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Cycad (Cycas) tropical or subtropical gymnosperm (naked seeded plants), of the family Cycadaceae; more closely resembling a palm than a conifer, with an unbranched trunk covered with the remains of old leaf bases, and a crown of tough leathery leaves. The Indian subcontinent has only 5 species. Cycas of today may be called “living fossil” as they evolved in the Triassic period (about 182 million year ago). Almost all relatives of Cycas became extinct in Mesozoic era. The growth of this evergreen perennial plant is so slow that it attains a height up to 3 metres after about 50-100 years.

At the tip of the stem the plant bears either male or female strobilus (cluster of flowers in a compact structure). The strobilus is initiated in April/May. The maturation of embryo in seed takes over a year after fertilization; seeds are showy, red or orange fleshy and are dispersed by birds and rodents. Bangladesh has only one species, Cycas pectinata, growing sporadically in the eastern hilly districts, specially in sitakunda and rangamati hill ranges. An exotic species, Cycas circinalis, from India is also found planted as a pot or garden plant in Bangladesh. Cycas is now considered an endangered species because of their habitat destruction. Moreover, their young male and female strobili are plucked regularly by local people and are sold in the market as “medicine” for different ailments. [Mostafa Kamal Pasha]

See also palm.