A cycad from the Philippines

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cycas wadei's female cone.

On a recent Saturday visit to Leu Gardens in Orlando, I found many shrubs of Camillia japonica as well as roses in flower, but my attention was drawn to the beautiful female cone of Cycas wadei. It is known as Wade’s pitogo in the Philippines, where it is native.

By poking around the Internet, I learned that was named in 1936 by botanist Elmer Drew Merrill, the second president of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden who spent 22 years working in the Philippines.

According to The Cycad Pages, an Australian Website, the cycads were found in 1911 but given a different name. A few years later, a United States doctor working in the islands, Dr. Howard Windsor Wade, transplanted several specimens to the leper colony on Culion Island, where the patients grew it and sent seed to New York Botanic Garden, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Berlin Botanic Garden.

Cycas wadei grows naturally in a grasslands on Culion, and is nibbled on by wild boars and deer. A campaign has been underway since 2009 to save the cycad and its habitat on that island. In the 2003 IUCN document Cycads, Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, edited by John Donaldson, the cycad is listed as having not enough data to determine whether it is in danger.