Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Modjadji Cycad

The impressive Modjadji cycad (Encepharlatos transvenosus), also known as “Modjadjis palm” is named after the Rain Queen Modjadji of the Balobedu people who reside in the Duiwelskloof area of Limpopo.

Endemic to Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, and in danger of extinction, in 1979 the Modjadji Nature Reserve was established to the north of Tzaneen by the Department of Water Affairs and Tourism (DWAF) to protect these magnificent trees.

The Modjadji Cycad is one of the largest cycads found in South Africa and the tallest in the world, growing to a towering height of 13 metres with a 45 centimetre diameter trunk and leaves up to 2 ½ metres long and has a lifespan of around 100 years.

These living fossils date back to the Mezazoic period or Stone Age when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a time when they were plentiful around the world. Today however due to the destruction of their natural habitat and excessive harvesting due to the high prices fetched by these ancient plants, they are a protected species.

Legends about the famous Rain Queen Modjadji abound, and today she is seen as a respected protector of the Modjadji cycad. For centuries the dense forest around The Rain Queen’s home, where the ancient Modjadji cycads are found, was used for traditional ceremonies by the Balobedu people. Queen Modjadji, recognising the importance of the forest, bequeathed it to the National Government resulting in the establishment of the Modjadji Nature Reserve.

In the Modjadji Nature Reserve, this magnificent cycad, known as ‘mofaka’ in the local dialect, represents the highest concentration of a single species of cycad in the world.

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