Encephalartos transvenosus leaves are dark glossy green with a yellow rachis. They reach a length of 2,5 m when mature. Both margins of the leaflets or pinnae are toothed. These teeth are small, sharp and widely spaced. Note the overlap of adjacent leaflets with each other; a feature characterising several cycad species.
This plant is fast growing compared to others in the Encephalartos genus, i.e. it may have a substantial crown of long leaves, spiralling elegantly within five years after grown from seed.
Large numbers of these cycads, also sometimes referred to as Modjadji palms (although they are of course not palms at all), are growing in the Modjadji Nature Reserve north-east of Duiwelskloof in the Limpopo Province.
While South African legislation protects all indigenous cycads quite strongly these days and proclaimed reserves add further conservation impetus, the Modjadji cycads have also enjoyed protection from the dynasty of Rain Queens, the traditional leaders of the local tribe who have protected these plants over many generations.
Continued human dedication over long periods, forthcoming from the different cultures living in an area where cycads grow, has unfortunately not happened often enough. Some conservation efforts start almost too late when residents become aware at last of and committed to the plight of a species.
Once a species is escalating up Red List categories and extinction looms closer, people concerned should modify the identified practices impacting upon it and avert yet another step in the reduction of biodiversity (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com; www.sa-venues.com; http://redlist.sanbi.org).