Cycad reproduction by nuts or rooting. also called SAGO palm
I adore CYCADs, those windmill palms, cuz they're the oldest living plant on EARTH, from millions of yrs ago, look good set in shady nooks. And they're evocative of Mother Earth's primeval jungle, her first attempt at greenery. With my own, verdant jungle of California plants growing around them, they give me and the cats the feeling we're cave people in ATLANTIS. (I guess that's a kind of 'theme' garden, huh? ---- And as I'm fond of the plant, guess what? I rooted a cutting recently. Someone cut his tree off at the ankles, threw it in street. (What kind of monster was that?) I picked it up compassionately and set it in the lush, fertile jungly garden. For a year and a half, the CYCAD just sat there thinking about it, then the leaves began to turn brown ....OH NO! I thought, they were dying out to the edges, very slowly but just as I was giving up hope, a diadem of sprouts came from center. In just days they were like hands reaching for the sky, recognizable as the many frond-branches of the cycad. The cut off and tossed guy made it. This ring of fronds grew inches, daily! Now I know why I really like this plant so when I noted that a friend had a row of these babies, like a chorus line, all POLLINATING ONE ANOTHER, so that one 50 year old chorus girl had issued a lot of NUTS on her stem, (very rare, cuz I never saw nuts on one before) like multiple koala pups crawling up a mother, I plucked one, weighed it in my hand, it was heavy. You could hear the nut rolling around in the shell. I took a few dozen nuts & planted half. Kept the others to share..
Once your cycad has produced a tennis-ball size (10cm diameter caudex)
sucker. Prune it off from the mother plant and seal the newly created wound
with sulfur or tree-seal to prevent possible rot problems.
Now, make a clean cut, preferably a single blow with a sharp machete
knife, so that the lower section of the sucker is sliced off and a clean
flat surface of about 8-9cm diameter is created (on which the caudex can
stand in an upright position). Also cut off all leaves from the sucker. Dry
this surface in a dry, well ventilated area for 2 to 3 days.
Then, plant the caudex in a sandy loam and keep it warm and slightly moist.
Roots should start to grow within a few weeks out of the exposed cambium
tissue (vascular ring) which is creating root primordia much faster. After
3 to 4 months the sucker should have established a well developed root
Journal of the Cycad Society of South Africa on Pollinating a Cycad Cone
On average a healthy cycad pushes a cone approximately every 5 years and of
these only 50% are female and there is only a window of about a week to
successfully pollinate it. One exception is that sometimes after relocation
a cycad pushes a cone for survival reasons. This type of cone should be
removed while still small to conserve energy for root growth.
Two Ways of Pollinating
1. Any cycad seller will gladly pollinate your cone for a percentage of the
proceeds from the seeds. Any cycad plant will pollinate another plant and
does NOT ask for part of the outcome.
2. Do-it-yourself. Get MULTIPLE CYCADS, but they're a very very expensive
plant. So I suggest when you're in CYCAD LAND, Zones 9, 10, you find
a chorus line on some street and pluck off the koala bears!
* Depending on which cycad a cone will appear usually around summer in
place of the usual leaf push (or with it).
* First identify it as a female cone. You might have to wait for it to
grow for a month or so before it is big enough for you to recognize. Female
cones are usually bigger and the scales are more tightly connected. They
tend to look like pineapples without the leaves. Male cones are usually
* Make sure your cycad has adequate fertilizer. A female cone takes a
lot out of the plant. Keep it as happy as possible.
* Once identified as a female, the hunt for some male pollen starts.
This you can obtain from a male plant of your own or perhaps from someone
you know. The custom is that the male cone owner gets a percentage of the
fertile seeds. Sometimes, especially with rare specimens, you need to be
resourceful - try the cycad society pollen bank, or phone around to all
cycad resellers. If you still cannot find the right pollen try pollen from
another cycad species (some cycads will allow hybridization), however, do
this as a last resort - try to keep the plant pure.
* If you receive a male cone you need to remove the pollen. Do as
o Remove the cone cleanly from the cycad. When the pollen is
ready it starts falling out of the cone like powder. From this time and for
approximately a week afterwards keep the cone in a cool well ventilated
area. Regularly tap the cone over a piece of clean paper with a crease in
the middle and gently funnel the pollen into a small glass bottle. Label
the bottle with the cycad name and keep cool in a fridge or freezer.
Remember you do not want the pollen too long before the female is ready
because the pollen has only a limited life span from a few days to maybe 2
years. To prolong the lifespan of the pollen keep it in the fridge or
* Depending on the type of cycad, approximately six months after
emergence (usually autumn) your female cone will be ready. You have to now
be very careful. Every day you have to feel the cone for 'loosness'. It is
easy to miss this stage. Possible signs are:
o If you have male cones of the same species, when their pollen
is ready, the chances are the female cone is ready.
o A crack-like opening appears between the upper rows of cone
* When the cone is receptive the cone scales become 'loose' for
approximately one week, the cone scales loosen up enough for pollination
(in the wild either wind or beetle). In your case this is the time to get
that pollen in. Use all methods, mix some of that pollen with distilled
water and draw up into a 20 ml syringe. Break off a top scale carefully
with a sharp knife. Keep the scale to replace as a plug. Squirt the pollen
into the gap you created. Squirt in every which way you can but make sure
it gets in. Squirt from the top and make sure it comes out at the bottom of
the cone. If it comes out the side only the cone isprobably not yet ready.
If you still have the male cone leave it lying on top of the female cone.
Some prefer dry pollination - blow the pollen in between the loose scales
using a straw. Re-pollinate multiple times. Once the week is up the cone
tightens up and then that's about all you cna do for now.
* After approximately six months the cone will start to disintegrate
(some take longer). This is when you collect your seeds. Unfortunately the
cone continues maturing whether or not the seeds are fertile, so you do not
know at this stage whether or not you were successful.
* Depending on the size andnumber of cones you should have a good
number of seeds - anywhere from 20 to 50 to 500. Take the seeds and remove
the fleshy outer covering. Pre-soaking in water for a couple of days will
make it a lot easier. Then leave the kernels to dry. Please note most cycad
seeds are poisonous. Use gloves and keep out of reach of pets and children.
* At this stage, you can perform a fertility test by dropping the seeds
into a glass of water. If they float there is a good chance they are not
fertile, however, it is a bit early for this test.
* Dust the seeds with some fungicide and insect powder and place the
seedsin a dry wood box in a cupboard and wait for the next spring.
* Next spring take out your seeds and repeat the float test as it will
now be a more realistic test. If you want to know for sure cut open one
seed. You will be able to see the embryo in a fertile seed.
Germinating Cycad Seeds
# Use vermiculite, perlite or a well-drained mixture of potting soil.
# Put the seeds out onto a seed tray vertically half embedded.
# Soil nutrients are unimportant at this stage; the embryo is still
providing the nutrients.
# Keep in a warm moist place out of the full sun (avoid excessive heat or
# When the root appears move to individual pots or bags.
# After a few weeks you will see your first leaf.
For a Cycad nut of your own, write ANITA at email@example.com
pay the shipping. Hope it's fertile.
<--------- BACK TO THE FARMING on a CITY PROPERTY GARDEN INDEX