About Palms & Cycads

Bismarckia Nobilis
Bismarckia Nobilis

Palms like cycads are an ancient life form with fossil records that date back to the cretaceous period. Palms are a complex group of plants, with a distinctive appearance and characteristics that enables most people to recognise them without great difficulty. Palms sometimes can be confused with cycads, pandans, cordylines, dracaenas, beaucorneas (pony tail), carludoricas and ravenalas (travellers palm).

Palms are widely distributed throughout the tropics, sub tropics and to a lesser extent in warm temperate regions. They can be found in Africa, South East Asia, Australia, the Pacific region, Southern United States, the Caribbean region, Central/South America and Southern Europe. Palms can vary in size from small dwarf species to tall, massive trees, which can attain a height of about 50 metres and in some species can develop massive trunks. Palms can be found from sea level to forests, montane tops and high plateaus to about 4000 metres in altitude. It is estimated that the number of palm species and sub species varies from 2500 to 3500 in 193 genera. As a group, palms are very unusual, interesting and rewarding plants.

Encephalartos Kisambo
Encephalartos Kisambo

Cycads have been linked to dinosaurs and have been described as living fossils. Unlike the dinosaurs, cycads continue to exist today at a fraction of their ancestors both in total numbers and diversity of species. These plants have survived for more than 200 million years of evolution with very little change. They are diverse plants and have successfully occupied a wide range of habitats from the tropics to subtropics and warm temperate regions.

They can be found in Central/Southern Africa, Central/Northern Australia, South East Asia, the Pacific region, the Caribbean region, and Central/Southern America. Cycads are woody plants, which are often mistaken for palms or ferns. Cycads are not related to palms or ferns. In fact, they are closer to conifers. Cycads have got a distinctively unique appearance and range in size from small to large trunked species. Because of their uniqueness, they make interesting garden plants and they are very popular with gardeners and collectors alike. Cycads are a relatively small group of plants consisting of over 300 species and subspecies in 11 genera.

To learn more about these fascinating plants join the Palm and Cycad Society of Western Australia.