Encephalartos lebomboensis was first described in 1949 by Dr Inez Verdoorn. Its grows in the Lebombo Mountains, stretching from northern KwaZulu-Natal through Swaziland and up into Mpumalanga and Mozambique. In 1995 Dr Piet Vorster re-named the plants from the central part of the geographic range (the Lebombo range from 50 km north of Siteki in Swaziland to the Josini Dam/Pongolapoort Dam in Kwazulu-Natal) as Encephalartos senticosus, based mainly on differences in their cones.
Encephalartos lebomboensis occurs in two areas, a northern form around Mananga in Mpumalanga and a southern form centred around Piet Retief on the upper Pongola River Valley. It is a medium to large cycad with a trunk which can grow to 12 feet tall over time. Its leaves dark green, glossy leaves arch outward. It can form numerous suckers from the base and occasional trunk offsets. Stems of the Piet Retief form are shorter and fatter, with finer and more spiny leaflets.
All forms of Encephalartos lebomboensis grow on the slopes of high ridges and cliffs along river valleys. They grow in full sun, in a hot summer climate with annual rainfall of 25-30 inches per year, cool foggy winters. It thrives in tropical and warm temperature climates, grows well in sun or light shade, and is relatively fast growing for a cycad. Like nearly all cycads, it needs excellent drainage and may be damaged by heavy frosts, but can withstand light frosts.
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