The sago palm tree (Cycas revoluta) is a plant that dates back to the Mesozoic Era, during the time of dinosaurs. This era is sometimes called the "Age of Cycads" and the sago palm is referred to as a "living fossil". Phenology is the study of the life cycle and seasonal events and interactions of a single plant or animal.
The sago palm is actually a cycad and not a true palm tree. The plant has a palm like appearance with a rough bark on the trunk and fern like fronds (pinnate) flowing downward from a large crown. The plant grows to a height of 4 to 6 feet. Species reaching 20 feet in height have been reported.
The sago palm is either male or female, a "dioecious" plant. The female has a globe like structure while the male is cone shaped. The sago palm is generally easy to care for and is hardy through short freezes. It is a slow growing plant that has a long lifespan. Sago plants live for hundreds and even thousands of years.
The Cycad plants are susceptible to a scale infestation. This appears as a white, waxy armor on the fronds. It may extend to the trunk and roots. The infestation is not easily managed. Horticultural oil is the preferred treatment as insecticides do not penetrate the armor. A tiny black lady beetle (Rhyzobius lophanthae) is a natural scale predator.
The sago palm is endangered in wild settings. It is grown in many homes as a decorative plant. It is used as a landscaping ornamental in tropical and sub-tropical settings. The sago palm produces starch that can be removed and sold commercially. Plantations of sago palms are grown for the starch which accumulates in the trunk.
The sago palm tree is poisonous to pets and children. The tree produces a nut that is easily consumed and causes liver damage. This is often fatal and requires immediate medical attention.