Zamia pumila L.
Coontie, Florida arrowroot
Zamiaceae (Sago-Cycas Family)
USDA Symbol: ZAPU
The short, woody stem and rootstock of this primitive fern-like plant is almost completely underground and produces a terminal crown of stiff, evergreen, pinnate leaves up to 3 ft. long. The brown, fleshy, erect, female or seed-bearing cones, 6-8 in. long, are pendent when mature and covered with dark-brown hairs.
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.
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Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Leaf: Dark green fronds
Fruit: Red to red-orange seeds 12-13 cm
Size Class: 1-3 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug
DistributionUSA: FL , GA
Native Distribution: Endemic to central and southern Florida.
Native Habitat: Plants grow in dry, sandy pinelands and hammocks. Rarely occur in sandy coastal dunes.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained soil with a light, organic cover.
Conditions Comments: Drought-tolerant. Makes a good foundation planting or ground cover if not walked on.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Coontie cones reportedly provide food in exchange for pollination services for two species of beetles in Florida, Pharaxonotha zamiae and Rhopalotria slossoni. The seeds are a source of food for mockingbirds, blue jays, and many other birds as well as insects and small mammals.
Use Food: The Seminole, Alabama, and many other Native American tribes in the southeastern United States used the fruits and roots of coontie for food. Some people still prepare it today. The starchy stems and roots were the main source of flour for the Seminoles and many indigenous people of central and southern Florida. These peoples are attributed with increasing the plant’s distribution. The plant parts contain central nervous system toxins, which must be removed before consumption.
Warning: The roots of coontie are toxic when taken internally, without sufficient preparation.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)Zamia pumila is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Learn more at BAMONA
PropagationDescription: Can be propagated from seed. Cleaned seeds should be spread on the ground and covered with a thin layer of leaves or soil. After sprouting in six weeks that plants can be transferred to pots.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Clean seeds of their sticky covering.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Native ground cover to replace grass in Florida.
February 04, 2008
Where can I find a list of ground covers to replace my grass. I live in the south of Ocala Florida.
view the full question and answer
From the National Suppliers DirectoryAccording to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Native Plant Nursery - Sanibel, FL
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Recommended Species Lists
Find native plant species by state. Each list contains commercially available species suitable for gardens and planned landscapes. Once you have selected a collection, you can browse the collection or search within it using the combination search.View Recommended Species page
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Zamia pumila in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Zamia pumila in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Zamia pumila
MetadataRecord Modified: 2007-01-01
Research By: TWC Staff