Searching for a female partner for the world’s “loneliest” plant

Enlarge / Map from drone mission search for the Encephalartos Woodii in the Ngoye Forest in South Africa. CC BY-NC

“Surely this is the most solitary organism in the world,” wrote paleontologist Richard Fortey in his book about the evolution of life.

He was talking about Encephalartos woodii (E. woodii), a plant from South Africa. E. woodii is a member of the cycad family, heavy plants with thick trunks and large stiff leaves that form a majestic crown. These resilient survivors have outlasted dinosaurs and multiple mass extinctions. Once widespread, they are today one of the most threatened species on the

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