Thank you to Michael Charters, the person behind the oft-referenced-by-BPotD Calflora.net for sharing today’s photograph. Michael submitted it via the BPotD Submissions forum on the garden’s site; the original image is in this thread: Cycas taiwaniana. I should also mention that one of Michael’s ongoing projects is “What’s Blooming at the Los Angeles County Arboretum?” – certainly makes me want to visit! Thanks, Michael.
Michael has also described this photograph: “This is the female strobilus or cone of a Cycas taiwaniana, or as it is sometimes listed, Cycas revoluta var. taiwaniana, showing the sporophylls or cone scales. The cone scales are modified leaves which will bear 2-8 ovules that will eventually become seeds after fertilization.” To read more on cycad biology, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney has produced the top-notch The Cycad Pages. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t suggest the Gymnosperm Database’s entry on the Cycadales.
Cycas taiwaniana is listed as endangered (A2acd) by the IUCN Red List, meaning “An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population size reduction of greater than or equal to 50% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased or may not be understood or may not be reversible, based on … direct observation, a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat, and actual or potential levels of exploitation.” Quite grim. The Wikipedia entry on cycads summarizes in plainer language: “In recent years, many cycads have been dwindling in numbers and may face risk of extinction because of theft and unscrupulous collection from their natural habitats, as well as from habitat destruction”. Also, read the New York Times article by Lauren Kessler: “The Cult of the Cycads”.