Tony's report on the 1993 Cycad Conference held
in Pretoria, South Africa, a paradise for enthusiasts of these ancient
plants. by Tony King, 34 Keats Avenue, Romford, Essex,
RM3 7AR, U.K. Chamaerops No. 12, published online 23-09-2002
Left: Encephalartos middleburgensi
Right, above: Encephalartos transvenosus in habitat, Modjadji
Right, below: The sinuous trunks of Encephalartos middleburgensi
A love of cycads coupled with a long-held desire
to visit South Africa came to fruition this summer when the third
International Conference on Cycad Biology was hosted by the Cycad
Society of South Africa, in Pretoria.
As is usual with such events, an attractive series
of pre- and post-conference tours was organised, which would provide
an ideal opportunity to see a little of the country.
I joined fellow EPS members Jacques Deleuze and
Andrew Shaw for the flight to Johannesburg, exchanging mid-summer
for mid-winter in my first journey across the equator. We arrived
at Jan Smuts airport early in the morning and were warmly welcomed
by the well-known Mrs. Cynthia Giddy. A short trip then through
the rather chilly morning air to Pretoria and our hotel to prepare
for the pre-conference tour beginning early the next day.
The 39 of us from around the world boarded the coach
on schedule bright and early for this tour, which was to last four
days, and was to take us eastwards into the Transvaal province.
Several hours later we arrived at the famous reserve at Modjadji
to see the forest of Encephalartos transvenosus that has been protected
by the local tribe and their 'Rain Queen' for many generations.
No other cycad site has such protection, and this is perhaps the
only place in South Africa where natural regeneration of any cycads
is readily occurring.