Tony turns the spotlight on Cycas revoluta -
the Sago Palm. Why is it called 'revoluta'? Why is it called 'Sago'?
Why is it called a palm? And is it really hardy? Tony reveals all.
Tony King, 34 Keats Avenue, Romford, Essex Chamaerops No.22, Spring Edition 1996
Photo: Cycas revoluta in Barcelona, Spain
I guess that many readers will be familiar with
'The Sago Palm', Cycas revoluta, which, of course, is not a true
palm at all but a member a plant family of ancient lineage: the
Cycads. Sooner or later it's a fair bet that even the most modest
collector of botanical exotica will discover this wonderful, architectural
plant and fall in love with its appearance and unique history.
Ancient History And Wild Origins
Cycads are a group of plants that can trace their
origins back directly to plants that thrived on earth at the time
of the dinosaurs. Whilst it would be incorrect to say that they
are unchanged from those times, they do still retain characteristics
considered primitive when compared to most other living plants.
Cycas revoluta originates from the southern tip
of the Japanese island of Kyushu, and the Ryukyu islands which include
Okinawa and Iriomote. Here they mostly occupy nearvertical limestone
cliffs around the coast or more rarely on forest floors. lt is odd
that many species of cycad grow on such steep sites, as a number
of Encephalartos species I was fortunate to see in habitat in South
Africa were perched on cliff ledges. As for our Revoluta's, they
naturally experience a very harsh environment, battered by sea gales
laden with salt spray, drought and occasional snow. Temperatures
vary greatly, given the wide distribution of the islands that make
up its home. These can average 7°C in winter to around 33°C
in summer, though as mentioned, snow can be a feature in some areas.
Recent estimates put the wild populaton at around several hundred
thousand throughout its distribution.