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Cycas edentata


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Gymnosperms (Non-Flowering Seed Plants) (Cycad)
Plant Growth Form Cycad
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Umbrella, Open
Maximum Height 10 m


Native Distribution Andaman Islands, southern Myanmar, Thailand, southern Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Java, north Borneo, central and western Philippines.
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Coastal Forest), Shoreline (Sandy Beach, Rocky Beach)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Critically Endangered (CR))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a medium-sized palm-like plant with an emergent, usually unbranched trunk up to about 10 m tall.
Foliage Its trunk bears rosettes of long, bright to deep green, feather-like leaves at its tip. Its stalked leaves are spiny, up to 2.3 m long, and consist of 100–200 glossy, stiff leathery, narrowly boat-shaped leaflets arranged neatly on either side of the leaf’s axis.
Reproductive Parts - non-flowering plant The plant produces male or female trees. Instead of flowers, musky-scented cones grow at the tips of the tree trunk. The male trees produce cones that are compactly and regularly arranged, narrowly ovoid-cylindrical, orange-brown, and 30–60 by 11–14 cm. The male cones consist of microsporophylls that are 3.7–4.4 by 1.1–2.3 cm spirally arranged on a central axis. The microsporophylls have a distinct long, stout spine at the end, which differentiates it from the vegetatively similar looking Cycas rumphii. The female trees produce cones that are loosely arranged, and elongated. The female cones consist of megasporophylls that are covered with brown hairs, and 2–3 by 1.8–2.3 cm. Ovules, then seeds (if the ovules are fertilized) are found on the margins of the megasporophylls.
Habitat It grows in sandy or rocky coastal vegetation, along shorelines in full or moderate shade. It occurs locally in Pulau Tekong.
Associated Fauna Its strongly scented male cone is visited by insects that forage for pollen. It is also the preferred local food plant for caterpillars of the butterfly, the cycad blue (Chilades pandava pandava), that feeds on the immature shoots of the plant.
Cultivation It is propagated by the suckers (that grow more quickly) or seed (which germinate slowly).
Etymology Greek Cycas, name for a kind of palm, referring to the palm-like growth habit of this species; Latin edentata, without teeth, referring to the smooth margins of the female cone.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts (Edible Leaves, Edible Seeds)
Food (Fruit & Vegetable)
Medicinal ( The plant’s resin and seeds are applied to sores and malignant ulcers, respectively. Other parts of the plant are also used medicinally. )
[Others]: A type of sago-like flour can be made from the trunks, and the unfurled leaves are said to be edible. The seeds are soaked in water for a few days, changing the water frequently during the process to leach out the poison (a toxic glucoside), and a kind of flour can be made from it. This plant is used as an ornamental.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping This plant is hardy, long-lived, slow-growing, and tolerant of poor soil conditions. It is suitable as an ornamental plant and used regularly in Singapore as a focal point in landscape designs. Its leaves may be used in floral arrangements too. Care must be taken against attack by the caterpillars of the cycad blue butterfly.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Foliage, Ornamental Form
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Saline Soils / Salt Spray, Poor Infertile Soils
Landscape Uses General, Roadside Tree / Palm, Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens, Coastal, Beachfront / Shoreline, Focal Plant

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Caterpillar Food Plant (Leaves, Associated with: Chilades pandava pandava (Horsfield, 1829))
Pollination Method(s) Abiotic (Wind)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Water)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade, Full Shade
Water Preference Moderate Water
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Potential Problems Young leaves are often eaten by the caterpillars of the cycad blue (Chilades pandava pandava). Plant with new shoots/leaves should always be checked and sprayed with pesticide.
Pest(s) Chewing Insects
Propagation Method Seed, Sucker


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Green
Foliar Type Compound (Even-Pinnate)
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Rosulate / Rosette
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Palm Fronds (Pinnate / Feather)

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Seed Colour(s) Brown, Orange
Seed Description Its seeds are dark shiny green when ripe, 55–60 by 40–50 mm, and buoyant owing to a spongy layer inside the stony layer, so are sea dispersed.
Seed Quantity Per Fruit Numerous (>20)
Plant Sexuality (non-Angiosperm) Dioecious
Reproductive Mode (non-Angiosperm) Sexual
Cone or Strobilus Type Frond-like Strobilus(Cycadaceae)


References Lindstrom, A. J., K. D. Hill & L. C. Stanberg. 2009. The genus Cycas (Cycadaceae) in Indonesia. Telopea. 12. 3. 385-418

Image Repository



Master ID 31256
Species ID 5651
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 05 November 2021.