Cycads: The most threatened clade of organisms on the planet(?)

Hi everyone

I recently had the hallowed privilege of assisting our National Parks agency with a transplanting effort of one of our Endangered Cycads, Encephalartos eugene-maraisii on a private farm in the Limpopo province.

I read up on Southern African Cycads before the time, and was really surprised to learn how many species we have in just South Africa alone, let alone the rest of Southern Africa. In fact, Cycads can be found throughout the world in subtropical regions from South America, Africa and Asia.

Precious little is known is known about their pollination systems and the extent to which they rely on certain insects for reproduction and seed dispersal. The only known pollinators in South Africa are the Cycad Weevils (which make up their own subfamily), and seed and shoot predators are the Leopard Magpie Moth as well as certain Geometrid moths. Much more study is needed here though

The population viability can vary markedly between different species as well as between subpopulations which employ different reproductive strategies (vegetative or sexual) based on the available niche habitats and climate. Virtually all Southern African species are threatened in some or other way, with the foremost challenge being poaching for the horticultural trade, with habitat degradation and conversion coming in a close 2nd place

I’d love to hear from you all what you know of Cycads - Have you seen them in the wild before? Any notable uses or interactions by other animals?

What is your country’s stance on the protection of these amazing plants? Are they as threatened as our species in Africa?, and is their plight starting to become known in the contemporary amongst ordinary people or is it still a niche concern?

Please do share! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :pray:

PS: Maybe the mods can let me know if I’m allowed to share papers from Sci-Hub on here? Don’t know what the stance is for this website but I can share an amazing study on Cycads with permission


If any of you are interested in the meantime, here’s a link to our Biodiversity Agency’s Redlist website with a tab on all our Encephalartos species!

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