The entire, closely crowded and overlapping leaflets distinguish this species from other blue-leaved species of the eastern Cape Province, as do the dark green, more or less glabrous cones with verrucose terminal sporophyll facets. The blue-leaved species of the Cape Province have discolorous leaves with stomata on the undersurfaces only, in contrast to the blue-leaved species of Transvaal, which all have stomata on both surfaces of the leaflets.

Plants arborescent; stem 4 m tall, 30-40 cm diam.

Leaves 100-130 cm long, blue or silver, dull, strongly keeled (opposing leaflets inserted at 50-90° on rachis); rachis blue, straight with last third sharply recurved, not spirally twisted; petiole straight, with no prickles; leaf-base collar prominent; basal leaflets not reducing to spines

Leaflets lanceolate, weakly discolorous, overlapping upwards, not lobed, insertion angle acute (less than 45°); margins flat; upper margin entire (no teeth); lower margin entire (no teeth); median leaflets 15 cm long, 15 mm wide.

Pollen cones 1-3, ovoid, green, 20-25 cm long, 8-10 cm diam.

Seed cones 1-3, ovoid, green, 30-40 cm long, 20-25 cm diam. Verrucose.

Seeds oblong, 35-40 mm long, 15-20 mm wide, sarcotesta red


Distribution & Habitat

Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, in arid low succulent shrubland on rocky ridges and slopes. E. princeps occurs mainly on dolerite, in contrast to the very similar E. lehmannii, occurring on sandstone formations.



Latin princeps, primary or first, from the authors perception that this was the first in an evolutionary sequence leading eventually to E. horridus. Described in 1965 by South African botanist R. Allen Dyer.

References & Acknowledgements:

  • Images - Ken Hill
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney



Encephalartos princeps
Encephalartos princeps