"Are You From Cairns?"

No, I am not from Cairns.

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Although I am also from Queensland, I am from the Newcastle Range in the north-east.  Cairns, the city, is in Far North Queensland.  Both the city and I are named after William Wellington Cairns who was governor of Queensland from 1875-1877.  I am also known as "Mount Surprise" or "Champions Blue Surprise" while the city is not.  

My full name though is Cycas cairnsiana.

I was described by F. Mueller in the 1800s.  Unfortunately there was a lot of mistaken identity.  Other species were being called by my name!!!  The indignity of it all.  Thankfully, in 1992, a Mr. Kenneth Hill cleared my name and bestowed it upon me alone.

I normally live in open woodland and prefer a hot, dry climate.  I've even been known to survive a bushfire.    No humidity for me, please.  I can also live in the cooler climates because I am relatively frost tolerant.

Below is a picture of a younger me growing out of the ground.  No obvious caudex.  Should I be dug up?

A shot of me from above.  Note the fronds coming from my caudex.  My pinnae (leaflets) along the length of the rhachis (axis of a compound leaf to which the leaflets attach) will become keeled (V-shaped) with maturity.


I'd like to think of my trunk as pear-shaped.  My bottom being more prominent than the rest of me.  Notice the orange-brown tomentoes (dense wooly/hairy covering) which eventually become leaves.

My petiole (stalk below the lowermost leaflets) is covered with spines.  This is my defense mechanism together with some of my parts not being fit for ingestion.

My most stunning feature is my blue foliage.  The blue coloration, covers both surfaces of my leaflets.  My leaves are glaucous (bluish-gray waxy surface) but will eventually turn glabrous (smooth surface without any hair) with age.  My leaves are soft when young but become stiffer as I grow older.

Unfortunately, I may not be around much longer.  I've already been classified as a Vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.  This means that I face a high risk of extinction in the wild.  To help me survive, I have been put under protection by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  I've been placed under CITES Appendix II which means that I cannot travel between countries as easily as before.  Now I need export and import permits to travel.  I am also being propagated artificially in commercial nurseries to help my conservation.  In my case, I was born in a nursery and was subsequently adopted by Plant Chaser.

Have a good look at me now.  I do hope you remember me after this introduction.  If you forget much of what I said, at least remember this: I am not from Cairns.


Pronunciation Guide:  sī-kəs  kernz-ē-ˈa-nā


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