Green Garden Dreams

The Joy of San Diego Vegetable Gardening

Cycads at the San Diego Zoo

Cycads are ancient plants, having survived on Earth since before the time of the dinosours. To get you started with a photo, here’s a beautiful species from Central America:

cycad Dioon mejiae
The cycad Dioon mejiae, from Central America

I took a self-guided botanical tour at the San Diego Zoo. The zoo has a huge collection of plants -the zoo claims more than a million. It’s been said that the plant collection is more valuable than the animal collection. They do a great deal of conservation work, maintaining rare species. San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection.

There are botanical self-guided walking tour map sheets you can pick up from a holder on the north end of the zoo (near the high school), just beyond the Meercat exhibit. The sheets I’ve seen are: Cycad Tour, Flamingo Lagoon Palms, Reptile Mesa, Monkey Trails, Leonard Kent Bromeliad Garden, and Elephant Odyssey. Here’s the Cycad Tour sheet:

Use this little map to explore the cycads growing at the San Diego Zoo

With the limited time I had, I decided to go check out the cycads. Cycads are fascinating, dramatic, ancient plants that have evolved and survived through eons of changes on Earth. They’ve survived hundreds of millions of years. Many species are very rare, and they are generally very slow growing – another reason they are valuable specimens.

Here’s a nice specimen of Lepidozamia peroffsyana, a species from Australia (HDR – High Dynamic Range photo):

Cycad Lepidozamia peroffsyana
Cycad Lepidozamia peroffsyana

Here’s a cycad from South or Central Africa, of the genus Encephalartos:

Encephalartos Cycad
Encephalartos Cycad

This Australian cycad of the genus Macrozamia had some female cones developing:

Macrozamia Cycad Female Cones
Macrozamia Cycad Female Cones

I spotted a nice cycad with a seed cone that had already dropped seeds. The scales that contain the seeds are called sporophylls. I believe this cycad is a Lepidozamia peroffskyana (also from Australia):

Lepidozamia Seed Cone

Here’s a closer look:

This cycad had some new leaves emerging, which I thought were cool looking. I shot this before I picked up the plant guide sheets and didn’t get the location information to help identify it, but it’s probably Cycas revoluta. (The odd shapes around the central leaves are the remains of the female cone):

New Leaves Emerging on a Cycad

Here are Some Links I used when trying to learn about and identify the cycads I saw:

PACSOA (Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia)

The Cycad pages – Cycad Identification

More Links of Interest:

The San Diego Zoo’s Cycad Page

San Diego Zoo’s Blog – Category: Plants

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