Encephalartos caffer is a small plant growing a single stem, always with a woolly crown. The plant was too small to receive a number in the SA Tree List. Stem branching is sometimes induced by damage to the crown. With leaves and all the plant reaches a height of about 1,2 m, although there is much more of the stem hidden underground than above.
The species distribution lies in a coastal belt in the Eastern Province in sour, rocky grassland from Humansdorp to Willowvale. This is said to be the furthest south in Africa that any cycad occurs naturally. The plant lives in high to medium (summer) rainfall land, where it is averse to frost, but survives winter grass fires.
There is a related or similar plant to the north in KwaZulu-Natal grassland, E. ngoyanus that differs in having toothed leaves.
E. caffer is rare in its habitat, considered near threatened early in the twenty first century (Hugo, 2014; www.cycadsociety.org; www.cycad.org; www.plantzafrica.com).