Scarlet Encephalartos altensteinii seeds, angular and about oblong to ovoid, are gradually dropping from the central cylindrical to tapering core of the female cone in picture. Thick, covering scales, yellower in their inner half, shield the seeds until their turn comes for departing. Some failed, withered seeds at the top of the core persist.
The seed itself has a fleshy outer part around the hard kernel. These fleshy seed parts are sometimes eaten, but as many Encephalartos seeds are poisonous or at certain times poisonous, they should be avoided, unless particular knowledge concerning edibility can be trusted. The kernel of the E. altensteinii seed is known to be poisonous.
In a world where almost everything organic is eaten by something, some species will invariably eat what kills the next. We don’t say “One man's meat is another man's poison!” for nothing, although the idea of the idiom is not about meat or seeds.
Dispersal of this cycad’s seeds is done by the Knysna lourie and the trumpeter hornbill, both birds of the Eastern Cape coastal area where E. altensteinii grows. These medium-sized birds spot the breaking up of the ripe cones, not difficult given the seed and cone scale colours.
The seed is swallowed, its fleshy part digested and the hard kernel regurgitated, with luck in a spot where it will grow (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Van Wyk and Van Wyk, 1997; http://pza.sanbi.org).