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Open 23/09/2008
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Identification of Encephalartos middelburgensis

Encephalartos middelburgensis
 
Stem: The aerially unbranched, erect stem tends to become reclining when long, and suckers freely. It can attain a length of up to 7 m and diameter of 250-400 mm. The stem apex has inconspicuous long and slender grey cataphylls.
Leaves: Blue-green with both sides having the same colour. Leaves are extraordinary  straight but the apex tends to curve very slightly upwards. They are stiff ตรง 1.0-1.5 m long,with a pp-angle that is 20-80 at the leaf apex and increases to 40-180 at the blade’s base. The pr-angle is 20-30 at the leaf apex and increase to 50-70 at the blade’s base. The s-angle is -30 to -60 at the leaf apex but is about 0 to -30 for the remainder of the leaf blade. Leafltes shield one another succubously at the leaf apex only. Petiole: 100-200 mm long, except in the “Avontuur form” of the species which, until recently, grew slightly east of the Loskop dam near Groblersdal in Mpumalanga (Grobbelaar, 2001). This form of the species has almost no petiole. Median leaflets: 180-190 mm long, 14-19 mm wind, leathery and without nodules. Leaflets of juvenile plants have one or two small pungent teeth on one or both margin but the leaflets margins of the mature plants are entire. The phylloproximal margins of the leaflets tend to curve upwards while the phyllodistal margin tends to curve downwards. Longitudinally, the leaflets are straight with a pungent apex. Basal leaflets: These decrease in size basipetally
Usually to one or two spines only, except in the “Avontuur form” where they give way to a series that reach almost to the leaf base.
 
Habitat : The species occurs in the upper catchment area of the Olifants River between Middelburg and Loskop Dam in Mpumalanga. It grows mainly in rocky area on steep  slopes on slightly  acidic soils at elevations  of 1000-1400 m above sea level. The annual rainfall of the area is about 600 mm and it falls predominantly  in summer. Seedling regeneration in the wild appears to be minimal on private properties and the species is under strong pressure from collectors. Fortunately , however, there is a substantial colony of the species in a nature reserve close to the Loskop Dam.
 
Note: In the original description of the species, special mention was made of the well-developed petioles of its leaves. Later, specimens from the Avontuur area just east of Loskop Dam, were found to have practically no petiole, as in Encephalartos dyerianus . The microsporophyll  bullae of the “Avontuur form” of E.middelburgensis are also drawn out more than those of the ordinary  form of the species. Unfortunatery only authentic  male specimens of the “Avontuur form” of E.middelburgensis are known. However, at least one female garden plant of similar appearance but unknown origin, is known and could be useful in the propagation of the “Avontuur form” of the species.
Among the southern Africa cycads with blue-green leaves that lack  a prominent basal leaf collar, Encephalartos middelburgensis can be identified by means of the following characters: The leaves are particulary straight with the terminal part curving very slightly upwards. The terminal leaflets are twisted gradually along their length to attainบรรลุผล a uniquely negative s-angle of up to 60.
 

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