Encephalartos middelburgensis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Cycadopsida Cycadales Zamiaceae

Scientific Name: Encephalartos middelburgensis Vorster
Common Name(s):
English Middelburg Cycad
Encephalartos eugene-maraissii subsp. middelburgensis Lavranos & D.L.Goode

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2acd; C1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-10-31
Assessor(s): Donaldson, J.S.
Reviewer(s): Agenbag, L. & Bösenberg, J.D.
E. middelburgensis has declined continuously over at least the past 40 years and populations are still declining due to poaching and disease. Based on numbers of plants in collections, rate of decline, and a limited number of repeat photographs, decline is estimated as >80% over the past 50 years.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is confined to the Witbank and Middelburg districts in the upper catchment areas of the Olifants River, which include the Wilge and Klein Olifants Rivers, in the provinces of Gauteng and Mpumalanga of South Africa. Occurs at 1,100 to 1,400 m asl.
Countries occurrence:
South Africa (Gauteng, Mpumalanga)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:20
Number of Locations:4
Lower elevation limit (metres):1100
Upper elevation limit (metres):1400
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population is small and thought to number only 120 mature individuals.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:120
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species occurs in open grassland and sheltered valleys.
Generation Length (years):70

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The discovery of the taxon in the Middelburg district triggered off a serious collector threat during the 1960s. The general accessibility of sites and the proximity of the distribution region to the Pretoria/Witwatersrand urban complex resulted in an extremely heavy exploitation during those years when cycad-collecting became a fashion (Fourie 1984). Although legislation has curbed the activities of collectors, the exploitation by individuals of the taxon is still ongoing today.

The development of semi-intensive agricultural areas within and around the distribution range of the taxon must have had a tremendous effect on the stability of the taxon, especially with the increased burning of the habitat and grazing practices (Fourie 1984). The taxon is extremely vulnerable to fire and not stimulated as is the case with Encephalartos lanatus (Fourie 1984).

Individual plants have become isolated and there is consequent reproductive failure (Fourie 1984).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The taxon is listed as Specially Protected in the provincial conservation Ordinances and is included on Appendix I of the CITES Appendices. Within Gauteng, individuals of the taxon occur within private nature reserves. The distribution range of the taxon falls within the boundaries of NEGI (North Eastern Gauteng Initiative) - a conservancy initiative.

Plants occur in the Loskopdam Nature Reserve, the Ezemvelo Nature Reserve (D. MacFadyen pers. comm.) and the Rhenosterpoort Private Nature Reserve.

Classifications [top]

4. Grassland -> 4.5. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.3. Agro-industry grazing, ranching or farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.2. Gathering terrestrial plants -> 5.2.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Whole (>90%) ♦ severity:Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:High Impact: 8 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.1. Fire & fire suppression -> 7.1.1. Increase in fire frequency/intensity
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Establishing ex-situ production *

Bibliography [top]

Fourie, S.P. 1984. Flora Conservation Plan: Encephalartos lanatus. Transvaal Nature Conservation Division. Internal report.

Grobbelaar, N. 2002. CYCADS - with special reference to the southern African species. Privately published by Nat Grobbelaar, Pretoria, South Africa.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.3). Available at: (Accessed: 2 September 2010).

Robbertse, P.J., Vorster, P. and van der Westhuizen, S. 1989. Encephalartos middelburgensis (Zamiaceae): a new species from the Transvaal. South African Journal of Botany 55(1): 122-126.

Citation: Donaldson, J.S. 2010. Encephalartos middelburgensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T41893A10572037. . Downloaded on 22 September 2018.
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