Difficult name, I know, but this plant does not appear to have a common name. It is a cycad and one native to Australia at that. Some mistake it for a palm because it grows a trunk and sprouts it leaves in a palm-like habit, fountaining from the top as it matures. Those leaves can be up to 3 metres long, which is extremely large when you think about it. But it is a cycad which is an entirely different plant family to palms. This particular plant is a seedling from a mature specimen we have and I photographed it because of its spectacular cone which has split open in a wonderful spiral. This split is to release its pollen, rather than to create a perfect pattern.
Normally we remove cones to stop the plant putting its energies into trying to set seed. It is suspected that forming the cone robs the plant of too many essential micro nutrients which can lead to yellow banding disfiguring mature leaves. It looks like sunburn. Our mature plant suffered badly in the past from this yellowing but it is still a little early for us to be able to state with confidence that de-coning it solves the problem, though it is looking hopeful.
This is an east coast rainforest plant from northern New South Wales through to Gympie in Queensland (I have been to Gympie though I cannot say I recall seeing lepidozamia there). In our conditions, it will tolerate light frosts and cooler temperatures overall. The natural rainforest habitat gives an indication that it likes fertile soils rich in humus, growing in company and in ground that never dries out. I had to go searching to find out for whom this plant was named – Count Peroffsky, a Russian nobleman and benefactor of the St Petersburgh Botanic Garden where this plant was first cultivated beyond its natural habitat. First in gets dibs on the naming rights even now.
First published in the Waikato Times and reproduced here with their permission.