Cycas Revoluta - Ancient & Modern

(page 2)

Appearance

A picture paints a thousand words and I trust the accompanying photographs give you a clear impression of the appearance of this attractive plant. What the illustration cannot convey, to those who are not familiar with the species, is the hardness of the leaves. Almost as though they are made from a tough plastic, truly 'moulded' by the harsh conditions experienced in habitat. For all this toughness, the individual leaflets are quite susceptible to damage. Should they be accidentally 'bent' the one vein supplying the leaflet with moisture will be broken and the leaflet dies, changing colour from a lovely dark green to straw yellow. Too much rough treatment can therefore result in an unsightly plant, as the leaves themselves may persist for many years. Normally, however, if you have a plant that has many damaged leaves, you can cut them all off cleanly, (in spring would be best), and this usually results in a new flush of fronds being produced in response to the harsh treatment, in a very short space of time.

New leaves are very soft and emerge from the crown of the plant. In young specimens they are often only produced in small numbers but once older and more settled a new 'flush' of 30 or more leaves is more normal. These unfurl quite rapidly and the plant benefits from extra moisture and feeding during this period. Until they have fully unfurled and 'hardened off' they remain extremely delicate and easily damaged. Additionally, if a plant producing new fronds is moved at this time the leaflets twist out of shape resuIting in a plant of poor appearance. New growth does not occur every year in most individuals and it is common for them to retain older leaves for some years,which often fade in colour. To make up for this, when new growth does occur, it is often accompanied by a significant addition to stem height and girth, resulting in an noticeably larger plant. lt is actually from the rolled, or revolute, margins to the leaflets, unique among Cycads, that this species gets its name.

The trunk itself is very starchy inside and covered in the dead leaf bases on its outer surface. The stem apex is often very woolly in appearance with a number of sharp bracts, almost as protection for the tender growing point below. Young plants have a small candex' which gradually increases as the plant grows to form the tubby trunks of more mature plants. Some plants in cultivation have stems over 3m tall, though this is rare. Plants produce suckers at the base and offsets along the trunk, sometimes prolifically, and these often give the plant the appearance of a clump. Branching is very rare, resulting perhaps from damage to the growth point at some stage.

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