A dwarf species with very little clear trunk and short, keeled, twisted and recurved leaves with entire leaflets. Other dwarf species with short leaves have straight, erect, more or less flat leaves. E. humilis is though to be most closely related to the much larger and longer-leaved arborescent species E. lanatus and E. laevifolius.

Plants acaulescent; stem 0.3 m tall, 20 cm diam.

Leaves 30-50 cm long, dark green, semiglossy, slightly keeled (opposing leaflets inserted at 120-160° on rachis); rachis yellowish, straight with last third sharply recurved, slightly twisted in some leaves; petiole straight, with no prickles; leaf-base collar not present; basal leaflets not reducing to spines.

Leaflets linear, strongly discolorous, not overlapping, not lobed, insertion angle obtuse (45-80°); margins flat; upper margin entire (no teeth); lower margin entire (no teeth); median leaflets 9-13 cm long, 4-6 mm wide.

Pollen cones 1, narrowly ovoid, brown, 15-20 cm long, 4-5 cm diam.

Seed cones 1, ovoid, brown, 25-30 cm long, 8-10 cm diam.

Seeds ovoid, 25-30 mm long, 20-25 mm wide, sarcotesta yellow.


Distribution & Habitat

Mpumalanga, South Africa. E. humilis occurs in the mountains of the Lydenburg, Carolina, Machadodorp and Nelspruit districts. Steep slopes in the grassland is a prefered habitat, also lodged between sandstone can they be found. Growing in shade is not a tendency but those who grow there produce longer leaves than those in the full sun. The plants uasully grown on the east and north-east facing slopes.



Latin humilis, humble or lowly, from the small stature. Since the seventies there have been efforts to conserve this plant. Reserves have been established and the farmers who own private land containing cycads are keeping them safe. Another problem is that the E. humilis does not cone easily and only produces one cone per stem.

The plants are in serious danger of becomming totally extinct, the cycad does also not transplant easily and many have been lost to illeagal removal from the wild. Described in 1951 by South African botanist Inez Verdoon.

References & Acknowledgements:

  • Image - Deni Bown /
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney



Encephalartos humilis