History

 

EUDLO CYCAD GARDENS – A History

By Peter Heibloem

EUDLO CYCAD GARDENS is located in the Hinterland of South East Queensland set amongst rolling hills.  The gardens were commenced 26 years ago and now consist of 6 acres of landscape rockeries with raised gardens connected by concrete paths.  The garden specializes in cycads of the world with the main feature being Encephalartos – the cycads of Africa.  The collection of Encephalartos covers 60 species and is one of the most complete collections.  Many of the plants are now mature and the garden produces seed and seedlings which are distributed throughout Australia and are exported on special permits to many different countries. 

Almost all African cycads are extremely rare and are afforded the highest level of protection available to plants.  They are relics from the dinosaur age and exist in the wild as tiny remnant populations often found on a single hill or mountain and often on the edge of extinction.  In nature the plants are pollinated by tiny insects, (weevils) that are specific to that particular plant.  Once the weevil dies out pollination stops and the colony of plants is doomed to extinction.  This has happened in several colonies in central Africa.

Over a period of 12 years, Peter  traveled to 10 African countries studying and photographing these plants.  These trips were the basis of his book published by the Palm and Cycad Society of Australia titled Cycads of Central Africa.  Exchange programs were organized from various botanical gardens and nurseries in several African countries and thousands of plants were imported into Australia on special permits which have formed the basis of the garden.  The botanical collection consists of over 3,000 individual specimens which were either imported or grown from seed over the last 26 years. 

The gardens have been featured on 5 national television programs and on the Burke’s Backyard DVD ‘World’s Greatest Gardens’.  The gardens have opened to the public on 7 weekends through the Australia Open Garden Scheme and over12,000 in total visited.  The gardens have been featured in several books showcasing unique Australian gardens.

Over the last twelve years many of the rarest of cycads in the collection have grown to maturity and are now being pollinated by hand.  Each year thousands of fertile seed and seedlings are produced and distributed to cycad collectors and sometimes botanical gardens.  Peter has exchanged or donated plants to five of the national botanical gardens in Australia helping them to build their cycad collections.  Many of the seedlings produced 10 to 20 years ago are now mature and Peter provides pollen, when needed to other cycad growers so they can produce their own viable seed.  This is conservation through propagation. 

For a number of species of the rarest African cycads, the gardens have produced the first viable seed ever available in Australia and on some species probably the first viable seed ever.  Cycads are one of the oldest cone bearing plants in the world and produce either male or female cones when mature.  To produce viable seed the pollen from the male cones is collected and stored in a freezer awaiting a receptive female cone of the same species.  The pollen is viable for up to five years and is injected into the female cones mixed with water (wet method) or injected dry using an air compressor.  As the insect responsible for pollination in nature is not present in the garden, all the seed produced are genetically pure and no cross-pollination takes place.

Cycads have a reputation for being slow growing, however, many of the Central African species grow vigorously in South East Queensland and mature in seven to ten years.  Some of the African cycads are so rare that very few photo’s of the plant can be found on the entire internet..  Encephalartos Woodii has been described as the rarest plant in the world and has been extinct for over 100 in nature.  It was named from a single plant discovered in 1897 and all examples of this plant found in cultivation are off-shoots from the original male plant.   There are two specimens of Encephalartos Woodii in the Eudlo Cycad Garden collection.  Encephalartos Equatorialis exists as a relic population in Southern Uganda on a single rock outcrop.  The pollinator in the colony is lost and these cycads are destined to go extinct in nature.  Last year hundreds of viable seed of this extremely rare species were produced at the gardens. 

The gardens began with the purchase of a single cycad 26 years ago from a retired nurseryman who had grown a North Queensland tropical cycad Lepidozamia  Hopei from seed.  He advertised his 25 year old plant for sale and Peter purchased this plant as his first cycad.  He later joined the Palm and Cycad Society of Australia.  This led to the discovery of African cycads and Peter exchanged seed with dozens of collectors in South Africa over a five year period before he began importing.  He set up a private quarantine facility and imported plants over a nine year period. 

The gardens also feature around 200 species of cactus, 50 species of aloes, 30 species of Euphorbia’s and many species of Agaves, Yuccas,  and other succulents.  More recently Peter has become interested in Bromeliads and the gardens now have over 5,000 Bromeliads displayed throughout the six acres of the gardens.  Also featured in the garden are many rare flowering trees including six species of Boabs from Madagascar and other unusual plants to numerous to mention. 

The garden can be visited by appointment. Scattered throughout the garden are concrete sculptures and oil paintings of African cycads and aloes in habitat. 

Cycads consist of 11 families and some 360 separate species.  At Eudlo Cycad Gardens visitors can see almost 300 separate species of cycads and thousands of other unusual plants.  Many garden groups and plant lovers visit the gardens by appointment.  Peter can be contacted by email at cycadman@bigpond.com or by fax 07-5445 0272 or telephone 07-5445 0496.  Cycads can live to more than a thousand years in age and are a one of the most fascinating and spectacular additions to any garden.  Some cycads have deep blue leaves and make stunning feature plants.  They will grow happily in a pot or in the ground and give the owner immense pleasure.  If you find yourself visiting South East Queensland anytime in the future you are most welcome to visit the gardens. 

Equatoralis Female
Equatoralis Female
Schaijesii Female
Schaijesii Female
Eugene Maraissi Female
Eugene Maraissi Female
Delucanus
Delucanus
Eugene with Peter
Eugene with Peter
Kisambo
Kisambo
Cactus from above 2
Cactus from above 2
Ferox Female
Ferox Female
Concinnus Female
Concinnus Female
Frederici Guilelmie  females
Frederici Guilelmie females