Encephalartos Horridus
Encephalartos Horridus

Encephalartos Horridus


One of the most well know and desirable South African cycads, this unusual, small species from dry regions in the Eastern Cape Province forms a dense, usually stemless rosette of bright blue, intensely spiny and deeply keeled leaves that are recurved at the tip. It adapts well to cultivation where it demands a place in full sun and soil with unimpeded drainage. Fresh seeds need several months to mature before sowing. Eastern Cape Blue Cycad seeds should be sown on the surface of a seed bed rather than buried completely.

Division: Cycadophyta
Class: Cycadopsida
Order: Cycadales
Family: Zamiaceae
Genus: Encephalartos
Species: E. horridus
Conservation Status:


Encephalartos Horridus for sale 

Eastern Cape Blue Cycad

Encephalartos horridus, the Eastern Cape blue cycad, has been described as one of the most unusual of all the South African species. It is a small, low-growing cycad up to 0.9 m high and 0.9 m wide.

It is a native of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, and found in arid shrublands, most commonly on ridges and slopes with shallow soils. The species is particularly known for its distinctly blue-grey leaves, although the degree of coloration can vary significantly. The species name horridus is Latin for ‘bristly’, after the plant’s stiff, spiny leaflets.

Mature plants have big stems of between 0.5–1 m in length and 20–30 cm in diameter with the majority of the stem growing below ground. Leaves are up to 1 m long and often sharply recurved towards the tip, looking stiff and spiny. Younger leaves are a silvery-blue colour but turn green with age.

Cones are usually brownish- or blackish-red and single with a dense layer of fine hair. Both male and female cones are produced. The female cone is egg-shaped and up to 40 cm long and 20 cm in diameter while the male cone is largely cylindrical narrowing towards the ends up to 40 cm long and 12 cm in diameter. Seeds are roughly triangular with three flattened surfaces.

In the wild there is evidence of distinct variation within the species, including a possible ‘dwarf’ form found around Port Elizabeth.

Cultivation of Encephalartos Horridus

Full Sun Blue Very Low Watering Fast Growth Frost-Hardy Uncommon
full sun blue very low watering fast growth frost-hardy uncommon

Encephalartos Horridus is a very hardy, adaptable, relatively slow-growing cycad and suited to temperate and subtropical regions. It is best not planted too closely to paths, requires full sun and excellent drainage, not too much water; tolerates light to moderate frosts and needs slightly acidic soil. In cultivation male cones will often cone several times a year in succession and the dwarf nature of the plant may disappear.

Propagation: From seed or removal of suckers which transplant readily, but for your first Eastern Cape Blue Cycad rather buy a seedling from a nursery. They grow a lot easier and faster than those grown from seed. Experience is also needed to grow from suckers.

Pests to be on the lookout for in southern Africa are: Leaf parasites range from moth larvae to plant lice and can all be rather well controlled with contact insecticides. Cone parasites attack the cones of the cycads, mostly beetles or weevils. This is combated by spraying the cones with insecticides just before the cones become sexually mature and for some weeks after. Be very careful before spraying and make sure the beetles on the plants are actual pests and not pollinators.

Stem/trunk and root parasites: larvae from certain beetles have been known to infiltrate the trunks of cycads causing rot to set in, which if untreated can kill your cycad. Treatment: Systemic insecticides and in addition, carefully cut out any infected trunk tissue, then sterilize and seal the trunk to stop any fungal and bacterial infection.

Certain ant and termite species are known to attack the roots and underground part of the trunk, causing damage and leaving the plant vulnerable to fungal and bacterial infections. Various insecticides are available on the market to combat these problem insects.

Fungal infections: various fungicides are available to fight these problems. Infected and even old dry leaves should be removed and burned to stop any spores from germinating. Bacterial infections are a more difficult matter and to date, nothing on the market has proved to be really effective. For information on pests in the rest of the world, please contact your nearest nursery or cycad expert.