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The Loneliest Tree in the World

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In 1895, John Medley Wood discovered a cluster of peculiar Encephalartos Woodii on the fringe of the oNgoye Forest in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. A basal offset of the male dioecious tree was sent to Kew Gardens in London, England.

In 1903, three other tree samples were planted at South Africa’s Durban Botanic Gardens, and according to Kew, “there are now around 500 individual male plants propagated from the original and growing in botanic gardens and private collections around the world.”

But there are no known female specimen on the planet, making it impossible for the trees to reproduce.

At first glance, it resembles a stumpy palm tree, but this ancient specimen is incredibly rare. It is, in fact, the very last of its kind on Earth. Encephalartos Woodii is a cycad, a type of plant that once dominated the planet during the Jurassic Period. Over the millennia, the age of the cycad came to an end…

And though there are other kinds of cycad around, this particular species is now extinct in the wild, making it extremely valuable and sought-after. Perhaps it’s the loneliest tree in the world.

By the way, Kew Gardens does amazing work. Don’t miss these videos: The Fungarium and Millennium Seed Bank Partnership at Kew.

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