The Wild Cycad Conservancy

Protecting the world’s most threatened plant species from extinction in South Africa


Eastern Cape Reserve 


SAVING Encephalartos horridus

The Wild Cycad Conservancy is negotiating the purchase of 24 ha with an intact, undisturbed population of plants. Fertile seed are set and seedling recruitment is healthy. This population will be studied in the search for substitute pollinators that can be safely used to restore populations of other species of cycads where pollination vectors are extinct

E. horridus

E. horridus is the most important species to preserve, given the recent and rapid decline of this species due to poaching. A recent comparative photography study clearly showed the decline of this species over its distribution range. This species was once abundant and occurred over a wide area from Steytlerville to the Bushman’s River catchment but has been poached to such extent that it is extinct in many localities. 

E. horridus is very well represented in collections in South Africa and specimens with conservation value can be identified by DNA analysis. These specimens should be integrated into assurance populations in South Africa. Genetic material can then be exchanged with botanic gardens outside the country to further secure the species.

E. horridus is a sought-after species due to its blue foliage, small size and lobed leaflets. Local nurseries legally export large numbers of seedlings annually to satisfy the demand, but it does not seem to reduce the pressure on wild populations.


The Wild Cycad Conservancy (or WCC) takes a three-pronged approach to cycad conservation.