Cycas revoluta (Sotetsu [Japanese ソテツ], sago palm, king sago, sago cycad, Japanese sago palm), is a species of gymnosperm in the familyCycadaceae, native to southern Japan including the Ryukyu Islands. It is one of several species used for the production of sago, as well as an ornamental plant. The sago cycad can be distinguished by a thick coat of fibers on its trunk. The sago cycad is sometimes mistakenly thought to be a palm, although the only similarity between the two is that they look similar and both produce seeds. The leaves grow from the trunk and start out as small leaves near the centre of the plant.
Cycads‘ only relation to the true palms (Arecaceae) is that both are seed plants. The Latin specific epithetrevoluta means “curled back”, in reference to the leaves. This is also called kungi (comb) palm in Urdu speaking areas.
This very symmetrical plant supports a crown of shiny, dark green leaves on a thick shaggy trunk that is typically about 20 cm (7.9 in) in diameter, sometimes wider. The trunk is very low to subterranean in young plants, but lengthens above ground with age. It can grow into very old specimens with 6–7 m (over 20 feet) of trunk; however, the plant is very slow-growing and requires about 50–100 years to achieve this height. Trunks can branch several times, thus producing multiple heads of leaves.
The leaves are a deep semiglossy green and about 50–150 cm (20–59 in) long when the plants are of a reproductive age. They grow out into a feather-like rosette to 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter. The crowded, stiff, narrow leaflets are 8–18 cm (3.1–7.1 in) long and have strongly recurved or revolute edges. The basal leaflets become more like spines. The petiole or stems of the sago cycad are 6–10 cm (2.4–3.9 in) long and have small protective barbs.
Propagation of Cycas revoluta is either by seed or clonally by removal of basal offsets. It is one of the most widely cultivated cycads, grown outdoors in warm temperate and subtropical regions, or under glass in colder areas. It grows best in sandy, well-drained soil, preferably with some organic matter. It needs good drainage or it will rot. It is fairly drought-tolerant and grows well in full sun or outdoor shade, but needs bright light when grown indoors. The leaves can bleach somewhat if moved from indoors to full sun outdoors.
Of all the cycads, C. revoluta is the most popular in cultivation. It is seen in almost all botanical gardens, in both temperate and tropical locations. In many areas of the world, it is heavily promoted commercially as a landscape plant. It is also quite popular as a bonsai plant. First described in the late 18th century, it is tolerant of mild to somewhat cold temperatures, provided the ground is dry. Frost damage can occur at temperatures below −10 °C (14 °F). C. revoluta usually defoliates in winter in this temperate climate, but will usually flush (grow) several new leaves by spring.