Encephalartos natalensis (Natalbroodboom, Natal Cycad) is a ‘living fossil’ that is used as an antidote to evil spirits.
Encephalartos natalensis Monograph
This monograph contains details of Encephalartos natalensis as per the references cited below. If you can provide any additional information, photos or reliable records, or spot any errors, please leave a comment below or in The Muthi Flora of southern Africa Facebook group.
Traditional Medicinal Uses of Encephalartos natalensis
Applied in a magical sense. Plants known as isigqiki-somkhovu are used as antidotes to evil spirits.
Edible: In times of famine the pith of the stem was used as a substitute for bread flour, hence the common names.
Cycads are regarded as “living fossils”, as their relatives have been found as fossils in rocks dated back to the Triassic Era. This means that during that era these plants could have been dinosaur food!
Encephalartos natalensis is an evergreen quick-growing cycad, up to 6.5 m high and with a stem or trunk of about 0.4 m in diameter. Plant it in a well-drained rich soil mixture and give it moderate moisture. Some forms of E. natalensis are much more frost resistant than others, but give all of them some protection from cold when young. Plant seedlings into the garden when about 3 years old, and with leaves about 1 m long. Remove any old and dead leaves. (Credit: PlantZAfrica – http://pza.sanbi.org/encephalartos-natalensis)
Through the years, vast numbers of Encephalartos natalensis have been removed from their natural habitat, primarily for landscaping purposes. Some subpopulations have been impacted by collecting and bark harvesting for medicinal purposes. For example, the plants at the type locality at Monteseel have been debarked resulting in mortality.
Habitat and Ecology
Forest, Grassland, Indian Ocean Coastal Belt, Savanna. Cliffs and either hot, dry slopes or cool, south-facing, often forested slopes.
Arnold. T.H., Prentice, C.A., Hawker, L.C., Snyman, E.E., Tomalin, M., Crouch, N.R. and Pottas-Bircher, C. (2002). Medicinal and magical plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 13. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G., Cunnigham, A.B., (1996). Zulu Medicinal Plants: an inventory. University of Natal
Donaldson, J.S. 2009. Encephalartos natalensis R.A.Dyer & I.Verd. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2020/01/04