Cycads, or as we know them in Afrikaans, Broodbome, (all Encephalartos species and Stangeria eriopus) are the most threatened plant group in South Africa. They are also one of the most threatened groups of plants in the world. In South Africa almost 70% of our cycad species are threatened with extinction, with four species on the brink of extinction and seven species with fewer than 100 plants left in the wild. In South Africa it is illegal to buy or sell a cycad without a permit. Cycads also have a long fossil history that dates back to the early Permian period, 280 million years ago.
But I am digressing. This post isn’t about the history, legality or botany of cycads.
During our game drive at Kuzuko Lodge the ranger pointed out a number of cycads growing on the side of a cliff. He mentioned that there are very few cycads left in the reserve as the elephants had gotten to all of them. Most of those remaining are located on spots the elephants can’t reach, like the side of the cliff in this valley. It’s amazing how big these cycads are and that they are literally growing from cracks and crevices filled with a little bit of soil. You can say they are holding on to the rocks by the skin on their teeth, hanging on with their roots for life or death.