identification of indigenous cycads of south africa
The purpose of this publication is to serve as a practical, easy-to-use guide for the identification of indigenous cycad species (Encephalartos species). The guide was developed with the layman in mind for practical use in the field or garden. It is not intended as a scientific taxonomic publication on the indigenous cycad species.
E.brevifoliolatus is not covered in the book.
Although the distribution of E.umbeliziensis is in Swaziland, it is mentioned in the key because it does occur in gardens and may be confused with E.villosus.
As a Nature Conservation official with 23 years of experience dealing with cycad permit inspections and investigations, I realized that without a practical, easy-to-use identification guide, plants are incorrectly identified even by experienced officials. The need was then identified for the development of a practical identification key for Nature Conservation Officials. This key can also be used by the general public to identify cycad species in their gardens.
The photographs included in the book greatly assist in the often difficult task of identifying species. Clear photographs of each species, an identification key and the outstanding features of each species is included. With all the different variations that occur within the indigenous South African cycad species, it is almost impossible to cover all the variations with a single key.
The 37 Encephalartos species are divided into six groups according to the leaflet shape, colour, width, margin and flexibility. Bear in mind that there are many hybrids in gardens, which will make identification even more challenging.
If a cycad is not planted in its natural growing habitat as illustrated in the book, the appearance of its leaves will change, e.g. the leaves of E .transvenosus planted in shade will grow longer.
In identifying a cycad in your garden it is important to know which group the plant belong to. For this reason it is important to allocate the leaflets to one of the six leaflet categories as indicated in the book. After the leaflet has been categorised in a group, the key can then be used to identify the plant.
Using cones to identify the indigenous cycads of South Africa
Author Cornia Hugo