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Any of the palmlike woody plants that constitute the order Cycadales, containing two families, Cycadaceae and Zamiaceae. Cycads have crowns of large, feathery compound leaves and cones at the ends of their branches. Some have tall, unbranched, armourlike trunks; others have partially buried stems with swollen trunks. Slow-growing cycads are used as ornamental conservatory plants, but some survive outdoors in temperate regions. The stems of some cycads yield starch that is edible if thoroughly cooked. The young leaves and seeds of others also are edible.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cycad, visit Britannica.com.