Cycads are the most endangered of plant groups based on IUCN Red List assessments; all are in Appendix I or II of CITES, about 40% are within biodiversity ‘hotspots,’ and the call for action to improve their protection is longstanding. We contend that progress in this direction will not be made until there is better understanding of cycad pollen, seed and tissue biology, which at the moment is limited to relatively few (<10%) species. We review what is known about germplasm (seed and pollen) storage and germination, together with recent developments in the application of contemporary technologies to tissues, such as isotype labelling, biomolecular markers and tissue culture. Whilst progress is being made, we conclude that an acceleration of comparative studies is needed to facilitate the integration of in situ and ex situ conservation programmes to better safeguard endangered cycads.