A large plant with glossy dark green stiff leaves and falcate, dentate leaflets overlapping downwards (succubous) and curving away from the leaf apex, with more than 3 teeth on each margin and a 2-3 spines on the tip. The leaves are similar to E. equatorialis, but the leaflets of the latter are very thick, falcate and curving away from the leaf apex, overlapping upwards (incubous) and with one spine on the tips. E. ituriensis, is also similar, but with thinner, well-separated leaflets (also falcate and curving downwards). Cones are yellow, and seeds are yellow, orange or red.

Plants arborescent; stem 6 m tall, 30 cm diam.

Leaves 200-300 cm long, dark green, highly glossy, moderately keeled or slightly keeled (opposing leaflets inserted at 120-180° on rachis); rachis green, gently curved, somewhat lax, not spirally twisted; petiole straight, with 1-6 prickles; leaf-base collar not present; basal leaflets reducing to spines.

Leaflets lanceolate, weakly discolorous, not lobed, insertion angle obtuse (45-80°); margins flat; upper margin heavily toothed (more than 3 teeth); lower margin heavily toothed (more than 3 teeth); median leaflets 20-26 cm long, 28-36 mm wide.

Pollen cones 3-8, fusiform, green or yellow, 20-50 cm long, 5-9 cm diam. Seed cones 2-4, ovoid, yellow, 28-60 cm long, 15-25 cm diam.

Seeds oblong, 30-38 mm long, 15-20 mm wide, sarcotesta red or orange or yellow.


Distribution & Habitat

Kenya and Tanzania, in seasonally dry savanna woodlands near the coast.



Honoring 19th Century German explorer and botanist J- M- Hildebrandt, collector of the specie. Described in 1874 by German botanists A.C.H. Braun and -- Bouche. The variety E. hildebrandtii var. dentatus was described by Melville for forms with lobed or dentate sporophylls, but it is still unclear whether these represent a distinctive local population or merely a variation within a population.

References & Acknowledgements:

  • Images -
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney



Encephalartos hildebrandtii