Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden in South Africa is the site of today’s photographs, contributed by Wayne in the United Kingdom (aka WLA@Flickr | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). The original images are here and here. Along with visiting Wayne’s photographs on Flickr, you should also spend some time on his weblog, Earth, Wind & Water – “Warning – Please look under your vehicles for penguins.”
The first cycad to appear on Botany Photo of the Day (what are cycads?), this plant is commonly known as the ferocious blue cycad, the barbed wire cycad or, simply, the horrible cycad. Native to only a small area in Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, Encephalartos horridus is listed as vulnerable in the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants or “EN A4cd; B1ab(i,iii,iv,v)” in the 2004 IUCN Red List (EN meaning endangered). The A4cd code means the species has an observed, estimated, inferred, projected or suspected population size reduction of 50% over any 10 year or three generation period (including the past and future), whichever is longer (up to a maximum of 100 years in the future), and where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible, based on a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat and/or actual or potential levels of exploitation. For the B1ab(i,iii,iv,v) code, which refers to the geographic extent of the plant, you can read the definition on the IUCN’s Red List site. The rationale for adding codes to explain conservation status is also explained in that link. While “EN A4cd; B1ab(i,iii,iv,v)” may appear daunting at first, the system is actually fairly simple to use and communicates a lot of conservation status information quickly once one becomes familiar with it.
For more reading on this rare plant, see the species page for Encephalartos horridus on Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s The Cycad Pages or this page on the web site of the Palm & Cycad Societies of Australia. A broader view of the family Zamiaceae is available from the Gymnosperm Database.
Botany / horticulture resource link: the web site of plant expert and writer Arthur Lee Jacobson includes a Plant of the Month series and a number of his articles (emphasizing plants of Seattle) and essays, including this eminently sensible one on Nature.