The stems of E. friderici-guilielmi are quite thick, 35cm to 60cm in diameter, and up to 4m tall. Stems may be unbranched but many are branched from the base. Tall stems usually lean over and may even lie flat on the ground, in which case the top part is usually curved upwards. The flattish crown of the stem is open and covered with brown wool.
The leaves are 1m to 1,5m long, including a petiole of 30cm, and are fairly straight, although many are curved downwards. Mature leaves are held at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the stem. When cones appear, the leaves may be pushed down to below the crown. Young leaves are very soft and light green or blueish green in colour, with the leaflets tightly packed together, while mature leaves become yellowish with age.
The pinnae at the middle of the leaf are 10cm to 18cm long and 7mm to 8mm broad, with a number of prominent veins on the lower surface. The leaflets are closely spaced and overlap upwards in the top third of the leaf. They are attached to the leaf stalk in the form of a V. The lower leaflets are reduced in size but not to prickles.
E. friderici-guilielmi bears the largest number of cones in the genus. Male plants may produce as many as twelve cones and female plants up to six. The cones are densely-woolly with a yellowish colour at first, darkening to a brownish or beige colour at maturity. Male cones are 20cm to 40cm long and 6cm to 10cm in diameter. They are cylindrical and curved, tapering towards the tips. The cone scales at the middle of the cone are 2,5cm to 2,8cm long and 2cm broad, with a beak projecting about 5mm. Female cones are barrel-shaped, with rounded tips. They are 25cm to 30cm long and 15cm to 20cm in diameter. The median scales are 4,5cm to 5cm long, 4,5cm broad and 2,5cm thick. The face of the scale under the wool is yellow and fairly smooth, with lateral ridges. The seeds are are covered by a pale yellow to orange-yellow sarcotesta, about 3cm long and 2cm in diameter.
Distribution & Habitat
E. friderici-guilielmi occurs on mountains and rocky hill-slopes in the districts of Queenstown and Cathcart, extending eastwards at intervals to the vicinity of Kokstad. Records of plants from further west and references such as that of Marloth (1913) to the species occuring "near Willowmore", and by Hutchinson and Rattray (1933) to "Klipplaat in the Jansenville division" being in its geographical range, must be regarded as incorrect. In its habitat the species is associated with grassland and other low-growing plants. The temperature ranges from very high in summer to very low in winter with snow and frost. The rainfall rainfall occurs in summer and ranges from 375mm to 500mm per year.
Cultivation & Propagation
E. friderici-guilielmi grows well in cultivation and appears to be adaptable to climatic conditions which differ from those in its natural habitat. The thriving plants at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town and in the Lowveld Botanic Gardens in Nelspruit testify to this fact. Plants in cultivation cone regularly and seedlings are freely available. Seedlings do not grow as fast as some other species and may take a few years to become sizeable plants. They do well in containers. However, suckers are formed on many plants in cultivation and provide another means of cultivation. Full sun and good drainage are essential when growing this species, which is frost-hardy.
E. aplanatus was figured under E. villosus by Dyer (1947) until it was desribed as a distinct species by Vorster. The two species have nearly identical cones, the same acaulescent habit and small number of leaves, 6-10 only. It is differentiated solely on vegetative characteristics instead of differences in the reproductive structures. The leaves are longer, 3,5m as opposed to 2,5m in E. villosus, often shortly petiolate instead of sessile and pinnae are larger, more dentate and the margins are twisted out of plane or undulate.
Recent research found two related but distinct species of Porthetes beetles present in both E. aplanatus and E. villosus cones. These species are restricted to their specific host cycad species and may provide additional support for the recognition of E. aplanatus. Since the closest occurance of E. villosus is 100km away, E. aplanatus is not considered to be a hybrid involving that species.