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Origin and Habitat: Encephalartos bubalinus is a rare cycad that occurs in the northern Tanzanian province of Arusha and southern Kenya. Populations are mainly found to the West of Lake Natron and south of the town of Loliondo (Nguruman Hills).
Altitude range: 1,300 to 2,150 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: Populations occur in grasslands and in open bushland on quartzite ridges or in montane forest with a few scattered trees on shallow soils over sandstone. Associated with Acacia, Ziziphus, Dombeya, Dolichos and Aloe volkensii.
- Encephalartos bubalinus Melville
ENGLISH: Lake Natron Cycad, Cycad, Bread palm, Bread tree, Kaffir bread
Description: Encephalartos bubalinus (Lake Natron Cycad) is a majestic medium-sized suckering cycad plant native to Africa. Its trunk grows to about 2 metres tall, developing 6 or more stems over time. The dark green, glossy leaves grow to over 1.5 metres long. Encephalartos bubalinus differentiates from related species by its dark green green erect cones which are almost sessile in male specimens while the female ones are distinctly stalked. The simple leaflets are closely spaced, rounded or obtuse with a fine sharp projection at the tip. Described in 1957 by English botanist Melville Encephalartos bubalinus is among the most strikingly unique and sought species.
Derivation of specific name: Latin “bubalinus” of cattle or oxen, i.e. buff-brown the colour of the tomentum (i.e. covering of fine hairs), on the cataphylls (i.e. modified protective leaves) and leaf bases.
Stem: Trunk stout, cylindrical, arborescent erect or prostrate 1.4-2 m high and 33-45 cm diameter.
Leaves (fronds): Oblanceolate, 60–165 cm long, 20–30 cm wide, tapering gradually to the base, light or bright green, semiglossy, slightly keeled (opposing leaflets inserted at 120-160° on rachis). Rachis green, straight, stiff, not spirally twisted with decurrent ridges between the leaflets. Petiole straight, with 1-6 cuneate prickles indumentum of petiole bases buff coloured, closely felted. Median leaflets linear, rigid, coriaceous, not overlapping, not lobed, 10–20 cm. long, 11–20 mm. Wide, insertion angle obtuse (45-80°), margins flat; upper margin with 1–4 teeth near the base, ; lower margin lightly toothed (1-3 teeth), weakly discolorous, lower surface obscurely striate with 24–35 parallel nerves. Basal leaflets reducing to spines, but passing from lanceolate to ovate, with small spiny teeth, to small trifurcate or simple lanceolate. Leaf-base collar not present.
Cataphylls (scale leaves): The cataphylls (Modified leaf, much reduced and thickened, serving to protect the apical meristem in cycads produced in flushes preceding the emergence of cones or leaves.) are closely felted by a buff coloured indumentum. In female plants triangular
to ovate acuminate 10-14 cm long, 40-45 mm wide, keeled 10-15 mm thick. In male plants ear to lanceolate-acuminate, 6-12 cm long, 6-20 mm wide, flat to keeled. .
Male cones: 1-3 per crown. Ellipsoid to subcylindrical, 11–22 cm. long, 5.5–6.0 cm in diameter, peduncle smoot very short; median cone-scales spreading, broad cuneate 23–30 mm. long, 20–25 mm wide, bulla flattened, subtriangular to rhomboid, with a scarcely raised rectangular or triangular median facet 2–6 mm wide.
Female cone: 1-3 per crown, ovoid, green, 25-30 cm long, 15-18 cm in diameter. Bulla of median scales deflexed, rhomboid, about 6 cm. wide and 3.6 cm deep
Seeds: Oblong, 35-40 mm long, 20-25 mm wide, sarcotesta yellow.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Whitelock, Loran M., “The Cycads”, Timber press, 2002
2) Haynes J.L, “World List of Cycads: A Historical Review”, IUCN/SSC Cycad Specialist Group, 2011.
3) Bosenberg, J.D. 2010, Encephalartos bubalinus su IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, <http://www.iucnredlist.org> , IUCN, 2015
4) R. Melville “Flora of Tropical East Africa” Flora of Tropical East Africa, 1958. <http://plants.jstor.org/stable/10.5555/al.ap.flora.ftea000382> Downloaded on 14 October 2015
5) R. Melville “Encephalarthos. In Central Africa.” Kew Bull. 12: 252 1957 <http://www.cycad.org/documents/descriptions/Encephalartos/Encephalartos-bubalinus.pdf> Downloaded on 14 October 2015
6) Ken Hill: “Encephalartos bubalinus – In The Cycad Pages”. <http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/cycadpg?taxname=Encephalartos+bubalinus> Downloaded on Downloaded on 14 October 2015
7) Jones, David L. “Cycads of the World.” Smithsonian Institution Press. 2002.
8) "Encephalartos bubalinus" PACSOA Palms and Cycads wiki , <http://www.pacsoa.org. au> 24 November 2013 Accessed on 14 October 2015.
9) Maundu, P., Berger, D., Saitabau, C., Nasieku, J., Kipelian, M., Mathenge, S., Morimoto, Y. & Höft, R., 2001. “Ethnobotany of the Loita Maasai. Towards community management of the forest of the Lost Child. Experiences from the Loita Ethnobotany Project”. UNESCO People and Plants Working Paper 8, Paris, France. 34 pp.
10) Heenan, D. 1977. "Some observations on the cycads of Central Africa". Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 74:283.
11) Stevenson, D. W. et al. 1990. "A world list of cycads". Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 57:203.
12) Turrill, W. B. et al., eds. 1952–. "Flora of tropical East Africa".
13) Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants".
Cultivation and Propagation: As a garden subject, Encephalartos bubalinus is a vigoruous grower and one of the most spectacular of all cycad species. It is supposedly a relatively faster growing plant, but not too hardy to frost (doens't die, but leaves get damaged). It responds well to cultivation provided it has a well-drained soil, frost-free conditions and regular watering during the dry months. It is an adaptable plant well suited to subtropical climates. It can be grown in full sun without its leaves burning. Rare in cultivation. When young they can be grown as a container plant and eventually transplanted into the garden. As a garden plant, this cycad will usually hold two or three crowns of leaves, all in good condition. Makes a choice feature plant.
Growing rate: It is a fast-growing plant, it will reach coning size in 8 - 10 years. Needs a large garden due to its size.
Soils: It prefer well drained, gritty soil with plenty of water, especially in dry weather.
Transplanting: This species transplants easily as a mature plant, although it is recommended to remove all of the leaves before doing so. This makes for easier handling and the plant will recover sooner due to less moisture loss.
Waterings: In cultivation prefers moist soil with good drainage for optimal growth. But it is eventually drought resistant. Irrigation systems can be detrimental to cycads, damaging the leaves and stems from the pressure of the water as well as over-watering.
Fertilization: Naturally undemanding for nutrients, it responds very well to regular applications of fertilizer. Growth can be greatly improved through the application of fertilizers. Most growers find that a fertilizer having an even NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) balance, and supplemental trace elements, provides a good start for cycads.
Exposure: It thrives and grows best in full sun or partial shade, but thrives well on shade too.
Wind tolerance: It prefers a sheltered position providing protection from the prevailing winds.
Hardiness: Frost sensitive (USDA zones 10-12). Encephalartos bubalinus is well represented in botanical gardens and private collections worldwide where the most tropical cycads can be grown. Even though this cycad grows at or near sea level, and almost on the equator, it exhibits an unusual amount of cold tolerance by surviving in temperate areas as well. In the warmer portions of southern California it grows with apparent ease, only suffering defoliation or leaf burn during extreme winters.
Propagation: It may be propagated by seeds. They are among the easiest plants to germinate, but appears to need shade for successful germination.
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