The Cycad forms a family of seed plants whose origins go all the way back to the Permian Era, 280 million years ago.
Although they bear a physical resemblance to palms, they represent a distinctly different family.
All known varieties of this plant also typically grow very slowly. They also tend to be very long-lived. Some species live for as long as 1,000 years.
Though once highly prevalent throughout the world, only 305 extant species still exist today.
The various species seem to be relatively unchanged by evolution throughout the ages.
Cycad Physical Description
The varied Cycad types come in a rather wide variety of sizes. Some species measure no more than 1 in (2.5 cm) in height. Others sometimes attain a height of as much as 10 ft (3 m).
Every known Cycad possesses a thick trunk that does not branch at all. These trunks develop capped by a crown of large pinnate leaves.
These always stay evergreen in nature and grow directly from the trunk itself.
All species have a dioecious nature. In terms of reproduction, all members of this family represent gymnosperms.
Most varieties get pollinated by beetles, often with a specific species of beetle typically servicing a particular Cycad form.
Cycad Distribution and Habitat
All species of Cycad occur in tropical and subtropical climates. The greatest diversity occurs in Central America and South America.
Some varieties appear only in desert environments. Yet others only seem to be present in wet rainforests. A few species seem adaptable enough to thrive in both of these climates. A few species even occur growing on rock outcroppings and in swamps.
Approximately 38% of Cycad species appear on the IUCN Red List of species either endangered or vulnerable. This occurs due to climate change and human encroachment