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Wood's Cycad Virtual Cache

Hidden : 02/21/2020
1.5 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size:   virtual (virtual)

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Geocache Description:

The LONELIEST plant in the WORLD



The Original Stem from Ngoya


What is it?



Encephalartos woodii - or Wood's cycad - is an extremely rare and endangered cycad. So much so that it is completely extinct in the wild and exists only in a few botanical institutions around the world. It is referred to as a prehistoric cycad tree. From a distance these cycads resemble large palm trees of up to 6 meters tall, but on closer inspection one can identify the crown with distinctive cycad foliage of glossy darker green leaves with sickle-shaped leaflets along the edges



This cycad is endemic to the Ngoya Forest, not far from Mtunzini on the KZN North Coast. The original plant was discovered in 1895 by John Wood, who was the then curator of the Durban Botanic Gardens. Due to deforestation since the early 1840s these plants were systematically decimated by the locals for firewood and domestic space. By the time John Wood got to the forest, there were only a handful of these specimens left at Ngoya



John Woods at Ngoya Forest


The biggest cycad clump had four stems, or basal offsets. One stem was removed in 1899 and sent to Kew Gardens in England. The other three were collected in 1903 and brought to the Durban Botanic Gardens, where they were planted. One was later sent to the National Botanic gardens of Ireland in 1905. In 1907 two more stems were collected from Ngoya of which one died. By 1912 there was one specimen still left in the wild, which was removed in 1916 and moved to the Government Botanist in Pretoria. Unfortunately it died in 1964



Originally this plant was described as a variety of another cycad. Some speculation also existed that woodii was a mutant plant and others commented it was a hybrid between other cycads, but its ranking was later elevated to its own species in 1908 after studies on samples from the original clump by Sanders, a botanist in England


Current count

4 - Durban Botanic Gardens (Durban, SA)
1 - Kirstenbosch (Cape Town, SA)
1 - Kew Gardens (England, UK)
1 - Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA)
3 - Santa Barbara (California, USA)
1 - Amsterdam (Netherlands)
1 - Naples (Italy)
1 - Glasnevin (Ireland, UK)



Wood's Cycad in Kew Gardens, UK


There are a few crossbreed specimens between woodii and natalensis around the world



The sad part...


These plants are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants. NO FEMALE PLANT HAS EVER BEEN FOUND. However, the male plants sometimes produce a "side trunk" called a sucker. If removed very delicately and nurtured in a controlled environment, they can safely be planted as a new cycad (like the Kirstenbosch sample), but it could cause distress to the donor plant and cause death



A View of a Sucker


The closest relative to Encephalartos woodii is Encephalartos natalensis and the only possible way to ensure the longevity of the woodii species is to cross breed with natalensis female plants and over years and years to backcross these specimens. Even so, these plants would have the female chromosome of the natalensis variety and would never be a "pure" woodii. At this point in time, longevity and preservance of the species relies on cultivation from the existing specimens



To log your find


At the bottom of the stairs at GZ, there are information boards. How many bolts in total are used to attach all the boards to the post

Logs without an answer will be deleted, as will logs with incorrect answers

[1] Send your answers to my GC message box please
[2] Please do not put the answer in your log or upload a pic showing the answer
[3] Pics of yourself posing with one of the specimens are welcome but not obligatory

Thank you for visiting this extremely rare plant


Virtual Rewards 2.0 - 2019/2020


This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between June 4, 2019 and June 4, 2020. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards 2.0 on the Geocaching Blog.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Ng gur fgrcf yrnqvat hc gb gur Ureo Tneqra

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)