Piet Retief Cycad

Scientific Name
Encephalartos lebomboensis I.Verd.
Higher Classification
Encephalartos sp.nov. 'Piet Retiefii'
Common Names
Broodboom (a), Cycad (e), Piet Retief Cycad (e), Piet Retief-broodboom (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Endangered A2acd; B1ab(ii,iii,iv,v)+2ab(ii,iii,iv,v)
Assessment Date
J.S. Donaldson
This is a popular species among collectors and the population has declined by at least 50% in the past 90 years (three generations). The subpopulation on Mananga Mountain has been particularly affected by collecting. EOO 450 km² and AOO 200 km², with fewer than five remaining locations. Some authors regard the true E. lebomboensis as having a narrower distribution, which if correct, would result in a classification of Critically Endangered (CR).
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga
Lebombo Mountains of southern Mpumalanga, Swaziland and Mozambique as well as north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Lebombo Summit Sourveld, Ithala Quartzite Sourveld, Zululand Lowveld
Cliffs and rocky ravines in savanna and grassland.
E. lebomboensis is threatened due to over-collecting as a result of poaching and as a result of expanding agricultural activities. Plants are also used in traditional medicine.

Some subpopulations have declined substantially due to collecting, and based on these subpopulations it is estimated that overall decline exceeds 50%. There are approximately 2000 plants in KwaZulu-Natal and about 5000 plants in total remaining in the wild.

Population trend
Plants are protected in two nature reserves, one in Mpumalanga and the other in Swaziland.
The exact status of E. lebomboensis depends on how the species is defined. Some sources (P. Hurter) regard only the populations at Mananga and northern Swaziland as true E. lebomboensis, in which case it may qualify as CR. If populations in northern KwaZulu-Natal are included, the species is less threatened. The current assessment is based on the wider distribution.
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Encephalartos lebomboensis I.Verd.EN A2acd; B1ab(ii,iii,iv,v)+2ab(ii,iii,iv,v)Raimondo et al. (2009)
Encephalartos lebomboensis I.Verd.VU B1B2ceScott-Shaw (1999)
Encephalartos lebomboensis I.Verd.Vulnerable Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Encephalartos lebomboensis I.Verd.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.

Grobbelaar, N. 2003. Cycads. With special reference to the southern African species. (2nd ed.). Nat Grobbelaar, Pretoria.

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.

Osborne, R. 1988. Focus on Encephalartos lebomboensis. Encephalartos 15:6-15.

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.

Scott-Shaw, C.R. 1999. Rare and threatened plants of KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring regions. KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service, Pietermaritzburg.

Donaldson, J.S. 2009. Encephalartos lebomboensis I.Verd. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2019/08/20

Comment on this assessment Comment on this assessment
Distribution map

© S.P. Fourie

© J.S. Donaldson

Search for images of Encephalartos lebomboensis on iSpot