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A cultivated specimen
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Zamioculcadoideae
Genus: Zamioculcas
Z. zamiifolia
Binomial name
Zamioculcas zamiifolia

Zamioculcas is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae, containing the single species Zamioculcas zamiifolia. [2] It is a tropical herbaceous perennial plant, and is native to eastern Africa, including Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.[2] Its common names include Zanzibar gem, ZZ plant, Zuzu plant, aroid palm, eternity plant and emerald palm.[3] It is grown as a houseplant, mainly because it has attractive glossy foliage and is easy to care for. Zamioculcas zamiifolia is winter-hardy in USDA Zones 9 and 10.[4]

Dutch nurseries began wide-scale commercial propagation of the plant around 1996.[5] It was first described in 1829 by Loddiges, who named it Caladium zamiifolium; Heinrich Wilhelm Schott later reassigned it to the genus Zamioculcas, and Adolf Engler renamed it Zamioculcas zamiifolia.


The genus Zamioculcas derives its name from the similarity of its foliage to that of the cycad genus Zamia and its kinship to the Araceae genus Colocasia, whose name comes from the word “culcas” or “colcas” (from an ancient Middle Eastern name),[6] and which is named qolqas (Egyptian Arabic: قلقاس, IPA: [ʔolˈʔæːs]) in Arabic.[7] Botanical synonyms include Caladium zamiaefolium, Zamioculcas loddigesii and Z. lanceolata.

The species name Zamiifolia means "leaves like Zamia" and is formed from the botanical name Zamia and the Latin word folium, "leaf."[8]


A Raven ZZ plant in a blue pot.
Raven ZZ Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Dowon'
Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Chameleon’ in a grey pot.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Chameleon’
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'HANSOTI13,' commercially known as 'Zenzi'[9]
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Dowon,' commercially known as 'Raven',[10][11][12] is licensed by Costa Farms.
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Super Nova'[13]
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Chameleon’[14]


Growth pattern[edit]

It is an herbaceous perennial growing to 45–60 centimetres (18–24 in) tall, from a stout, underground, succulent rhizome. It is normally evergreen but becomes deciduous during drought, surviving drought due to the large potato-like rhizome that stores water until rainfall resumes.

The most visible "branches" are actually smooth, shiny, dark green, pinnately compound leaves. These are 40–60 cm (16–24 in) long, with swollen, succulent petioles and 6–8 pairs of leaflets, each 7–15 cm (3–6 in) long. Zamioculcas zamiifolia grows slowly, reaching heights and widths ranging from 2 to 4 feet (0.61 to 1.22 m).[8]


The flowers are produced in a small, bright yellow to brown or bronze spadix 5–7 cm (2–3 in) long and wrapped in a yellow-green spathe; the whole inflorescence is partly hidden among the branch bases. Flowering is from midsummer to early autumn.


Zamioculcas zamiifolia contains 91% water in the leaves, and 95% water in the petioles.[15] It has an individual leaf longevity of at least six months, which may be the reason it can survive extremely well under interior low light levels for four months without water.[16]




It may survive outdoors as long as the temperature does not fall below around 15 °C (60 °F); though best growth is between 18 and 26 °C (64 and 79 °F), while high temperatures give an increase in leaf production. In temperate regions, it is grown as a houseplant. Overwatering may destroy this plant through tuber rot. Bright, indirect light is best; some sun will be tolerated.[16]


Zamioculcas zamiifolia may be propagated by leaf cuttings: typically, the lower ends of detached leaves are inserted into a moist, gritty growing medium, and the pot is enclosed in a polythene bag. Though the leaves may well decay, succulent bulb-like structures should form in the bag, and these may be potted up to produce new plants. The process may take upwards of one year. The plant can also be propagated by division.


Due to its strong green leaves, it is especially suitable for open, bright rooms.[17] When grown indoors, the plant prefers bright indirect light but will tolerate low light conditions. However, lower light is not optimal for an extended period of time. Insufficient amounts of sunlight can result in leaves lengthening and/or falling off, yellowing (chlorosis), and generally uneven or disproportionate growth as the plant stretches towards a light source. When grown outdoors, Zamioculcas zamiifolia prefers part shade to full shade.[4]


The substrate used must be well-drained and contain nutrients. It can be composed of a mixture of tanned ox manure, washed river sand and red earth (1:1:1).[18] For indoor plants, use a well-drained potting soil mix.[8]


Zamioculcas zamiifolia roots are rhizomatous and have the ability to store moisture, thus aiding the plants in their drought resistance. The plants like regular waterings, but the soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings.[4]

Usage in traditional medicine[edit]

Though little information is available, Z. zamiifolia is apparently used medicinally in the Mulanje District of Malawi and in the East Usambara mountains of Tanzania where juice from the leaves is used to treat earache.[19]

In Tanzania, a poultice of bruised plant material from Z. zamiifolia is used as a treatment for the inflammatory condition known as "mshipa".[20]

Roots from Z. zamiifolia are used as a local application to treat ulceration by the Sukuma people in north-western Tanzania.[21]


Zamioculcas zamiifolia contains acylated C-glycosylflavone apigenin 6-C-(6″-O-(3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaroyl)- β-glucopyranoside).[15]

Air purification[edit]

A 2014 study from the Department of Plant and Environmental Science at the University of Copenhagen shows that, in a laboratory setting, the plant is able to remove volatile organic compounds in this order of effectiveness: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene at a molar flux of around 0.01 mol/(m2 day). The same study stated that any effectiveness on indoor environments is inconclusive.[22]


Zamioculcas zamiifolia is part of the family Araceae, which includes many poisonous genera, such as Philodendron, Monstera, Anthurium, Dieffenbachia, Aglaonema and Spathiphyllum, all of which contain insoluble calcium oxalate.

An initial toxicological experiment, conducted by the University of Bergen in 2015, on extracts from Z. zamiifolia (using brine shrimp as a lethality assay), did not indicate lethality to the shrimp, even at concentrations of extracts up to 1 mg/mL. The scientists conducting the experiment observed that, "…On the contrary, it could appear as though the extract contributed to improvements in the vitality of the larvae".[15]


  1. ^ "Zamioculcas zamiifolia". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  2. ^ a b "Zamioculcas Schott | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science". Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 2023-10-22.
  3. ^ Administrator. "Zamioculcas - EMERALD PALM". www.royalgreen.nl.
  4. ^ a b c "Zamioculcas zamiifolia - Plant Finder". www.missouribotanicalgarden.org. Retrieved 2023-10-22.
  5. ^ Catherine, Horwood (2007). Potted History: The Story of Plants in the Home. Frances Lincoln Ltd. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-7112-2800-9.
  6. ^ "Colocasia". Flora of North America. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  7. ^ "Colcasia قلقاس". egyptian-cuisine-recipes.com. Retrieved August 4, 2018..
  8. ^ a b c "Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Aroid Palm, Emerald Palm, Eternity Plant, Zanzibar Gem, Zuzu Plant, ZZ Plant) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox". plants.ces.ncsu.edu. Retrieved 2023-10-23.
  9. ^ "Zamioculcas zamiifolia Zenzi ('Hansoti 13'PBR)". www.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  10. ^ "Zamioculcas plant named 'Dowon'". www.patents.google.com. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  11. ^ "Raven® ZZ Plant". www.costafarms.com. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  12. ^ "Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Dowon'". www.plants.ces.ncsu.edu. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  13. ^ "Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Super Nova' | /RHS Gardening". www.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 2021-08-26.
  14. ^ USPP32253P3, Rimland, Michael Kerry, "Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant named ‘Chameleon’", issued 2020-09-29 
  15. ^ a b c Moullec, Angharad (October 2015). "First identification of natural products from the African medicinal plant Zamioculcas zamiifolia — A drought resistant survivor through millions of years". Fitoterapia. 106: 280–285. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2015.09.011. hdl:1956/17550. PMID 26385196.
  16. ^ a b Chen, Jianjun; Henny, Richard (September 2003). "ZZ: A Unique Tropical Ornamental Foliage Plant". HortTechnology. 13 (3): 458–462. doi:10.21273/horttech.13.3.0458. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  17. ^ L'Ami des Jardins (ed.): Climatic plants in the house: Healthy living with detoxifying houseplants . Bassermann Verlag, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-641-67900-2 , p. 20
  18. ^ Machado, Suzana (2022-09-25). "Zamioculca: 5 dicas para cuidar da "planta da fortuna"" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2023-10-04.
  19. ^ Beentje, Henk (1985). Flora of Tropical East Africa - Araceae (1985). CRC Press. p. 15. ISBN 9061913225.
  20. ^ Watt, J.M.; Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. (1962). The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa, Being and Account of Their Medicinal and Other Uses, Chemical Composition, Pharmacological Effects and Toxicology in Man and Animal. E. & S. Livingstone Ltd.
  21. ^ P.R.O., Bally (26 October 1937). "Native Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of East Africa". Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information. 1937 (1): 10–26. doi:10.2307/4107637. JSTOR 4107637.
  22. ^ Dela Cruz, Majbrit; Christensen, Jan H.; Thomsen, Jane Dyrhauge; Müller, Renate (19 June 2014). "Can ornamental potted plants remove volatile organic compounds from indoor air? — areview" (PDF). Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 21 (24): 13909–13928. doi:10.1007/s11356-014-3240-x. PMID 25056742. S2CID 207272189. Retrieved 14 March 2016.

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