General Info

This Tree is up to 4m high and Leaves are pinnately compound and parallel veined. Male and female Cones are dioecious 



Encephalartos dyerianus, Encephalartos graniticolus.

RSA Tree No. 14.2

Common names: Lillie’s Cycad; Lillie-se-broodboom.

Family: Zamiaceae. This is a family of perennial cycads with 8 genera and about 150 species. They are only superficially palm or fern like. The cycad tap Root is soon replaced by lateral roots, which become woody. Cycads have coralloid roots that contain symbiotic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that fix atmospheric nitrogen in association with root tissue and produce important amino acids for the plant. Stems are cylindrical and southern African species do not have persistent leaf bases. All are evergreen with pinnately compound Leaves. The leaflets have parallel veins. Unlike other members of the family Zamiaceae, species in the genus Encephalartos have leaflets that lack a central Vein. Stomata are present on the lower surface and may occur above as well. All are dioecious with male and female Cones on separate plants. Female cones disintegrate at maturity releasing the Seeds. All produce poisonous glycosides (cycasins).

Name derivation: Encephalartos – within-head-bread: referring to the starchy bread that can be made from the pith of the inner trunk. The African plants in the genus Encephalartos include about 66 species. The African plants in the genus Encephalartos include about 66 species and there are about 30 species of Encephalartos in southern Africa. The genus Encephalartos includes some of the most primitive living Gymnosperms.

Conservation Status: Critically endangered. Assessment Date: 2009/10/31. This is due to illegal collecting. These plants are for sale in the USA!

This cycad Trunk is up to 4m high and has a diameter of up to 60cm. It may sucker from the base. This cycad is woody with almost palm-like trees.


Cycads are unique Gymnosperms with compound leaves. Pinnately compound Leaves are straight, up to 1,40+m long and may be slightly twisted or recurved towards the apex. Leaf bases remaining on the tree after the leaves have fallen. Leaves are persistent – lasting longer than 1 year. Rachis (main axis bearing flowers or leaflets) is blue, straight and slightly stiff. Leaflets are bluish green and concolorous (uniform colour). They turn slightly yellow. Each leaflet is up to 21cm long and up to 2cm wide. The median leaflets are the largest. Leaves are moderately keeled. Opposite leaflets are arranged at about 110° on the rachis. The lowest leaflets are reduced to prickles. Parallel Veins are clearly visible and stomata (structure utilising 2 guard cells, which, unlike lenticels, can control the gaseous exchange between the plant and the surrounding atmosphere) occur on both surfaces. The Margin is entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy) or with 1 or 2 small spines on both sides. The base of Petiole (stalk of a leaf) is without a prominent collar.


This tree is Dioecious (having male and female cones on separate plants). Cones are initially bluish green and turn yellow at maturity. They are borne on distinct stalks over 6cm long. 4-7 yellow Male cones are produced. Each cone is up to 50 x 2cm. Male cones produce motile sperm. There are up to 5 Female cones which are yellow and have naked ovules. Each cone is up to 60 x 20cm. They are insect pollinated. Birds, monkeys and baboons disperse Seeds. They consume the outer covering and the seeds are discarded.

Distribution & Ecology

These Cycads are located on open grassland and shrub land on the slopes of low granite (Granite – an igneous rock that develops underground when silica rich molten rock cools) koppies in Limpopo at an altitude of approximately 700m. It coexists with mopane trees (Colophospermum mopane). They also occur in part of the Kruger National Park.


This tree is slow growing. Both male and female trees are necessary for seed production. In coastal and inland areas, this species prefers to be in full sun, but can tolerate some shade.  For desert areas, this species should be placed in partial sun or filtered light.  Plant in a well-drained position and avoid excessive moisture.


Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.