The subterranean habit with few stiffly erect leaves in the crown place this species with E. ngoyanus, E. cerinus and E. umbeluziensis. It is distinguished within this group by the long dark green leaves with a spine-free petiole and well spaced leaflets bearing 1-2 teeth on the lower margins, and lack of wool in the crown. E. umbeluziensis is also similar to E. villosus, which is distinguished by the longer, arching leaves with the lower leaflets reducing to spines on the petiole, and the woolly crown.

Plants acaulescent; stem 0.25 m tall, 25 cm diam

Leaves 100-200 cm long, dark green, highly glossy, flat (not keeled) in section (opposing leaflets inserted at 180° on rachis); rachis green, straight, stiff, not spirally twisted; petiole straight, with no prickles, spine-free for 15-20 cm; leaf-base collar not present; basal leaflets not reducing to spines.

Leaflets lanceolate, weakly discolorous, not overlapping, not lobed, insertion angle horizontal; margins flat; upper margin lightly toothed (1-3 teeth); lower margin lightly toothed (1-3 teeth); median leaflets 10-20 cm long, 10-15 mm wide.

Pollen cones 1-4, narrowly ovoid, green, 30 cm long, 8-10 cm diam

Seed cones 1-4, ovoid, green, 25-30 cm long, 12-15 cm diam.

Seeds oblong, 30-32 mm long, 18-23 mm wide, sarcotesta orange.


Distribution & Habitat

Along the Mbeluzi River, Swaziland, and Mozambique.



Name comes from the Mbeluzi River, Swaziland, with the Latin termination ensis, place of origin. Described in 1951 by South African botanists R. Allen Dyer.

References & Acknowledgements:

  • Images - Ken Hill
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney



Encephalartos umbeluziensis