Encephalartos natalensis - Natal Cycad - 5 Seeds

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Encephalartos natalensis “A Living Fossil”  is an evergreen quick-growing cycad, up to 6.5 m high and with a stem or trunk of about 0.4 m in diameter. The stem sometimes branches, but reclines only when other stems emerge from the base. It has a golden, woolly crown, which increases on production of cones or new whorls of leaves. The leaves are of medium size, about 1.5-3 m long and slightly curved or straight. The leaflets are about 160-230 x 25-45 mm, dark green and entire or with 1-5 teeth on one or both margins. The lower leaflets are reduced to spines. New leaves and cones are covered with yellowish brown wool. There are separate male and female plants; both genders produce 2 or 3 orangy-yellow to orangy-red cones. The male cones are cylindrical, yellowish-green, velvety, about 450-500 mm long, and 90-120 mm across, and shed their pollen in April to June. The female cones are oblong to oblong-ovate, about 500-600 mm long and 250-300 mm in diameter. The faces of the cone scales are wrinkled. The cones disintegrate spontaneously from November to January, each yielding 415-510 bright red seeds which are about 25-35 mm long and 12-18 mm in diameter.

Conservation Status

Through the years, vast numbers of Encephalartos natalensis have been removed from their natural habitat, primarily for landscaping purposes. The movement and sale of the seeds is strictly controlled. Our seeds are from a registered trader with Cape Nature who has a Permit to transport and sell these seeds. On sale the full details of the permit and the supplier it is issued to will be included on the invoice.

Distribution and habitat

Encephalartos natalensis is endemic to South Africa, occurring from Tabankulu in the northern part of the Eastern Cape, through most of KwaZulu-Natal, up to the upper catchment area of the Umfolozi River, near Vryheid in the north. It grows on cliffs, in forests, and on rocky outcrops, where the climate is hot in summer and cold in winter, with frost occurring regularly. The altitude is about 1200 m above sea level.


The bark of Encephalartos natalensis is harvested for the muthi trade in most parts of  KwaZulu-Natal. It is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens. In times of famine the pith of the stem was used as a substitute for bread flour, hence the common names.

Growing Encephalartos natalensis

Propagate from seed. Encephalartos natalensis grows relatively quickly and thrives in light shade or sun. Plant it in a well-drained rich soil mixture and give it moderate moisture. Some forms of E. natalensis are much more frost resistant than others, but give all of them some protection from cold when young. Plant seedlings into the garden when about 3 years old, and with leaves about 1 m long. Remove any old and dead leaves. Whilst the plant has male and female seeds it is impossible to distinguish them from eachother. The seeds are roughly distributed from the plant on a 50/50 male female basis. Therefore when buying a pack of 5 seeds you have a very good chance of getting both male and female seeds.

Encephalartos natalensis - Natal Cycad - 5 Seeds
Encephalartos natalensis - Natal Cycad - 5 Seeds
Encephalartos natalensis - Natal Cycad - 5 Seeds