Family: Zamiaceae

Native to tropical and other warm areas of America, these 30 species of cycads superficially resemble palms, but are not related to them in any way. They come from a range of habitats, including rainforests, open forests and savan­nah grasslands. These plants bear cones, the male and female types being on separate plants. Some species yield a starch-like sago. Only a few species are cultivated.


Z. furfuracea, from Florida and Mexico, is the main species grown. It is sometimes described as the cardboard palm. The leaves may be as long as 1 m (3 ft) and are com­posed of heavily textured, leathery leaflets, cov­ered in fine brown hairs when young. Trunks grow to only 15 cm (6 in) or so. Male cones are narrow and cylindrical, while female cones are barrel-shaped, 20 cm (8 in) long and 5-7 cm (2-3 in) wide.


In climates prone to frost, grow in a warm conservatory or greenhouse. Zamia also makes a good house plant. Grow in pots of sandy, soil-based potting compost and add some leaf mould to it if available. Plants need maximum light, but should be shaded from direct, strong sun. Outdoors grow in full sun with shade during hottest part of day, or in par­tial shade. Well-drained soil needed. Propagate from seed sown in spring and germinated at 24°C (75°F).


Zone 10 to tropical.