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Dioon edule is a medium-sized cycad with rather stiff, straight, light to blue-green leaves which, as in all cycads, are large and divided, giving the plant the appearance of a palm or tree-fern. Each leaf bears 70 to 150 pairs of narrow leaflets, which measure around 12 centimetres in length and are sometimes slightly hairy. The trunk, like that of all cycads, is made up mainly of storage tissue, with very little true wood, and in this species may either stand erect or lie on the ground.