Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Rare Prehistoric Barnsley plant seeks female partner

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Media captionA male cycad at Wentworth Castle near Barnsley surprised staff by producing a 2ft-long (61cm) cone

An endangered rare plant is looking for a partner after producing pollen for the first time in a number of years.

A male cycad at Wentworth Castle near Barnsley surprised staff by producing a 2-foot-long cone that opened to reveal thousands of tiny pollen sacks.

Botanical gardens around the UK have been contacted to try and find a female flower to breed it with.

The species which dates back to the time of the dinosaurs is at risk of extinction.

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Image copyright Peter Clegg / Wentworth Castle Trust
Image caption The male cycad or Encephalartos villosus, is under threat of extinction in the wild

A report by IUCN-The World Conservation Union in 2003, claimed that 53% of all cycads are threatened with extinction, compared with an average 12.5% for plants in general.

In the wild, the plants are now found in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas.

The report said that the destruction of its habitat coupled with the fact is relies on specialist insects for pollination was putting the plant at risk of survival.

Cycads fact file

Image copyright Peter Clegg / Wentworth Castle Trust
Image caption The male plant has produced thousands of pollen sacks

There are about 297 cycad species and sub-species

Cycads are slow-growing dioecious plants (ones with separate male and female forms), which reproduce infrequently

Fossils remains of the plant have been found dating back more than 250 million years.

It was once on the menu for Jurassic plant eaters such as the Stegosaurus.

Used to provide 20% of world's vegetation

Source: IUCN-The World Conservation Union / Wentworth Castle Gardens

Sally Johnson, assistant head gardener at the castle, said she was delighted at the chance to breed more cycads.

"What we are looking for is someone who has got a female who we can give some pollen to and all being well get some seeds."

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