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Wikiespécies

A diretoria das espécies livre que qualquer um pode editar.

Esta abrange Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Bacteria, Archaea, Protista e todas as outras formas de vida.

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Species of the month

Drakensberg cycad

Encephalartos ghellinckii

Encephalartos ghellinckii02.jpg
Photo: E. ghellinckii in Monk's Cowl area, Natal Drakensberg, South Africa

Some facts about this gymnosperm:

Visual characteristics: Grows up to 3 meters tall. Fronds are olive to yellow-green, and about 1 meter long, while leaflets are narrow (80–140 x 2–4 mm), with strongly revolute margins. The seeds have a yellow, fleshy covering.

Pollination: Initially believed to be wind-pollinated, recent studies show that cones are pollinated mainly by the weevil family, and beetles from the Boganiidae, such as Metacucujus encephalarti. The Boganiidae are known only from South Africa and Australia, and this distribution, shared with the cycad family, indicates an ancient association between these insects and these plants. The beetles are strongly attracted by allomones produced in the early mornings and evenings by both male and female cones.

Toxicity: The seeds are poisonous, containing the azoxyglycosides macrozamin and cycasin, and these are also present in the flesh, roots, stems and leaves, though in smaller concentrations. These toxins are characteristic of and exclusive to the cycads, and play an important role in deterring herbivores.

Habitat: Shrub- and grassland in sub-Saharan Afromontane ecoregions.

Distribution: This species is endemic to KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa, recorded at 10–12 locations from 700 to 2,400 meters above sea level. It is strongly associated with Natal Drakensberg on the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment, which encloses the central Southern African plateau. The largest stands are found in the Mlambonja Valley, South Africa.

Number or mature plants: 8,000–10,000 (declining).

Conservation status: Vulnerable (2009). This species is listed on Appendix I of the CITES Appendices. Populations are protected in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and in the Mpendle Nature Reserve.

First described: By Charles Antoine Lemaire, 1868 in L’illustration horticole 15: 79, t. 567.

Etymology: Eponym of Édouard de Ghellinck de Walle, the 19th Century Belgian Ghent plant collector, horticulturist and amateur botanist who first cultivated it in Europe.

See also: Species of previous months

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