Giant Eastern Cape Cycad

Scientific Name
Encephalartos altensteinii Lehm.
Higher Classification
Common Names
Bread Palm (e), Broodboom (a), Eastern Cape Cycad (e), Giant Eastern Cape Cycad (e), Isundu (x), Kafferbrood (a), Kafferbroodboom (a), Oos-kaapse Broodboom (a), Umguza (x), Umphanga (x)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Vulnerable A2acd; C1
Assessment Date
J.S. Donaldson
Total estimated remaining population is <10 000 mature individuals. Repeat photography of sites first photographed between 1906-1950 and photographed again between 1996-1998 showed >30% decline (but less than 50%). The removal of large numbers of plants to gardens has been corroborated by arrests of poachers and documented removal from specific sites, e.g. 438 plants removed from near Tamara in 1995.
South African endemic
Provincial distribution
Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal
Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal coast, inland to the Amathole Mountains.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Bhisho Thornveld, Eastern Valley Bushveld, Scarp Forest, Umtiza Forest Thicket, Fish Valley Thicket, Buffels Valley Thicket, Albany Valley Thicket
Open shrubland, steep, rocky slopes and forests near the coast. Often along river banks.
Habitat destruction has been a significant problem in coastal habitats where resort developments in the main estuaries have displaced cycad habitat. Removal by collectors has also been a significant problem, especially in rural areas near King Williams Town. Bark harvesting for traditional medicinal use is endemic in the region, but has increased in recent years so that it is not uncommon to find up to 10% mortality at any one time.

Subpopulations occur in at least 10 river valleys extending from the Bushmans river in the south, through the Kariega, Kowie, Riet, Fish, Kap, Biga, Buffalo, Mpetu, Kei, Keiskamma, and Mbashe rivers. The total population of E. altensteinii is estimated to be near 10 000 individuals. Subpopulations that have been surveyed for assessing the impacts of collecting, typically number about 500 plants, although subpopulations of up to 2 000 mature individuals have also been recorded.

Population trend
Conserved in several protected areas.
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Encephalartos altensteinii Lehm.VU A2acd; C1Raimondo et al. (2009)
Encephalartos altensteinii Lehm.Vulnerable Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Encephalartos altensteinii Lehm.Rare Hall et al. (1980)

Boon, R. 2010. Pooley's Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.

Donaldson, J.S. 2003. Cycads. Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cycad Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland; Cambridge, UK.

Hall, A.V., De Winter, M., De Winter, B. and Van Oosterhout, S.A.M. 1980. Threatened plants of southern Africa. South African National Scienctific Programmes Report 45. CSIR, Pretoria.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. Red data list of southern African plants. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Kemp, M. 1988. Focus on Encephalartos altensteinii. Encephalartos 13:8-17.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Von Breitenbach, F. and Von Breintenbach, J. 1992. Tree Atlas of Southern Africa. Dendrological Foundation, Pretoria.

Donaldson, J.S. 2009. Encephalartos altensteinii Lehm. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2020/11/24

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Distribution map

© J.S. Donaldson

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