IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Biology

Cycads are long-lived, slow-growing plants that bear their reproductive organs in cones on separate plants, with male cycads bearing cones that contain pollen, and female cycads producing cones that contain ovules that later become seeds (4) (5) (6). There is no way of determining the sex of a cycad until it begins to produce its first cone (6). For a long time cycads were thought, like cone-producing conifers, to be entirely wind pollinated (7). However, studies now suggest that the vast majority, if not all cycads, are actually pollinated by insects or more specifically weevils (5) (6) (7). To attract pollinators, male and female cones produce powerful odours, usually in the early morning or evening (6). Travelling between the sexes, the weevils pollinate the plants by inadvertently transferring pollen from the male cones to the receptive ovules of the female cones (6) (8). The seeds produced by cycads are large and have a fleshy outer coat, but are relatively short-lived and vulnerable to desiccation (5). The fleshy red seeds of the Eastern Cape giant cycad are known to attract the Knysna turaco and trumpeter hornbill (9). Consuming the seeds, the birds digest the outer coat but subsequently regurgitate the unpalatable seed. If the seeds are discarded in a hospitable environment, there is a relatively good chance they will germinate and grow into a mature plant (5) (9).

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Source: ARKive

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