Common names: Waterberg cycad and Bergpalm

Branched or unbranched from the base, the stems grow usually up to about 13 feet (roughly 4 m) tall, upright, angled, or growing along the surface of the ground. The long leaves have the tips slightly upcurved and this distinguishes the species at once from its southern relative, E. lehmannii. The inner leaves are silvery-blue, and the leaflets are of medium width, the middle ones up to about 5/8 inch (roughly 1.5 cm) broad, sometimes with one tooth on the lower margin.

The cones, 1 to 4 together, grow up to 20 inches (roughly 50 cm) long, the female longer than the male. The seeds are light brown" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).


Distribution & Habitat

South Africa: "the mountains of the Waterberg, Pietersburg, Witbank, and Middelburg districts of the central Transvaal" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).



Its closest relative, E. lehmannii Lehm., grows several hundred miles to the south, on the sandstone kranses of the eastern Karoo" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).

This cycad was discovered by the writer and naturalist, Eugene Marais, who sent a specimen to the botanist, Dr Rudolf Marloth, in Cape Town, recording that the kernels had poisoned several children. Marloth could not credit that this had indeed come from the Waterberg, for up till then all cycads had been found in the eastern parts of the country. Eugene Marais died and with him the details of his cycad. It was Dr Inez Verdoorn, his niece and a noted botanist, who continued the hunt for his tree. It was a moment of great triumph, human and botanical, when through her efforts the cycads were at last found and Eugene Marais was proved right.

Boring beetles of various species are associated with different cycads. Several beetles, collected by Dr Verdoorn on this particular species, proved to be new to science and were duly named Apinotropis verdoornae" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).

References & Acknowledgements:

  • Image -
  • Image - Geri Prall
  • Gymnosperm Database



Encephalartos eugene-maraisii
Encephalartos eugene-maraisii