Within the green-leaved species of Natal Province, this species is distinguished by the short, straight, keeled leaves often with recurved tips and the lowermost 2-4 pairs of leaflets reducing to divided prickles and leaving almost no bare petiole,the lack of woolly tomentum in the crown around newly emerging leaves, the short, narrow, well-spaced, dentate leaflets, the yellow cones with 3-4 male and 2-3 female cones per stem, the usually stalked male cones and the raised pyramidal sporophyll apices. It is distinguished from E. lebomboensis by the broader leaflets and recurved leaf tips, and bright yellow to orange-yellow cones. Stems are also longer. See also E. msinganus, another recently separated species distinguished by the shorter, slightly broader leaflets and verrucose cone scales

Plants arborescent; stem 4 m tall, 30 cm diam.

Leaves 110-180 cm long, dark green, highly glossy, moderately keeled (opposing leaflets inserted at 135° on rachis); rachis yellowish, straight, stiff or gently curved, somewhat lax, not spirally twisted; petiole straight, with 1-6 prickles, spine-free for 5-20 cm; leaf-base collar not present; basal leaflets reducing to spines.

Leaflets lanceolate, strongly discolorous, overlapping downwards or not overlapping, not lobed, insertion angle acute (less than 45°); margins flat; upper margin lightly toothed (1-3 teeth); lower margin lightly toothed (1-3 teeth); median leaflets 8-18 cm long, 14-27 mm wide.

Pollen cones 3-4, narrowly ovoid, yellow, 30-60 cm long, 10 cm diam.

Seed cones 2-3, ovoid, yellow, 45 cm long, 22 cm diam

Seeds oblong, sarcotesta red.

Distribution & Habitat

South Africa: the Lebombo Range of northern KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland (Vorster 1996). Found on rocky slopes or cliffs in dry shrubby scrub.



This plant was once known as E. lebomboensis, but this name has now been applied to the 'Piet Retief' form and the original E. lebomboensis is now known as E. senticosus.

References & Acknowledgements:

  • Images - Ken Hill
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney



Encephalartos senticosus