Friday, February 11, 2011

Cycas revoluta - Sago Palm

Cycas revoluta: Cycas from Greek 'kukas', erroneous reading of 'koïkas', accusative pl. of 'koïx', a kind of palm tree, perhaps of Egyptian origin; revoluta, meaning rolled back from the margin or apex, revolute.

Evergreen. Native to the West Indies, China, and Japan. Slow growing to 20' tall x 16' wide, forming a short, cylindrical trunk with whorled stumps of removed leaf bases. Develops off-shoots at the base, forming multiple upward-curved trunks with age. Sago palms can live to be over 500 years old. Leaves are 2-3' long dark green glabrous feathery fronds that are rigid and feel like plastic. Bark is scaly, cinnamon-red to dark brown.

Fronds are composed of many stiff, narrow linear-paired pinnae with sharply pointed ends, arising from a short-sheathed stalk. Fronds persist until they are cut off.

Dioecious flowers occur on separate plants, with yellowish conelike males producing pollen...

and larger female rosettes covered wth thick down, maturing into a cylindrical dark cone...

with thick red edible seeds.

Seeds and stem starch have been widely used as a food source; a large plant may yield over 1,000 seeds. The Ryuku Islanders make a form of sake that is poisonous and an occasional batch kills all who partake.

Prefers part shade in hot interior climates, with moderate moisture in fertile, well-drained soil. Due to its tolerance of temperate climates and various forms of horticultural abuse, this is the most common ornamental cycad.