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Encephalartos spp. - Various

Common Name Bread trees, Bread palms, Kaffir bread
Family Cycadaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards Seed is poisonous if ingested. Consumption of the seeds can lead to liver cancer[398]. All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling.
Habitats A tropical plant. Coastal evergreen bushland, lowland forest and dry montane rainforest on red loams and sandy soil, at elevations from sea level to 1,200 metres[398]. Sandy plains and rocky hill tops[314].
Range Africa - south, east and central.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Encephalartos spp. Bread trees, Bread palms, Kaffir bread

Mercy from Wikimedia Commons.
Encephalartos spp. Bread trees, Bread palms, Kaffir bread
Mercy from Wikimedia Commons.


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Encephalartos are among the rarest and most endangered species of all cycads. As a carbon farming solutions suggested as an Industrial starch crop. Genera to investigate include: Cycas, Dioon, Encephalartos, Macrozamia, Microcycas, and Zamia [1-1]. They make good ornamental landscape plants in borders, Containers, for massing, seashore, and as a specimen. They are drought-tolerant and suitable for xeriscaping.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Encephalartos spp. is an evergreen Perennial growing to 3 m (9ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


See individual species. There are about 60 or more species of Encephalartos.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Stem
Edible Uses:

The pith of the trunk, in some species, contains large amount of high quality starch below the crown. This was formerly cut out by native people as food. Encephalartos, like all cycads, are toxic, but the pith, if buried for several years, gets the toxins leached out of it, and then it can safely be cooked into a bread-like food.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None Known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Carbon Farming Solutions - Industrial Crop: starch (Crops grown for non-food uses. Industrial crops provide resources in three main categories: materials, chemicals, and energy. Traditional materials include lumber and thatch, paper and cardboard, and textiles) [1-1]. Female cones are consequently destroyed by baboons, for the tasty pith around the seeds. Vervet monkeys, rodents and birds also feed on the seeds. Ornamental - Landscape Uses: Border, Container, Massing, Seashore, Specimen. Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Hypothetical Crop  Industrial Crop: Starch  Management: Standard

Climate: warm temperate to tropical. Humidity: arid to humid. Usually heat-loving succulents that do not like excessive watering or shade. Species have adapted to full sun or shade, and extremes of moisture[314]. Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping. Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater. Full Sun but some species can tolerate some shade. They can produce occasional suckers[314]. Some are dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required[200]. All Encephalartos species are considered endangered though many are not threatened currently. The whole genus is listed under CITES Appendix I / EU Annex A. CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except for certain non-commercial motives, such as scientific research. Carbon Farming Solutions - Cultivation: hypothetical. Management: standard (Describes the non-destructive management systems that are used in cultivation) [1-1].

Carbon Farming

  • Hypothetical Crop  These are perennial plants that could potentially be developed for cultivation. Some, such as cycads (for industrial starch), as simply neglected; others, such as buckwheat and soybeans, are annual crops that could potentially be perennialised by crossing and relatives.
  • Industrial Crop: Starch  Materials and chemicals include bioplastics, paper, cardboard, solvents, paints, glues etc. Plants are usually pods, starchy fruits, nuts & seeds, starchy trunks.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets). From seed; germinate in vitro in gelatin, agar or other medium.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Encephalartos species, Bread trees, Bread palms, Kaffir bread

AFRICA: Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, South Africa (Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal, Transvaal)

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Many critically endangered.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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