Encephalartos Hirsutus


It is an arborescent cycad, with an erect stem, which becomes decumbent in older specimens, up to 4 m high and with a diameter of 35–40 cm. The leaves, pinnate, arranged in a crown at the apex of the stem, are 1.1-1.4 m long, supported by a petiole about 13 cm long, and composed of numerous pairs of elliptic leaflets and coriaceous, long 13– 17 cm, with entire margin and thorny apex, fixed on the rachis with an angle of about 40°, reduced to thorns towards the base of the petiole. It is a dioecious species, with male specimens that have from 2 to 5 cylindrical-ovoid cones, erect, about 50 cm long and 9 cm broad, and female specimens with 1-3 ovoid cones, about 40 cm long and 35 cm broad, of glaucous green color, glabrous. The seeds are coarsely ovoid, 3–3.5 cm long, covered with an orange-red sarcotesta.



Encephalartos Hirsutus

Encephalartos hirsutus is a species of cycad that is native to Limpopo Province, South Africa. It was recorded from three separate localities on south-east-facing quartzite cliffs in the Makuya Nature Reserve bordering the Kruger National Park at altitudes ranging from 800 to 1 000 m.

The trunks of Encephalartos hirsutus are decumbent and up to 3.5m or rarely 4.2m long. It is 350mm to 400mm in diameter with persistent leaf bases with a golden, densely tomentose (hairy) crown, turning greyish with age.

The numerous leaves are arranged in a dense crown, glaucous, sub sessile and rigid with recurved apices. They are 1.1m to 1.2m (-1.4m) long. The petiole is bulbous at the base, tomentose (hairy) and up to 130mm long. The rachis is tomentose, becoming subglabrous with age.

The pinnae are inflexed, with entire margins and the veins are raised on the abaxial surface. The leaflets are directed towards the apex of the leaf at an angle of about 40° to each other. The upper margins overlap with the lower margins of the adjoining leaflets. The basal leaflets are gradually reduced in size but not to a series of spines. The median leaflets are 130mm to 170mm long and 20mm to 24mm wide, narrowly elliptic and somewhat sickle-shaped, gradually acuminate with acute and pungent apices. They are decurrent (turning downward) basally on the rachis with the apices somewhat turned towards the leaf apex.

The cones are dimorphous, waxy bluish-green, glabrous and with smooth scale facets. Up to 5 male cones per stem were seen. They are narrowly ovoid, about 500mm long and 90mm in diameter with peduncles about 120mm long. The exposed faces of the median microsporophyll’s (male cone scales) are rhombic, about 29mm wide, 30mm long and 7mm high, with the central facet flat or slightly concave. The female cones are ovoid and 1 to 3 per trunk were observed. They are about 400mm long and 350mm in diameter, appearing sessile but with a peduncle up to 60mm long, hidden amongst cataphylls in the trunk crown. The median megasporophylls (female cone scales) are rhombic with four lateral and one central facet, about 50mm wide, 44mm long and 15mm high with the central facet a third of the horizontal diameter of the bulla. About 200 seeds are produced per cone. The sarcotesta is orange-red and the kernel is 30mm to 35mm long and 15mm to 18mm in diameter, ellipsoid in shape, round and smooth.

Cultivation and Propagation: Encephalartos hirsutus is an adaptable plant well suited to warm temperate and subtropical climates, and can handle light frosts. With its bright foliage heightened by full sun is a commanding accent plant in the general landscape and makes an excellent tubbed specimen It can be grown in full sun without its leaves burning. Its color makes it a good subject for the nightscape. Its beauty and ease of horticulture make it one of the finest cycads for use in the garden. It is partially drought tolerant, salt tolerant, and completely wind tolerant. As a garden plant, this cycad will usually hold one or two crowns of leaves, all in good condition. As a seedling, it often loses its previous year’s leaves before the new leaves emerge. The seedlings need plenty of room for the tap root to develop and require very good drainage.
Growth rate: It is a long lived slow growing plant taking 15 to 20 years for one of these to produce a cone, so patience is a must.
Soils: It responds well to deep, fertile, slightly acidic, well drained, soil enriched with compost.
Waterings: In cultivation prefers plenty of water, especially in dry weather for optimal growth. But it is eventually drought resistant.
Fertilization: Naturally undemanding for nutrients, it responds very well to regular applications of fertilizer. Growth can be greatly improved through the application of fertilizers. Most growers find that a fertilizer having an even NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) balance, and supplemental trace elements, provides a good start for cycads.
Exposure: It will grow in partial shade, however best results are obtained growing the seedlings in full sun.
Hardiness: They do best in a sub-tropical climate and should be kept totally dry in winter at or around 10°C but demonstrate a remarkable degree of cold resistance and may tolerate light frost for short periods if dry, however heavy frosts would probably be fatal.
Propagation: Plants are very rare, however they are easy to propagate from seeds. They can also be propagated from suckers with some


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