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Cycas circinalis - L.

Common Name Sago Palm, Queen sago, Fern Palm, Queen Sago Palm
Family Cycadaceae
USDA hardiness 10-11
Known Hazards The plants contain alkaloids of carcinogens and also an amino-acid that causes chronic nervous disorders[200]. Regular consumption of the plant leads to severe health problems and death. This toxic principle can be removed if the food is properly prepared but consumption of the plant still cannot be recommended because its use often means the death of the plant and it is becoming rare in the wild.
Habitats Forest undergrowth[146].
Range E. Indies.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Cycas circinalis Sago Palm, Queen sago, Fern Palm, Queen Sago Palm

Cycas circinalis Sago Palm, Queen sago, Fern Palm, Queen Sago Palm


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Form: Palm.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Cycas circinalis is an evergreen Shrub growing to 3.5 m (11ft 6in) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Insects, wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


C. beddomei.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seed  Stem
Edible Uses: Gum

The pith is rich in carbohydrate and a sago can be made from it[2, 46, 61, 177]. This use will kill the plant[K]. The raw seed is poisonous, but after being cut into thin slices, dried, then steeped in water for a few minutes and dried again, it becomes edible[2, 61, 63, 146, 177]. It can be used as a sago[2]. Using the seed for food cannot be recommended, however. See the notes above on toxicity. The very young leaves are edible[177]. The plant yields a gum[64, 146, 171]. No further details are given.

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.
Narcotic  Poultice  Stomachic

The pollen is narcotic[240]. The bark and the seeds are ground to a paste with oil and used as a poultice on sores and swellings[240]. The juice of tender leaves is useful in the treatment of flatulence and vomiting[240].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


None known

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Specimen. Requires a strong loam with sharp sand and good drainage[1]. Succeeds in dry soils. Requires a sunny position[188]. This species is not fully hardy in Britain and requires greenhouse or conservatory protection over the winter, but it can be grown outdoors in the summer[1]. Plants are slow-growing[188]. This plant is often used as a food source in its native range but recent research has shown that it can cause chronic nervous disorders if it is not treated properly. Overall its use is not to be recommended, especially since it is becoming rare in the wild[200]. The plants produce special upward growing roots where nitrogen is produced in symbiosis with algae[175]. Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, There are no flowers or blooms.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe, 2cm deep in individual pots which are then sealed in plastic bags to keep them moist until germination takes place. Germinates in 1 - 3 months at 25°c[164]. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours in warm water then treat as above. Division of suckers in the spring[188].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Cycas revolutaJapanese Sago Palm, Sago palm, King Sago PalmTree3.5 8-11 SLMSNDM22 
Cycas spp.Cycas, Sago PalmPerennial4.0 8-12 SLMHFSNDMW224
Microcycas calocomaPalma corchoPerennial10.0 10-12 SLMHFSNM003

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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Readers comment

abc   Sat Jan 14 2006

C. circinalis has been linked with motor neuron disorders, parkinsons and alzheimers type dementia.

Rick   Fri Mar 7 2008

i believe this is also the plant that's described as the "possible" cause of the Lytico-bodig endemic on Gaum. In Oliver Sacks' Island of the Colorblind. According to the toxicity i think it is.

Are you sure the edible plant referred to isn't this one, also commonly called "Sago Palm"? I have never heard of anyone eating any part of a cycad and living.   Sep 12 2011 12:00AM


   Sep 12 2011 12:00AM

Hmm--disregard previous comment. After further reading, I see that you can also get sago from the cycad--though I think it would make more sense to list the palm here, at least as a safe alternative to the cycad.

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Subject : Cycas circinalis  
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