Encephalartos ferox – Encephalartos

Found in Southern Hemisphere Glasshouse at Chelsea Physic Garden

Found along the southern coast of Mozambique and in northern Natal close to the ocean on white beach sand, often growing near other vegetation on the sand dunes, as well as evergreen forests. Its preferred habitat is very humid in the summer.

The name Encephalartos is derived from the Greek en meaning within, kephali meaning 'head' and artos meaning 'bread'. Ferox comes from Latin for 'fierce' or 'ferocious' in reference to the rigid, spiny leaflets. The Afrikaans name for cycads, broodboom, means 'bread tree' and the stems of these plants have been used in the past as a source of food. The starchy pith is removed, tied up in animal skins, fermented and then ground into a meal.

The most spectacular part of these plants is their striking orange-red to scarlet cones which contrast with the attractive dark green foliage.

Although widespread and common, this species is declining due to increasing collecting pressure and habitat destruction. Its population reduction is projected to be nearing 30% within three generations (generation length 30 years). The KwaZulu Natal Nature Conservation Services consider it to be dependent on protection in nature reserves in the province.

Encephalartos ferox is rated as Near Threatened (NT) according to IUCN Red List criteria.

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