The Prague Botanical Garden has expanded its collection of rare plants

You can set out on a journey into prehistory in the entire Fata Morgana tropical greenhouse. “Over three hundred species of these interesting plants have been described in the world. We have over one hundred and thirty types of cycads in our collection, “ says garden director Bohumil Černý. The new specimens come from the German grower Peter Wisbar.

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The most significant additions are species of the African genus Encephalartos, which occur in very small numbers in nature. These include, for example, Encephalartos cupidus. The name describes its charm – cupidus means longing. There are only about 400 animals in the wild in a small area in South Africa. Another cycad Encephalartos inopinus is from the same area. “There are only 81 specimens left in the wild,” supplies Vlastik Rybka, deputy for professional activities in the botanical garden.

The difficult path to reproduction

Many species of cycads are on the verge of survival in nature, so botanical gardens maintain their gene pool. But it is not easy to reproduce. Cycads are dioecious, so it is necessary to have individuals of both sexes. Alternatively, botanists must request pollen from some major centers where they have extensive cycad collections. Even then, it is not won. The pollination itself must be timed correctly and the pollen must be delivered directly to the eggs of these seedless plants

Critically endangered

Of the 132 species of cycads grown by the Troja Botanical Garden, 22 are critically endangered and 32 are in the endangered category.

Deadly poisonous

All cycads and all their parts are severely toxic. Poisoning can end in liver, kidney failure and death. Nevertheless, the natives still prepare pancakes from the starchy center of the trunk or seeds. Fermentation is also practiced in Africa and Japan for the production of alcoholic beverages.

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