|Leaves of Zamia integrifolia|
Zamia integrifolia is a small, tough, woody cycad native to the southeast United States (Florida, Georgia), the Bahamas and the Caribbean south to Grand Cayman and Puerto Rico (possibly extinct on this island).
This cycad produces reddish seed cones with a distinct acuminate tip. The leaves are 20-100 cm long, with 5-30 pairs of leaflets (pinnae). Each leaflet is linear to lanceolate or oblong-obovate, 8-25 cm long and 0.5-2 cm broad, entire or with indistinct teeth at the tip. They are often revolute, with prickly petioles. It is similar in many respects to the closely related Zamia pumila, but that species differs in the more obvious toothing on the leaflets.
This is a low-growing plant, with a trunk that grows to 3-25 cm high, but is often subterranean. Over time, it forms a multi-branched cluster, with a large, tuberous root system, which is actually an extension of the above-ground stems. The leaves can be completely lost during cold periods, with the plant lying dormant in its tuberous root system, allowing this cycad to be relatively cold hardy. The plant can survive up to USDA region 8b (this can be quite northern: for instance, Seattle is 8b). The stems and leaves will regenerate after the cold period subsides with full foliage (Whitelock, 2002).
Like other cycads, Zamia integrifolia is dioecious, having male or female plants. The male cones are cylindrical, growing to 5-16 cm long; they are often clustered. The female cones are elongate-ovoid and grow to 5-19 cm long and 4-6 cm in diameter.
Zamia integrifolia inhabits a variety of habitats with well-drained sands or sandy loam soils. It prefers filtered sunlight to partial shade. Populations are presently limited to Florida, southeastern Georgia, central Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It was also native in southern Puerto Rico and Haiti, but appears to have been extirpated from those areas due to intensive land use.
Controversy has long existed over the classification of Zamia in Florida; at one extreme all the American populations have been included in a broadly defined Zamia pumila (Eckenwalder 1980), and at the other several species have been recognized under various names (e.g., Z. augustifolia, Z. floridana, Z. silvicola, and Z. umbrosa). The Flora of North America treats all of the American populations as Z. integrifolia. Genetically, the differences between populations cannot be explained by habitat variability. Studies conducted by Ward (1978) showed that five different Florida populations of Z. integrifolia with identical cultivation produced distinct leaf morphology, suggesting that there may be too much genetic diversity amongst these Florida Z. integrifolia, not to mention geographically isolated populations, to consider them a single species.
It is worth noting this plant's critical importance to the Eumaeus atala butterfly. The butterfly, thought extinct until recently, is dependant on the Zamia integrifolia, as well as several other species of Zamia, for its survival. This is because at the larval stage, the Eumaeus atala caterpillar eats exclusively the leaves of the coontie. A half dozen caterpillars can completely strip a coontie bare, meaning that a large coontie population is needed to sustain the Eumaeus atala population
All parts of Zamia integrifolia are toxic to humans if eaten raw, although Black Seminoles were known to strain it. Preparation of edible starch from the roots requires complex processing. All plant parts are poisonous to dogs and livestock.
This plant has several common names. Two names, Florida arrowroot and wild sago, refer to the former commercial use of this species as the source of an edible starch. Coontie (or koonti) is derived from the Seminole Native American language conti hateka.
- "Coontie Zamia pumila (Zamia integrifolia)". eNature.com. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
- Kashif, Annette. "Africanisms Upon the Land: A Study of African Influenced Placenames of the USA," In Places of Cultural Memory: African Reflections on the American Landscape. Washington, DC: National Park Service, 2001
- Green Deane. "Zamia Floridana: Making Toxins Edible". EatTheWeeds.com. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
- "http://brevard.ifas.ufl.edu/Forms%20and%20Publications/PDF/plants%20poisonous%20to%20pets.pdf". University of Florida/Brevard County Extension. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
- Eckenwalder, J. E. 1980. Taxonomy of the West Indian cycads. J. Arnold Arboretum 61: 701-722.
- Whitelock, L. M. (2002). The Cycads. Portland, OR: Timber Press.
- Ward, D.B. (1978). Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida 5: 122-124.
- Donaldson (2003). Zamia integrifolia. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006.
- The Cycad Pages: Zamia integrifolia
- Flora of North America - Zamia integrifolia
- The Coontie of Florida
- Key West Garden Club