General: Cycad Family (Zamiaceae). Zamia is one of only a few primitive or ‘relict’ genera, commonly called cycads that are living remnants of plants that were abundant about 325 million years ago. Zamia pumila is the only species of this genus that grows in the United States. Coontie is a fern-like evergreen, perennial shrub (.5 to 1 m in height) with a thick (10 cm in diameter), sometimes branched, trunk that is either very short (to 15 cm) or submerged. The trunk is starchy, which is the reason for the name “Seminole bread”. Dark green fronds grow from the top of the trunk and have 2 to 13 pairs of stiff, leathery leaflets that are 4-9 dm long. Leaf-widths vary among plants. Fronds are from 40 to 80 cm long. Green to dark reddish brown cones grow atop stalks, from the center of the top of the trunk. Male plants bear slender, cylindrical cones that are about 10 cm long and 2-3 cm in diameter. The cone-like reproductive structures on female plants, called “megasporophytes,” are 12 to 13 cm long, 5 cm in diameter. Cones appear in mid-to late summer. The red to red-orange seeds are 1cm to 2 cm long. Distribution: Z. pumilia is endemic to central and southern Florida. Zamia pumila is now rare, not only because of its very small geographic range, but also because people dig up plants in the wild to plant in their gardens.
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