Encephalartos altensteinii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Cycadopsida Cycadales Zamiaceae

Scientific Name: Encephalartos altensteinii Lehm.
Common Name(s):
English Eastern Cape Cycad, Eastern Cape Giant Cycad
Encephalartos marumii De Vreise

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable 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.
Estimated to have declined by >30% (but less <50%) in the past 50 years (<3 generations) based on repeat photographs and therefore qualifies as Vulnerable under criterion A. Large numbers have been removed from areas such as Bushman's River and the Tamara area of the Eastern Cape where 438 plants were taken out in one poaching incident in 1995. Also qualifies under criterion C due to a population size of <10,000 mature individuals and a decline of >10% over the past 50 years.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This is a widespread species of the coastal regions of the Eastern Cape, extending to the border with KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Populations occur inland in the Amatola mountain range and in the foothills around King Williams Town. Subpopulations occur in at least 10 river valleys extending from the Bushmans river in the south, through the Kariega, Kowie, Riet, Fish, Kap, Biga, Buffalo, Mpetu, Kei, Keiskamma, and Mbashe rivers. Occurs from near sea level up to 600 m.
Countries occurrence:
South Africa (Eastern Cape Province)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:100
Number of Locations:10-15
Lower elevation limit (metres):5
Upper elevation limit (metres):600
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The total population of E. altensteinii is estimated to be near 10,000 individuals. Subpopulations that have been surveyed for assessing the impacts of collecting, typically number about 500 plants.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:4000-10000
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species occurs in near-coastal sites ranging from open shrubland or grassland and steep rocky slopes to closed evergreen forests in valleys. Plants often occur along river banks and also occur inland at a few sites at higher altitude along the Amatola mountain range.
Generation Length (years):70

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Sections of the protective layer of the trunk of the plant formed by retained old leaf bases, are harvested for use as medicine ("muti"). These plant parts are considered to have mystical powers.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat destruction has been a significant problem in coastal habitats where resort developments in the main estuaries have displaced cycad habitat. Removal by collectors has also been a significant problem, especially in rural areas near King Williams Town. Bark harvesting for traditional medicinal use is endemic in the region, but has increased in recent years so that it is not uncommon to find up to 10% mortality at any one time.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on Appendix I of the CITES Appendices. The species is conserved in several protected areas, including the Waters Meeting, Kap River, and Dwesa nature reserves, and the Umtiza State Forest.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
3. Shrubland -> 3.6. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Moist
4. Grassland -> 4.5. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
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    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Hill, K.D. and Stevenson, D.W. 1998 - 2006. The Cycad Pages. Available at:

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

Kemp, M. 1988. Focus on Encephalartos altensteinii. Encephalartos 13: 8-17.

Von Breitenbach, F. and J. 1992. Tree Atlas of Southern Africa. Dendrological Foundation, Pretoria, South Africa.

Citation: Donaldson, J.S. 2010. Encephalartos altensteinii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T41908A10589725. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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