Map_thumbnail_large_font

Stangeria eriopus

Status_ne_offStatus_dd_offStatus_lc_offStatus_nt_offStatus_vu_onStatus_en_offStatus_cr_offStatus_ew_offStatus_ex_off

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA CYCADOPSIDA CYCADALES STANGERIACEAE

Scientific Name: Stangeria eriopus
Species Authority: (Kunze) Baill.
Common Name(s):
English Natal Grass Cycad
Synonym(s):
Lomaria eriopus Kunze
Stangeria katzeri Regel
Stangeria paradoxa T.Moore
Stangeria schizodon W.Bull
Taxonomic Notes: Although collected early in the 19th Century, it was many years before this unusual plant was recognized as a cycad. The early sterile collections were identified as ferns, firstly as Lomaria coriacea. It was next described by German botanist Otto Kunze as a new species of fern, Lomaria eriopus in 1829. It was only recognized as a cycad in 1851, when a plant collected by Dr. Stanger produced a cone at Chelsea Physic garden in London, causing some consternation. It was promptly described as a new cycad genus by English botanist T. Moore, who also gave it a new specific epithet of paradoxa, a reference to the confusion with ferns. This was inadmissible under the rules of botanical nomenclature, and the correct combination of Stangeria eriopus was made by French botanist Henri Baillon in 1892 (and again by English botanist George Nash in 1909, apparently unaware of the earlier publication).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2acd+4acd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-10-31
Assessor(s): Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M. & Ngwenya, M.
Reviewer(s): Donaldson J.S. & Bösenberg, J.D.
Justification:
Although still a relatively common species, at least 20% of the habitat has been lost over the last three generations (150 years) and harvesting for the traditional medicine trade has caused at least a further 10-20% decline in population size. Overall population reduction is estimated to exceed 30% of the last three generations, and this trend is likely to continue into the near future, hence this species is listed as Vulnerable under criteria A2 and A4. It is a sought after medicinal plant which has been severely over-exploited over much of its distribution range. The habitat is further threatened with future transformation and increased harvesting as a result of the proposed new N2 highway through the Eastern Cape. The global assessment is the same as the South African assessment as the plants extend just over the Mozambique border and are subject to the same threats.
History:
2003 Near Threatened (IUCN 2003)
2003 Near Threatened
1997 Rare (Walter and Gillett 1998)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is widespread along the east coast of South Africa and southern Mozambique, usually occurring within a few kilometres of the ocean. They are found as scattered subpopulations from Bathurst in the Eastern Cape to Kosi Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal and just over the South Africa border into southern Mozambique. Recorded from 10 to 750 m asl.
Countries:
Native:
Mozambique; South Africa (Eastern Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are numerous subpopulations spread across its range. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 plants in the wild.

Abundance at known localities:

a) Past and current:
Since at least 1965, there have been reports of S. eriopus becoming scarce, rare and extirpated in many areas of its range. Vast numbers of plants were eradicated along the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape coast as sugar cane fields and the pineapple industry respectively replaced the natural vegetation. S. eriopus was once a usual sight in coastal and scarp forests and coastal grassland from Bathurst to Kosi Bay, but today it is far less common. Furthermore, plants within the borders of designated nature reserves are not altogether safe. Regular visitors to Ngoye have also reported drastic reductions in population numbers, and a recent half-day survey in the Gwaliweni forest north of Jozini in KwaZulu-Natal failed to locate any specimens. Between Durban and Hluhluwe,  S. eriopus was lost at many localities due to habitat transformation for sugar cane and gum plantations. Very little natural vegetation exists in these areas today, and S. eriopus tends to be found in isolated pockets. Stangeria is therefore currently rare and of low abundance in this specific area.

b) Future
The possible future construction of a coastal highway through the Eastern Cape would threaten many the subpopulations. Parts of the former Transkei are currently a refuge for Stangeria, but coastal urban development will threaten the habitat and the range as forest refugia become more accessible to collectors.

In summary:

There are 34 known Quarter Degree Squares (QDS) records from PRECIS (the Pretoria Herbarium Specimen Database), the literature and personal observations. The following threats were noted:
a) In 14 known QDS (41%), habitat transformation and degradation has occurred from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal for plantations (pineapple, sugar cane and pine trees). S. eriopus tends to occupy vegetation pockets within these areas or has been permanently extirpated (past decline).
b) 14 QDSs (41%) stand to be affected by the proposed new N2 highway through the Eastern Cape, hence destroying habitats and making previous S. eriopus refugia potentially accessible to collectors (future decline).
c) In at least 9 QDSs (26%), S. eriopus has been observed to be scarce, declining and actively targeted by collectors (current decline)

Therefore, in total, in at least 27 QDS (79%) that we know of (through personal observations and the literature), the S. eriopus population has experienced past declines OR is currently declining OR is facing potential decline due to past, current and future threats from habitat transformation and traditional medicine harvesting.

The tuber is sometimes branched into several growing points and because of this, it is usually not possible to uproot all of the plant without damaging and leaving behind some of the caudex. It is sometimes possible for regeneration to occur from the damaged caudex. It is therefore also possible that a portion of the caudex may be left behind during incomplete excavations for the traditional medicine (muti) trade, and that some regeneration may occur in areas that have been targeted by harvesters. Growth from seed is slow.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Grows in open, dry grassland, in light shade under trees in the coastal parkland, or in dense, damp lowland forest. Found in sandy soils (derived from sandstone) or sometimes in granitic or heavy black clays, all of which are slightly acidic, usually within a few kilometers of the ocean. They are found in scarp and coastal forests, Ngongoni and Coastal Grassland (Scott-Shaw 1999).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: See under the population section.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species has been affected by over collecting (for medicinal and ornamental use). Habitat destruction has also had an effect on the plants in the wild (pineapple and sugar cane farming). Vast numbers of plants were eradicated along the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape coast as sugar cane fields and the pineapple industry respectively replaced the natural vegetation. Between Durban and Hluhluwe, S. eriopus was lost at many localities due to habitat transformation for sugar cane and gum plantations. Very little natural vegetation exists in these areas today, and S. eriopus tends to be found in isolated pockets.

The possible future construction of the highway through the Eastern Cape will threaten many of the subpopulations. Parts of the former Transkei are currently a refuge for S. eriopus, but coastal urban development will threaten the habitat and the range as forest refugia become more accessible to collectors.

At least 20% of the habitat has been lost over the last three generations (150 years) (generation length is about 50 years) and harvesting for the traditional medicine trade has caused at least a further 10-20% decline in population size. The habitat is further threatened with future transformation and increased harvesting as a result of the N2 highway being extended through the Eastern Cape.

S. eriopus is a sought after medicinal plant which has been severely over-exploited over much of its distribution range. The habitat is rapidly being degraded because of woodcutting and the expansion of crop farming. The lignotuber is used for traditional medicine, hence harvesting is destructive and whole plants are usually killed. Estimates of an annual sale of 233 bags (50 kg-size) by 54 traders in the Durban markets have been made - possibly accounting for ¼ of the total sales in the province. In a survey conducted in July 1992, 28 out of 170 gatherers (16.5%) in two Durban muti markets sold the tubers. The mean mass of caudices on sale = 0.7 kg; mean mass sold/month/trader = 85 kg; mean number of plants sold/month/trader = 122; total mass sold/month = 2380 kg; total number of plants sold/month = 3410 individual caudices (or, 40,920 plants per year). The unknown quantity of tubers sold by the muti shops in the city would have added considerably to the annual volume sold in the region. The plants were said to have been harvested from areas in the Transkei, southern and northern KwaZulu-Natal, and concerns were raised that the rate of exploitation would lead to a rapid demise of S. eriopus in the wild, especially if the herbal medicine trade continued to expand (as it has).

The popularity of S. eriopus is such that it is traded outside of its range in Mpumalanga and Gauteng. Trade figures for Johannesburg showed that 58% of muti shops stocked the species in 1994, 18% of which said it was scarce. The annual volume estimated to have been sold was 243 bags (50 kg-size). In the Faraday market in 2001, 9% of traders sold it with a combined volume of 38 bags.

More recently, evidence has been found of S. eriopus tubers having been excavated in the Manguzi, presumably for the traditional medicine trade. Possibly more than 50 plants had been removed from the site, and that conservatively hundreds had been excavated in the last few months. On a recent visit to the Faraday market, 20 traders with S. eriopus, each with about 20 plants per trader were found.

In terms of habitat destruction, vast numbers of plants have been eradicated along the KwaZulu-Natal coast as sugar cane fields replaced the natural vegetation, and the expansion of the pineapple industry in the Eastern Cape had caused similar diminution in the distribution of S. eriopus in that area.

Cycad collectors have also threatened the Stangeria population. A post-war anecdote has been cited in which a field botanist active along the Natal south coast was offered one pound per plant to send as many living Stangeria plants as could be collected to a Chicago museum. The botanist refused, and the field full of Stangeria that was mentioned in the anecdote was subsequently visited 30 years later to find that it had been over-grazed and not a single plant remained.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on Appendix I of the CITES Appendices. This species occurs in at least five protected areas, including the Ubombo (Lebombo) Mountain Nature Reserve and the Dwesa and Cwebe Nature Reserves.

Bibliography [top]

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.3). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 2 September 2010).

Scott-Shaw, C.R. 1999. Rare and Threatened Plants of KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring regions. KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Services, Pietermaritzburg.

Vorster, P. and E. 1985. Focus on Stangeria eriopus. Encephalartos 2: 8-15.

Whitelock, L.M. 2002. The Cycads. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M. and Ngwenya, M. 2008. Detailed Species Report for Threatened Species Project - Stangeria eriopus. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.


Citation: Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M. & Ngwenya, M. 2010. Stangeria eriopus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 30 August 2014.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please fill in the feedback form so that we can correct or extend the information provided