Cycad Photos (Jurassic Park Plants)
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WAYNE'S WORD Volume 8 (Number 3) Fall 1999

Plants of Jurassic Park

Additional Photographs Of Cycads:

The Malaysian cycad Cycas circinalis. Left photo shows the "cone" of a female plant with modified leaves (sprophylls) bearing small ovules along their margins. Center photo shows a female plant with clusters of mature seeds atached to the sporophylls. Right photo shows the erect, pollen-bearing cone (strobilus) of a male plant. The individual scales (sprophylls) of the cone bear clusters of sproangia.

The large seeds of some cycads, including the sago palm (Cycas revoluta) are eaten fresh or roasted. In Japan, the dried seeds are ground into powder and are mixed with brown rice and fermented into date miso or sotetsu miso. In Guam, the seeds are soaked in water for ten days and then made into flour. According to J.H. Langenhein and K. V. Thimann (Botany: Plant Biology and Its Relation To Human Affairs, 1982), the ground seeds are known to cause tumors in rats if not thoroughly washed. In the genus Cycas (including C. revoluta and C. circinalis), the carcinogenic compound is called cycasin (methylazoxymethanol), which occurs as a glucoside in the seeds. Seeds of the African genus Encephalartos are used for flour in Kenya and also contain the carcinogen cycasin combined with glucose and xylose. The pithy hearts of cycad trunks are also baked and eaten, and are the source of sago, a starchy material also obtained from the central pith of palm trunks. Sago starch is used in cooking and baking, like the starchy rhizomes of arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea, Marantiaceae) and achira (Canna edulis, Cannaceae).

Left: A striking female seed-bearing cone of the African cycad Encephalartos manikensis (E. bandula). The numerous overlapping scales (sporophylls) bear large red seeds. Right: The enormous seed-bearing cone of the Australian cycad Lepidozamia peroffskyana. These two genera plus Dioon include the largest seed and pollen cones of all cycads.

Encephalartos natalensis showing erect male cones and a mountain of brown microspores beneath the cones. This species is indigenous to South Africa.

Coralloid roots (blue arrow) at the base of a cycad (Cycas revoluta). The brittle roots contain colonies of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. The image also shows a basal "pup" that can be separated and grown into a clone of the parent plant.

Coralloid roots from the base of a cycad (Dioon spinulosum). The brittle roots contain colonies of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria.

Microscopic cross section of a coralloid root from the base of a cycad (Dioon spinulosum). Just inside the outer cortex is a greenish layer of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria.

Ancient Cycad Leaf Impression From San Diego County

A cycad leaf impression from Carlsbad, California. It was discovered in the 75 million-year-old Point Loma Formation of coastal San Diego County.

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