Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Cycas media R.Br.

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Fruit and megasporophylls (cones), female plant. © CSIRO
Microsporophylls (cones), male plant. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon & 1st leaf stage, semi-hypogeal, hypogeal germination. © CSIRO

Brown, R. (1810) Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae : 348. Type: Queensland, Calder Island, 16 Oct. 1802, R. Brown; holo: BM; iso: K.

Common name

Palm, Nut; Zamia Palm; Zamia Nut; Zamia; Queensland Cycas; Palm, Cycad; Nut Palm; Cycas; Cycad Palm; Cycad; Tree Zamia


Stem usually unbranched, rather squat and thick, seldom attaining 6 m in height.


Compound leaf petiole armed with a few short sharp spines below the basal leaflets. Leaflet blades about 14-28 x 0.5-0.8 cm and subtend quite a high angle with the compound leaf rhachis, usually about 60 or more.


Male 'flowers' produced in an ovoid cone, about 15-25 x 8-15 cm. Female flowers (megasporophylls) about 20-30 cm long usually with 1-10 ovules borne on the margins of the lamina. Lamina about 3.5-9 x 1.7-3 cm, with an apical spine about 1.5-4 cm long.


Fruit or seed-bearing structures densely clothed in tortuous pale brown hairs and drawn out into a long spine at the apex. Seeds about 31-38 x 26-32 mm with a fleshy sarcotesta about 3-4 mm thick. Testa or endocarp with a small indentation at one end.


Cataphylls about 3, clothed in rusty brown hairs. First true leaf compound with about 20 leaflets, midrib raised on the upper surface. At the tenth leaf stage: leaflet blade about 5 mm wide with a conspicuous raised midrib but no other obvious venation. Spines present towards the apex of the petiole. Taproot thick and swollen, carrot-like (Daucus carota). Coralloid roots present and sections of these roots reveal congregations of blue-green algae.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as coastal central Queensland. Altitudinal range from near sea level to about 1000 m. Usually grows in open forest but occasionally found in beach forest, monsoon forest and vine thickets. Also occurs in New Guinea.

Natural History & Notes

The fruits and seeds of this species are poisonous. The first case occurred in 1770 on the Endeavor River when sailors on the Endeavor became ill after eating raw seeds. Later some of the pigs died after being fed on the seeds. Aborigines apparently ate the seeds only after careful preparation. Young leaves are poisonous to cattle. Everist (1974).

A very hardy plant, commonly planted in gardens or rockeries.

Cycas media R.Br. var. media, Prodromus 16(2): 528(1868).
RFK Code
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