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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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cycads are exceptionally primitive plants; they were familiar to the dinosaurs, 100 million years or more ago. They and the ginkgo, the sole surviving species of an equally ancient group, are among the oldest of seed-bearing plants.

A cycad looks like a palm tree with fernlike leaves, but proves that it is not a palm by producing cones, often resembling those of a pine but sometimes far larger. The biggest ever found, from a S. African cycad, Encephalartos caffer (source of the so-called ‘Kaffir bread’), weighed 42 kg (92 lb).