Botanical Garden’s cycad collection gains national recognition

July 6, 2011
By: Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations


A cycad.
The Macrozamia communis is a native of New South Wales. (UC Botanical Garden)

The University of California Botanical Garden has been recognized for its stunning cycad collection, joining an exclusive club of three other gardens in the United States so singled out by the North American Plant Collections Consortium.

Chris Carmichael, associate director of collections and horticulture at the UC Botanical Garden, which is nestled in Strawberry Canyon east of campus, said the honor brings not only recognition to the outstanding collection, but also a heightened and shared coordination in the conservation and propagation of the scarce cycads.

Cycads, which look a bit like palms – but are actually cone-bearing plants – can be found in the garden’s Southern African, Mexican/Central American and Australasian  collection areas, as well as in the Tropical House and the special cycad/palm garden.

The garden has more than 641 live accessions, with 103 taxa identified by species and 19 accessions identified by genus.  Some 28 percent of the collection is of wild origin.

“Beyond the common Sago palm, which is, in fact, a cycad, other cycads are rare and unusual,” Carmichael said about the plant that dominated the landscape back in the days of dinosaurs and earlier.

Cycads actually can thrive in San Francisco Bay Area gardens with sunny exposure, good drainage and extra water during hot spells.