Saturday, May 06, 2006

The rarest plant in the world

This is Encephalartos woodii, probably the rarest of all cycads. Only one specimen has ever been found and it was a male. No female means no seeds and no seeds means no sexual propagation.
Accordingly all the E. woodii in the world are vegetative clones of the original male. This wouldn't be so bad if cycads could be propagated by cuttings or even by meristem cloning....but they can't because of the way they grow. The only option is to wait for "a pup" to grow from the base. This doesn't happen vey often but because cycads are long lived and the pups are removed to new venues quickly a smallish population has been built up. I've even heard stories of cycad collectors paying small fortunes to get hold of one although as far as I know all the confirmed specimens remain carefully guarded in public gardens.

5 comments:

Pam in Tucson said...

The story of this cycad is fascinating. Of course I had to Google it and discovered not only more about its origins, but also where you took this photo in Africa. I always have fun coming to this blog to expand my knowledge of the natural world. Thanks!

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