Encephalartos heenanii – A Pollination Success Story

Paul Mills, Ganna Walska Lotusland

Ganna Walska Lotusland has many important plant collections, but none are more important from a conservation standpoint than the cycad collection. In the collection there are three mature individuals of Encephalartos heenanii which is now believed to be extinct in the wild. Ganna Walska Lotusland is working with the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cycad Specialist Group to develop an E. heenanii Assurance Colony (ex situ collection) as one of the two Assurance Colonies that are recommended – one in the country of nativity and one outside. E. heenanii is very reluctant to cone, even in South Africa, yet Lotusland produced seed for the first time ever in the United States in 2011 – we currently have 21 of these plants. A private collector in Southern California has banked pollen of E. heenanii for future pollination of Lotusland’s female plant. We hope to repatriate some of these seedlings to South Africa to aid in increasing genetic material for a future Assurance Colony there just as we are looking to acquire additional genetic material for our Assurance Colony. Genetic sequencing will be performed in the future. Our fledgling Conservation Fund will allow us to begin to work with colleagues in South Africa and to construct infrastructure for Lotusland’s Assurance Colony.