Cycad Multisite

Monday November 9, 2015

The cycad garden at Ganna Walska Lotusland was one of the last to be added by Madame Walska to her 37-acre estate. By the early 1970’s she had already amassed a world class cycad collection but they were growing in a crowded, shady corner of the property. In 1975, then director of the garden Charlie Glass, proposed creating an entirely new garden to showcase this collection – construction began in 1977 and was completed in 1979. Glass considered this garden his greatest achievement writing, “How few people could ever have the chance to landscape on that scale and with such a fabulous collection of rare, virtually irreplaceable plants!” The plants are massed by genus on raised beds with the centerpiece being three enormous Encephalartos woodii perched on a rocky cliff above their own Koi pond. The collection today consists of 9 of the 10 genera of cycads, excluding Bowenia, and 143 taxa comprising approximately 700 plants. Not just an amazing display garden, the collection is used to educate the public about the need for conservation of this most threatened plant group on the planet as well as to promote and aid in research. Lotusland is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cycad Specialist Group.

The Montgomery Botanical Center carries out its mission by collecting seeds from wild populations of tropical plants around the world, particularly seeds of palms and cycads. Montgomery germinates these seeds in its nursery and grows the resulting plants in population-based, documented, scientific collections. Montgomery fosters, and participates in, scientific research by collecting and maintaining scientific data on its collections, by making its collections and scientific data available to scientists for research purposes, and by disseminating this research and data through scientific publications. Montgomery cooperates with many botanical institutions and countries around the world by making its plant collections, knowledge and expertise available to their scientists, educators, and students. Montgomery explains its mission and operations to the general public through workshops, lectures, publications and tours of the plant collections in its garden.

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is part of a Multisite Cycad Collection of the Plant Collections Network (formerly North American Plant Collections Consortium, NAPCC) of the American Public Gardens Association. With 82 taxa and many mature specimens, the San Diego Zoo has one of the best cycad collections in the world, including 29 species that are conservation worthy.

The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley (UCBG) is part of the Multisite Cycad Collection of the Plant Collections Network of the American Public Gardens Association. Our goal at UCBG is to represent the broadest diversity of taxa possible to support research, teaching, and conservation.  The UCBG was founded as a research collection. Although many of our cycads are missing provenance data (having come from government confiscations) their taxonomic breadth makes them ideal for some avenues of research and for some conservation projects. Nearly 650 cycad accessions of just over 100 species are represented in the collection, including all ten genera. The three best represented genera are Macrozamia from Australia (35% of known taxa), Dioon from Mexico (60% percent of known taxa), and Encephalartos (60% of known taxa). San Francisco Bay Area temperatures are ideal for many Encephalartos, including the taxa that are the focus of our conservation effort. Our climate is marginal for Mexican and Central American taxa from the genera Dioon and Ceratozamia, though with careful siting they have prospered and coned. We have a relatively large number of cycads not fully hardy in the Bay Area, such as the beautiful and exotic looking Cycas multipinnata and C. micholitzii. These, along with the genera Microcycas, Bowenia, and Stangeria require greenhouse care here. Tissue samples continue to be supplied for various research projects and frozen pollen is shared with other collection holders for controlled breeding.

For information about Cycad multi-site collections inventory, please contact the multi-site Coordinator


  • Montgomery Botanical Center
    Montgomery Botanical Center
  • University Of California Botanical Garden
    University Of California Botanical Garden
  • San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
    San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
  • Ganna Walska Lotusland
    Ganna Walska Lotusland