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Encephalartos Kisambo

HabitatThe Cycads

Low-growing, moist, evergreen, mist forest composed of many epiphytes and few understory plants, in granitic soils, with preferred exposures the summit and south-eastern and eastern slopes, occasionally found on exposed steep slopes in dry bushland, at elevations of 800 - 1800 m (2600 - 5900 ft).

Distribution

Kenya, originally known only from a very small area of about 160 hectares (400 acres) in the Maungu Hills near Voi in the southern past of the country, also reported from the Milionyi, Nyangala, Sagala, and Kasigau hills. The type specimen of Encephalartos voiensis (= E. kisambo) was collected on Mount Kasigau.

Encephalartos kisambo is a remarkably handsome cycad, reputed to have been discovered not far from the city of Voi, Kenya, in 1970 by Robert Archer, an American working at the East African Herbarium, Nairobi.

The habitat of Encephalartos kisambo is said to be rich in plant life, especially epiphytes. At least four kinds of epiphytic plants (Davallia, Impatiens, Streptocarpus, and Orchids) have been observed growing on the stems of this cycad.

Encephalartos kisambo is fast growing, has some frost tolerance, and is easy to grow. Established specimens tend to retain several heads of leaves, all in good condition, thereby forming an exceptionally decorative cycad. It is not common in cultivation, and normally no more than a single specimen is grown, generally because of its large size. In 1993, a large amount of viable seed was introduced from the wild and distributed worldwide. This introduction has firmly established E. kisambo in cultivation and will no doubt ensure its continued existence in collections, both public and private.

The conservation status of Encephalartos kisambo is not adequately known. The size of the known habitat is quite small and collectors have removed considerable numbers of cycads in more recent years. Also, the local natives are rapidly denuding the hills for the lucrative charcoal trade. So this species has been given the status of vulnerable, possibly endangered.

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Cycad International | 61 Morris Road, Katherine, Northern Territory, 0850, Australia
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