In House 9 of Cycads, you enter the part of the greenhouse complex that has been least altered in its construction since the showhouses were built. The sunken pathway, which passes through a grotto-like rock passage at its far end, is lined with mighty cycads, those primordial seed plants that seem primeval. The reproductive organs of the cycads are grouped together in impressive cones that can reach the impressive size of over half a meter.
Cycads are also called living fossils. However, their German name “Palmfarne” is rather misleading. They are neither ferns nor palms, which they resemble only in growth habit and partly similar leaf shape. They are a group parallel to the conifers, from which they differ, however, among other things by the gigantic, frond-like leaves.
Already from the Carboniferous Period fossil remains of them are known. In the Cretaceous Period, more than 65 million years ago, this group of plants was particularly richly developed. Today’s “remains”, 10 different genera with about 100 species, are restricted to the tropics and subtropics of both hemispheres. The Munich collection with about 30 species is unique, especially because of its old specimens.
Picture header: Dioon edule © Tillmann Lohff