This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area



April 9, 2013

The biggest cycad in the United States

I was in Los Angeles this weekend and visited the biggest cycad in the United States. It's located in a tiny little park hidden away just inland from the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica.

If you know about cycads, you know that they are very slow-growing, and that they are miniatures. So when you see one that is several feet tall, you know that they are very old. I have a few at The Tropical Paradise, but they just look kind'a like ferns. Most of the time they are just leaves and a short, squat trunk that looks more like a pineapple. By the time the "pineapple" (technically called the caudex) starts to become trunk-shaped, it is a vey old cycad, what I call a "big miniature".

The cycads behind me are dioon spinulosums. They are about 35 to 40 feet tall and have been in this park since the 1950s, and have been in Los Angeles since about 1900, brought in by Edward L. Doheny, the oil tycoon. I don't know how old they were when he got them, but it's reasonable to assume that if they were plants of any decent size at all, they would have been ten to twenty years old at least, probably more.

So these plants must be at least 113 years old, probably closer to 125 to 150 years old. This type of cycad is the largest and fastest-growing cycad in the world, but you still don't see many specimens this big.

If you have one of these in your yard, don't be concerned that they will grow this big - unless you plan to be there for over 120 years. The one I have, at right, is considered very large and has been in The Tropical Paradise for about fifteen years. If I live another fifty years, it should be twice as tall!
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