Zamia pumila

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Figure 1. Z. pumila in pine rockland near Everglades National Park, Florida.



Zamia pumila is a clumping cycad which usually starts out with one stem. It will divide dichotomously or branch from the side eventually, but this may take over 5 years from seed under cultivation (when the plant reaches maturity). It will slowly form a multi-branched cluster. It also forms a large tuberous root, which is an extension of the above-ground stem. The tuberous root expands into an ever-larger mass as new stems arise, and there will normally be more root mass to the plant than exposed stem mass. If for some reason the stem is forced to branch too soon (such as after destroying the terminal bud), there would probably not be enough root to sustain a normal looking top and the new multi-headed plant would turn out looking dwarfed, i.e. would have smaller stem diameter and leaf size than normal. Maybe after a few years when the root enlarges it would look more normal. As cycads go, this species is rather fast, and so before too long you can have a very nice-looking plant.


Incidentally, there is a complex of plants often lumped together under Z. pumila. In the U.S., the plant most frequently seen called this is actually Z. integrifolia (native to Florida). It generally has smaller leaves (commonly 12-18 inches long) than the true Z. pumila from the Carribbean islands. Many people still don't recognize Z. integrifolia as a species.

Figure 2. Closeup of interlocking fronds of Z. pumila, Everglades National Park, Florida.
Figure 3. Z. pumila new leaves.
Figure 4. Very large, vigourous specimen of Z. pumila, Katherine, Northern Territory.

Contributed by:

Paul Sternberg (Text)
Dr. Stevens Heckscher (Figure 1&2)
Colin Wilson (Figure 3)
Gary Beaumont (Figure 4)

External Links:

Cycad Pages, IUCN, JSTOR, Trebrown

Google, Google Images, Flickr, PACSOA Forums