Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Prehistoric Plants - The Cycad

I was going to write a detailed article on Cycads today or Cycas revoluta, the King Sago Palm as they are often known, but the wikipedia entry is already pretty comprehensive on all the technicals.

These plants aren't really Palms at all. Cycas revoluta is actually one of the most primitive living plants, forming a rugged trunk, topped with whorled feathery leaves. This gives an unusual appearance and has made them a popular ornamental for the home or a sheltered spot in the garden. It's this shape that lead to the common name ''Sago Palm''.

Cycads are related to conifers and Ginkgo trees, they are all cone bearing plants which trace their origins back to the ancient flora of the early Mesozoic era - Prehistoric plants! As a result they are often referred to as ''living fossils'', Cycads have changed very little in the last 200 million years. Various species of Cycads can be found throughout the world, the subtropical Cycas revoluta is native to the Far East and has been used as a choice container and landscape plant for centuries. The growth habit of Cycas revoluta displays an upright trunk topped with stiff feather-like leaves growing in a circular pattern. Rather than continuously adding foliage, Sagos produce a periodic flush of new leaves.

Eventually, offsets begin to grow at the base of the specimen, and occasionally in the crown. The addition of offsets provides a source of new plants and many possibilities for developing an unique specimen. Regardless of age or size, Cycas revoluta is one of the easiest plants to grow, indoors or out, by beginner or expert. This subtropical adapts to a wide range of temperatures from -11 to 42 degrees C, accepts full sun or bright interior light, thrives with attention, and tolerates neglect.

In addition, Cycads are extremely long-lived. A specimen in excess of 220 year old of Encephalartos, a relative of Cycas revoluta, is on display at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew (; the restoration of the famous Palm House required it to be temporarily transplanted to a holding area for more than a year; the move was successful and is an example of the durability of these ancient ''living fossils''.

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