Encephalartos Middelburgensis x Encephalartos Eugene Maraisii

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Description

Encephalartos Eugene Maraisii

Origin and Habitat: Encephalartos eugene-maraisii occurs in an isolated mountainous area in the Waterberg range in the Limpopo Province, South Africa (ex Transvaal). Estimated area of occupancy 50 km2. There are small scattered subpopulations (Number of mature individuals in the wild 982-1200).
Altitude range: 1,400 to 1,500 meters above sea level.
Habitat and Ecology: This species grows on sandstone hills and rocky ridges of the Waterberg range. It grow in open grassland and savanna. The plants experience very cold winters and the rainfall is around 600 to 750 mm per annum and falls predominantly in summer. At the time of pollination, a boring beetle (Apinotropis verdoornae) associated only with the Encephalartos eugene-maraisii swarm about the cones of this cycad, the beetles lay eggs, form larvae, and pupate within male cones, emerging as adults by boring through the the microsporophyll’s, covered with pollen. This may be one of the way in which the female cones were pollinated. Encephalartos eugene-maraisii also use smells and heat to attract and repel insect pollinators. The plants heat up and produce a strong odour that drives the pollen-covered insects out of the cones of male plants. The female cones then attract these same insects with a milder, more alluring odour. When the insects move between the sexes, they inadvertently transfer the pollen from the male cones to the receptive ovules of the female cones. E. eugene-maraisii is threatened due to over-collecting for ornamental purposes and this could lead to reproductive failure. Although recent surveys show relatively little illegal collecting, farm managers still feel that collecting is taking place.

 

Synonyms:

Common Names include:
ENGLISH: Marais’ cycad, Waterberg cycad
AFRIKAANS (Afrikaans): Waterberg broodboom, Bergpalm
SOTHO (NORTHERN) (Sesotho sa Leboa / Sepedi): Mofaka

 

Male cones: 1-3(-8) together on short stout peduncles, subcylindric, 22-42 cm long 6-8 cm broad, to the cones and have an unpleasant odour when mature.
Female cones: 1-3(-6) per season per stem on short stout peduncles, ovoid to ob­long-ovoid in outline, 30-50 cm long, 16-20 cm broad. The female cones of Encephalartos eugene-maraisii do not disintegrate spontaneously, but dry out from May to August.
Seeds: Amber to light brown or sometimes slightly tinged with red, fleshy, angled by compression, 3.5-4.4 cm long, 2.3-3 cm in diameter.
Related species: Encephalartos eugene-maraisii is part of a group of similar species that share a conspicuously glaucous foliage, but it is distinguished from the others by its straight leaves that recurve at their ends, spineless median leaflets, clear petiole, and green cones with a fine brown wool.. All them occur on the northern escarpment of South Africa, mostly at relatively cool and high elevations. The group comprises the nominate species, Encephalartos middelburgensisEncephalartos nubimontanusEncephalartos cupidus and Encephalartos dyerianus (all with similar female cones) and Encephalartos dolomiticus (with quite different female cones) and the poorly described still virtually unknown Encephalartos hirsutusE. eugene-maraisii is also closely related to the Eastern Cape species Encephalartos lehmannii which it resembles, but it is a taller and more robust plant (E. lehmannii seldom exceeds 1,5 metres in height). Moreover Encephalartos eugene-maraisii lacks the distinct ‘collar’ at the base of the leafstalk which is prominent and distinct in E. lehmannii.

 

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