1. Family: Zamiaceae Horan.
    1. Genus: Encephalartos Lehm.
      1. Encephalartos tegulaneus Melville

        This rare tree is found in only a few locations in the more remote parts of Kenya. It belongs to a group of cycads known only from Africa. Although they may look a bit like palms, these species are members of a much more ancient group. Cycads date back to before the time of the dinosaurs!

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    This giant Kenyan cycad is a living fossil of the plant world - Encephalartos tegulaneus is an impressive member of an ancient group, but also rare and only found on remote hills.

    This rare tree is found in only a few locations in the more remote parts of Kenya. It belongs to a group of cycads known only from Africa. Although they may look a bit like palms, these species are members of a much more ancient group. Cycads date back to before the time of the dinosaurs!

    Encephalartos tegulaneus was first collected by Joy Adamson, author of the bestseller Born Free – the woman who loved Elsa the lion. She spotted a specimen on 7 May 1954, and took photographs and painted a watercolour as well as making the original collection. Three years later, the tree was described as a new species – and 42 years after that, Beatrice Miringu and Kew botanist Henk Beentje described a second subspecies ( E. tegulaneus subsp. powysii).

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Encephalartos tegulaneus is restricted to a small area of central and northern Kenya, where it has been found at 1,600–2,100 m above sea level.

    Description

    A tree up to 10 m tall, with a usually unbranched trunk up to 1 m across. The trunk is covered in leaf scars and grows erect, or sometimes curves down and up again. 

    There are many leaves per trunk and each leaf is 1–2 m long and pinnate (divided into leaflets), with many stiff, leathery leaflets of 16–31 × 2–3 cm, bearing spiny teeth on the margins near the leaflet base.

    Encephalartos tegulaneus is dioecious (has separate male and female plants). The male trees bear subcylindrical cones of 40–52 × 9–13 cm on a stalk up to 20 cm long. The female trees bear cones up to 40–68 × 16–22 cm. The ellipsoid, orange seeds are 3–4 × 2–3 cm. Reproduction is probably very slow, with many of the seeds eaten by baboons or wild pigs.

    There are two subspecies: 

    • the typical one from north-central Kenya (Encephalartos tegulaneus subsp. tegulaneus) occurs in the Mathews and Ndoto Hills
    • a more southern one is known from only a single hill near Mt Kenya (E. tegulaneussubsp. powysii).
    Threats and conservation

    Encephalartos tegulaneus has been assessed as Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria, yet is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning that commercial international trade in this species is prohibited.

    To understand its conservation status better, it is important to look at each of the two subspecies.

    • E. tegulaneus subsp. powysiiis assessed as Critically Endangered. It has a very limited distribution (being known from only a single hill) and is in decline owing to its collection from the wild for ornamental purposes.
    • E. tegulaneus subsp. tegulaneusis not endangered. Although it is restricted to two mountain ranges, it can be abundant where it occurs and while there has been some loss of forest in this region, many examples of this subspecies grow in protected areas.
    Cultivation

    Encephalartos tegulaneus needs a moist, well-drained, frost-free position, in full sun or shade. Although slow-growing as a seedling, this plant grows more rapidly once it is about five years old.

    This species at Kew

    Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Encephalartos tegulaneus are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world by appointment. The details of some of these, including some images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

    Kew also holds the original photographs taken by Joy Adamson in Kenya in 1954, and the original watercolour that she painted.

    Photographs by Joy Adamson

    Photos: Permission granted for website non-commercial use from the Elsa Trust

    Eastern Cape giant cycad

    Another species from this genus is cultivated at Kew – the Eastern Cape giant cycad ( Encephalartos altensteinii) can be seen growing in the Palm House. This plant was collected by Francis Masson in the early 1770s – so this is one of the oldest pot plants in the world!

    Distribution
    Kenya
    Ecology
    Very rocky sites in dry forest or thicket.
    Conservation
    Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria (however Encephalartos tegulaneus subspecies powysii is assessed as Critically Endangered). Listed on CITES Appendix I.
    Hazards

    Many members of the Zamiaceae are poisonous, producing toxic glycosides known as cycasins.

    Images

    Distribution

    Common Names

    English
    Lpision

    Encephalartos tegulaneus Melville appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jan 1, 1956 Adamson, J. [s.n.], Kenya K000076190 holotype
    Jan 1, 1956 Adamson, J. [s.n.], Kenya K000076191 holotype
    Jan 1, 1956 Adamson, J. [s.n.], Kenya K000076192 holotype
    Jan 1, 1956 Adamson, J. [s.n.], Kenya K000076193 holotype
    Jan 1, 1956 Adamson, J. [s.n.], Kenya K000076194 holotype
    Adamson, J., Kenya 19125.000 Unknown type material
    Adamson, J., Kenya 19126.000 Unknown type material
    Adamson, J., Kenya 22042.000 Unknown type material

    First published in Kew Bull. 12: 249 (1957)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Govaerts, R. (2001) World Checklist of Seed Plants Database in ACCESS E-F: 1-50919

    Literature

    • [2] Miringu, B.W. & Beentje, H.J. (1999). Encephalartos tegulaneus subsp. powysii (Zamiaceae): a new cycad in central Kenya. Journal of East African Natural History 88: 35–39.
    • [3] Beentje, H.J. (1994). Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
    • [4] Melville, R. (1958). Flora of Tropical East Africa: Gymnospermae. Crown Agents, London.
    • [5] Melville in Kew Bulletin 1957 : 249 (1957).

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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    Kew Species Profiles
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