here is a much smaller female cone on a flat leaf form, but this particular plant has very wide leaflets compared to some of the other flat leaf plants:

Thumb of 2014-10-13/cycadjungle/17c68a

Encephalartos ferox comes from South Africa and Mozambique. It is more common than many of the Encephalartos species, so for many, it is an entry level Encephalartos for people starting a cycad collection. I have about 300 of these in all sizes from seedlings to mature coning plants. It is more cold hardy than the species from northern areas. The leaves will burn at 23F when grown out in the open, but if you put them under a canopy, like for me, under an oak tree, the leaves don't burn until it gets lower than 18F. Usually, these plants get an 8 foot spread, but in deep shade may get about 10 feet across. They rarely get taller than 6 feet tall in a person's lifetime. I keep saying this because most Encephalartos species can easily live 300 to 500 years, or more. Tom
[Last edited by cycadjungle - Oct 12, 2014 8:14 PM (+)]
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Name: Dave Paul
Puna, HI (Zone 10b)
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Metrosideros
Oct 16, 2014 3:38 AM CST
Can you show us Encephalartos horridus. Cool blue leaves!

Are you placing your photos in the Plant Database? Your contributions will be very helpful. The ATP Plant Database will be one of the most accessible resources of the future.

The Plant Database automatically copyrights and dates your original material. It is forever held as your property. Good Deal!

Aloha, Dave

Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Oct 16, 2014 5:29 AM CST
I agree and Thank You!
Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Cat Lover Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad
Xeriscape Pollen collector Seller of Garden Stuff Region: Florida Seed Starter Container Gardener
cycadjungle
Oct 16, 2014 6:39 PM CST
I was adding pictures of species that they didn't pictures of, just about the first day I came here. I have already added more than 40 pictures and have proposals in correcting the incorrect species named in the database. I think we got all the cycad corrections taken care of.
Encephalartos arenarius looks like a horridus on steroids and likes our weather here in Florida, and that is the picture I showed above. E. horridus does not like central Florida because it gets about 1.8 inches of rain all year in habitat. My one and only horridus has a 4 inch stem, but only one leaf, so it isn't really worthy of a good picture. The people in California have good looking horridus plants. They also do well in our coastal locations. I know Kopsick arboretum in St . Petersburg had some nice blue stuff, I don't know if they have any good ones on Naples. Hetty, do you have any good ones down there?
[Last edited by cycadjungle - Oct 16, 2014 6:41 PM (+)]
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Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Oct 16, 2014 7:17 PM CST
We do, actually, at the Botanical Garden.
Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Cat Lover Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad
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cycadjungle
Oct 26, 2014 7:21 PM CST
Dioon edule is a great cycad species to start out with, when you are thinking about having a rare cycad garden.

Thumb of 2014-10-27/cycadjungle/f0b19f

Dioon edule is the species people here in Florida are replacing their sagos with. A single headed plant has the same specs as far as size goes. Dioon edule typically has a 6 foot spread and rarely gets taller than about 5 feet tall. The more tropical forms are foliage hardy about 3 degrees lower than king sagos and the more cold hardy forms are foliage hardy up to 8 degrees lower. This means that anywhere you see sagos, you can grow these, and if you are marginal for sagos, you can probably grow these. They grow a little slower than sagos, but that is because a single stem of a Dioon edule can live 1500 years and be about 15 feet tall, where Cycad revoluta may only live 200 or less years. Some people don't like edules as much because they are a bit thinner growing and the leaves are a little lighter in color. One advantage of these is that it fills the space of a Cycas revoluta, but does not get infested with the Asian scale, which has killed over $1 billion worth of sagos in Florida alone. Sagos are from Japan and other lower islands, thus, Asia, so the Asian scale loves them. Dioon edule comes from Mexico, so the scale doesn't like the taste of them.
The plant in the above picture is a 300+ year old male Dioon edule from the Palma Sola area in Mexico. This is a faster growing edule type so it makes a better landscape plant when you are growing it from seed. This is a picture of his mate, the female sitting beside him. They have been together, side by side for a documented 81 years.

Thumb of 2014-10-27/cycadjungle/1291a5

You can see the female cones on this plant, but here is a close up of one of the cones that is showing the mature seeds, since the top of the cone fell off.

Thumb of 2014-10-27/cycadjungle/7866d0

The yellow color is the seed coat, which attracts animals and encourages them to carry off the seed to another location, eat the coating, and spit out the hard seed. This is what the seeds end up looking like.

Thumb of 2014-10-27/cycadjungle/565a4b

The end with the hole is the attachment point and the end with the hatch is the sprouting end. When you plant the seeds, they are planted half way into the sand, attachment point down. At the time you pick the seeds, they are ready to sprout, where Cycas revoluta seeds have to be stored at least 6 months before they should be planted. Since I had to take this picture for someone else, here is a seed cut open showing a full sized embryo.

Thumb of 2014-10-27/cycadjungle/dbbafd

Dioon edule has now been split into two separate species. That used to be called Dioon edule edule and Dioon edule angustifolium. The angustifolium types are slower growing, have thinner leaflets, and are about 3-5 degrees more cold hardy. The queretaro form is one of these. Some of these have pinkish emergent leaves and can have a blue tinge to the leaves for a period of time. I have a picture of this one in the database, but don't know how to copy that into this post.
Dioon edule, as I said before is a great starter cycad. They are common enough that they aren't incredibly expensive, mainly because seeds are usually available at a modest price compared to the genera such as Encephalartos which you can find single seeds that cost $25 to $45 each. Dioon edule is easy to take care of. Some live 1500 years sitting on top of solid rock. If it can live sitting on rock, you can certainly do better than that for cultivation. Tom










[Last edited by cycadjungle - Oct 26, 2014 7:59 PM (+)]
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