Saturday, August 04, 2012

A Living Fossil

The Cycad (Click on pic to enlarge)

The Dusun call this plant Tugu or Potugu while the Malay name is Paku Laut. The trunk looks like that of a fern tree and the leaves resemble palm leaves. But it is neither a fern tree nor a palm tree. This is the Cycad and because it produces cones, it is actually a pine tree.
The leaves appear in whorls around the trunk

The Cycad is a descendant of ‘gymnosperm’ which existed 270 million years ago. It is as old as the dinosaur—making it a living fossil! Today it thrives mostly in dry and arid areas in tropical and equatorial regions. They’re hardy plants and according to Ms. A Phillips, an ecologist with Sabah Parks, Cycads have no known predators except a kind of butterfly known as Cycad Blue. The larvae of these butterflies feed on the tender, young leaves. When this happens often enough the tree could die.
The larvae of the Cycad Blue feed on the young leaves.

Perhaps unknown to many people, the Dusuns of the old days were another group of predators! My mother told me that the young leaves are edible and they were picked and cooked as a vegetable. Of course I thought she must have been mistaken. But that was before I saw what was captioned next to a Cycad at the State Museum!
Notes about the Cycad

In KK the Cycad plants are used in landscaping and as ornamental trees on road dividers and roundabouts. I’ve planted one tree at the roadside in front of my house. (That’s Mr. Hubby’s house if you’ve been following this blog.) When I turned the hose on it the other day a grayish cloud burst from the upper leaves. The ‘cloud’ was actually hundreds of butterflies escaping from the water.
One of the butterflies flying among the leaves

Baby plants

A few baby plants are growing below my 25-year-old Cycad. I’ve mentioned to friends that I’m giving them away. There have been no takers yet. So who wants to plant and help preserve a living fossil?

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