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The Cycads are a group of ancient seed plants that were once more abundant and diverse than they are today. They typically have a stout woody trunk with a crown of large stiff leathery leaves. Cycads are dioecious i.e. there are separate male and female plants and the reproductive organs are borne in often large erect strobili. The plants grow very slowly and some specimens are known to be more than 1000 years old. Current distribution is limited to Meso and  Northern South America, Southern Africa and Madagascar, India and Southern Asia and parts of Australia. The cycad fossil record stretches back to the Permian period, 280 million years ago and possibly even as far as the Carboniferous period, 300-325 million years ago.