Friday, January 08, 2010

E. ferox: The converter

TO the extent that there is a trigger cycad or converter cycad which draws in new addicts in the same way trigger birds do (other than C. revoluta or Z. furfuracea) its probably this. Encephalartos ferox. It doesn't get particularly big, even the oldest specimens rarely top 4 feet in trunk but the leaves make it instantly recognisable. The 6 foot leaves are made up of credit card sized broad leaflets covered in spines and rather holly like. These leaflets are much broader than any other Encephalartos and make this one unique looking but that's just the start.

encephalartos ferox6

This is a pretty widely distributed species along the coastal plain of Mozambique down to Natal....which is nice because I intend to spend some time that way playing with big sharks so I may eventually see a wild one. It is also widely cultivated because, in addition to the leaves, it pushes cones like these:

encephalartos ferox2

This is only a newly emerging cone and apparently it disappeared shortly after this was taken. I wouldn't be surprised if the staff at Kew took it out to save the plant's energy as I think it may have produced seed fairly recently. Nonetheless if we go to close-up you can see the spectacular peach orange colour they have. If it had matured it would have ended up looking like a day-glo orange pineapple which is a pretty spectacular sexual organ however you look at it and a lot of people see it and want one for their garden.

encephalartos ferox

I mentioned above that these are pretty widely cultivated and if you're thinking of getting an Encephalartos this is probably the one to go for. In the states good sized plants are available at quite reasonable prices from specialist nurseries and the serious collector may choose to collect plants from a number of recognisable localities. The most famous of these in cultivation is E. ferox choegone which has curly leaves which almost roll onto themselves. It is widely grown enough that pollen is often available for pollination and I've even seen self-seeded E. ferox at one Botanic Garden (which must be a serious test of willpower for visitors not going on a plane immediately thereafter). Even those of us in the Encephalartos-starved European Union can grow this beauty, there are a couple on ebay right now at reasonable prices.


Sally said...

Sigh-- that's a reasonable price, I'm sure (well, not the $800 ones so much), but a little rich for me! (Of course, if I hadn't been blowing my budget on books...) I did buy a $100 Wollemi (can't resist araucarians either)... it's still alive, thankfully.

tai haku said...

Indeed; I'm afraid "reasonable" is very much a relative term when dealing with cycads!