Cycas is a genus of about 100 species distributed through Asia, the Pacific, parts of Africa and northern Australia where about 26 species occur. The genus gives its name to the cycads, a very ancient group of palm-like plants which also include Macrozamia, Lepidozamia and Bowenia.
Cycads do not produce flowers and reproduce by means of cones borne on separate male and female plants. All species have dark green, palm-like fronds arising from a central trunk which may be subterranean or emergent.
Cycas platyphylla is a medium-sized plant to about 2 metres in height with large, fern-like leaves arising from a short trunk. The leaves are 0.5 to 1 metre long with glossy green, linear-shaped leaflets 100 – 200 mm long. The male cones are hairy, ovoid in shape up to 200 mm long by about 100 mm wide, aging to a light brown colour. Female cones are loose and open in shape to about 400 mm wide and bear numerous green or yellowish, globular-shaped seeds about 30mm in diameter.
Like all cycads, various parts of C. platyphylla are toxic. The seeds are rich in starch but the toxic compounds must be destroyed before they are safe to eat. Aboriginal people developed a method of vigorous leaching to remove these toxins from various cycad species.
Because of its restricted distribution, C. platyphylla is not often found in cultivation but it would form a very attractive plant for a garden or container. The plant is quite slow growing and may take 5 years or more to be noticed as a feature plant and many more years to reach anything like a reasonable size. Because of its tropical origin, the plant may be unsuitable for cultivation in cold area but it has been successfully established at least as far south as Sydney. The plant can withstand extended dry periods once established and it prefers a sunny situation with good drainage.
Propagation is from seed which germinates easily when fresh without the need for any pretreatment.
For further information on cycads and their cultivation see:
- Cycads of the World (2000); David L. Jones, Reed New Holland, Australia.
- The Cycad Pages
- Cultivation of Australian Cycads
* EPBC Act = Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
ROTAP = Rare or Threatened Australian Plants (Briggs and Leigh, 1988)
For further information refer the Australian Plants at Risk page
Fruit and foliage of Cycas platyphylla
Photo: Brian Walters