Foliage Follow Up: Eden’s curls

Our garden in Kigali/enclos*ure: the cycad's new leavesOne of our cycad’s new leaves — there’s more about this plant here.

Our cycad is a sago palm or Cycas revoluta, a species of gymnosperm with origins in the Mesozoic era.  Revoluta refers to the “curled back” leaves.

A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. . .

— Gerard Manley Hopkins, from “Spring

Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Follow Up is the 16th of every month. Check out more beautiful leaves at Digging.


I fell in love with this Mussaenda shrub soon after we arrived in Kigali, but I didn’t know its name until tonight after some internet research.

I think my Mussaenda (with orange flowers and white bracts) is M. frondosa, a native to Indo-China and Malaysia, although there is a species native to West Africa, M. erythrophylla or Ashanti blood or red flag. This may actually be the shrub in our garden that I’ve been thinking is a poinsettia. I’m going to have to do a little more research on that tomorrow. [Yes, it is M. erythrophylla.]

Mussaendas are hardy to (U.S.) zones 9-11. They can reach heights from 3′ to 10′, and different species and cultivars can have bracts and flowers in orange, white, red, yellow, or pink. They need a moderate amount of water and sun.


Thanks to Fine Gardening magazine’s Garden Photo of the Day for featuring some of my cycad photos yesterday. Here are a few more:

The sago palms

On Friday, Diana of Elephant’s Eye commented on the age of my cycad. (The plant has a reputation as a slow grower.)

That made me remember some beautiful, rather ancient sago palms that I photographed at Tudor Place in Georgetown this summer. The sago palm is a cycad — Cycas revoluta — native to southern Japan.

Why weren’t our 19th century ancestors thoughtful enough to put away a few sago cycads in the greenhouse for us?

The original Tudor Place sago palm arrived in North America in 1775 on the famous Boston Tea Party ship. There were three sagos on board, and the largest one went to Mount Vernon. Another went to Pratt’s Nursery in Philadelphia, which is where Martha and Thomas Peter purchased it in 1813.

The Tudor Place blog says that the original sago palm is located near the door to the Visitors Center, although I only saw the specimens labeled as its descendants.

The Mount Vernon sago died in 1934. In 1941, a cutting was taken from the Tudor Place plant and given to Mount Vernon, where it grows today.

If you want to start your own little sago palm heirlooms in pots, please be aware that all parts of the plant are extremely toxic to children and pets. Guard it accordingly.

. . . all that predates history survives it.
the sago palm or the bird of paradise flower,
trees that are flowers that are birds.

. . . this high garden
protects the city that protects it.

Alvaro Garcia, “Public Garden” from Para lo que no existe, 1999

Portrait of the old king

Our cycad is putting out a new crown of leaves this week.

Cycads were very common during the Jurassic period, and they have changed relatively little since that time.

More about cycads here.

. . . Only the antique cycads sullenly
keep the old bargain life has long since broken;
and, cursed by age, through each chill century
they watch the shrunken moon, but never die. . .

— Judith Wright, from “The Cycads