Within the gates of Sherman Gardens is a shady lush Fern Grotto that houses a wide variety of primitive plants including ferns and cycads.
While ferns reproduce by spores, cycads form cones similar to other conifers. Many people are familiar with the most popular type of cycad, the sago palm. Contrary to its common name sago palms are not palms at all. Cycads developed during the time of dinosaurs before flowering plants like palm trees evolved.
This month our specimen of Encephalartos ferox, an unusual type of cycad, has formed a few large orange cones. The cone's shape and size differ between the male and female plants. At the base of the large spiny leaves a bright orange cone slowly emerges and once mature it opens to release pollen (male) or to fertilize the ovary (female). Don't miss this unique display of a true living fossil.
While in the Fern Grotto you also spot many other types of cycads that have formed cones in many unique colors and shapes. Beware, while beautiful, the seeds of most cycads are toxic and should be left alone.