Photo Dennis Stevenson
The Cycad Pages
Zamia monticola

Zamia monticola Chamb., "Bot. Gaz. 81: 219, 223, figs 1-3" (1926).
"TYPE: cultivated from a single seed collected opposite the crater of Naolinco, near Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, 1925, C.J. Chamberlain s.n. (holo MO)."[NY]

Etymology: In reference to the presumed mountain habitat because of the mistaken origin of the original cultivated plant (see below).

Historical notes: Of particular frustration has been repeated unsuccessful attempts over the past 70 years to relocate Zamia monticola which Chamberlain described in 1926 as being from a single seed he collected in 1906 in Veracruz, Mexico "on the steep mountain side about six or eight miles west of Jalapa, opposite the extinct crater of Naolinco". Chamberlain went on to note that he had collected many seeds of Ceratozamia mexicana but had not seen a single Zamia plant in the vicinity and that the single Zamia monticola seedling appeared among seedlings of C. mexicana. This coupled with the failure to relocate the species in Mexico lead to the conclusion that the species is either extinct or that Chamberlain's seeds became mixed in the glasshouse and that the seed ascribed to Z. monticola is either from Central America or somehow a variant of Z. muricata. Recent collections of Zamia from Guatemala by H. Förtner (2621/592) are unequivocally Z. monticola. The foliage matches the type material of Z. monticola and, moreover, the male cone is identical to the male cone pickled by Chamberlain and sent to the New York Botanical Garden where the original label in Chamberlain's handwriting is still in the bottle. Thus, Z. monticola is extant and living in Guatemala and the puzzle is solved.

Distinguishing features: Zamia monticola is easily recognized by its unusual long, upturned, leaflet tips combined with their chartaceous to papryaceous texture and few indistinct marginal teeth at the apex.

Distribution and habitat: Zamia monticola is endemic to rocky lowland slopes in primary and secondary rain forests of Guatemala.

Conservation: Having only been recently discovered there it is difficult to assess its status. Although this population contains many plants and seedlings, no ovulate cones were seen. Zamia monticola is listed by the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants as Ex,II,Ex for Mexico. This is because it was thought to be from Mexico though we now know it is from Guatemala. It should be considered extremely rare and threatened until more is known about population numbers and sizes.


Stem with a short trunk to 30 cm tall, 15-20 cm diam.

Cataphylls triangular basally, linear-lanceolate apically, 3-6 cm long, 1-2 cm wide.

Leaves 5-20, erect or slightly curved, oblong, 1-2 m long; petiole terete, 50-75 cm long, armed with stout prickles in lower half; rachis terete, armed with prickles in lower half, to 1 m long, 30-40 pairs of leaflets.

Leaflets chartaceous to papyraceous, linear-lanceolate, subfalcate near the base, long acuminate and often strongly curved upwards at apex, margins serrulate only near the apex, the median ones 25-30 cm long, 4-6 cm wide.

Pollen cones 2-6, cylindrical to oblong, cream to light brown, 12-20 cm long, 2-4 cm in diameter; peduncle 10-20 cm long.

Seed cones unknown.

The Cycad Pages

© 1998-2012 Royal Botanic Gardens Sy dney
Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
Maintained by Leonie Stanberg and Dennis Stevenson 2010-2012
This site is currently not being maintained