Photo Dennis Stevenson
The Cycad Pages
Zamia pumila

Zamia pumila L., "Sp. Pl., ed. 2, 2: 1659" (1763).
"TYPE: the illustration: J. Commelin, Horti Med. Amstelod. 1: t.58, 1697 (fide Eckenwalder 1980)."

Etymology: The specific epithet literally means dwarf or pygmy. Although Z. pumila certainly is not the smallest of the species of Zamia when compared to Z. pygmaea or Z. fischeri, it was the only Zamia known when Linneaus described the species in 1763. He included the then known cycads, C. circinalis and Z. pumila, in the pinnately leaved palms and consequently in comparison considered the Zamia to be a dwarfed palm.

Historical notes: Zamia pumila was the first species described for the genus and hence is the type species for Zamia and the Zamiaceae. Historically there has been much confusion as to the identity of this species and as consequent there are numerous synonyms and redescriptions in the older literature. The concept became more stabilized with the formal lecotypification by Eckenwalder ( 1980) and the subsequent identification of numerous synonyms.

Distinguishing features: Reddish seed cones with a distinct acuminate tip combined with leaflets with distinct apical teeth serve to distinguish Z. pumila from Z. integrifolia.

Distribution and habitat: Historically the range of Z. pumila was Central Cuba, Southern Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola. The species is now limited to Central Cuba and the Dominican Republic and appears to have been eradicated due to intensive land use in Southern Puerto Rico and Haiti. Plants do particularly well is very well drained soils. This includes limestone soils and even sandy beach strand soils. Generally speaking the plants that are in a situation under shrubs are more vigorous.

Conservation: Zamia pumila is fairly common throughout its current range particularly in the Dominican Republic. Not listed in 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants because it is not considered threatened.


Stems subterranean and tuberous, 3-10 [25] cm in diameter, often dichotomously branched.

Cataphylls from 1-2 cm long, sheathing at first, with a pair of inconspicuous stipules.

Leaves 2-15; petioles with stipules, smooth; rachis smooth, bearing 5-30 pairs of leaflets.

Leaflets oblong, acute to somewhat rounded apically, often deeply cleft, with 10-15 distinct teeth in upper fourth, median ones 8-25 cm long and 0.5-2 cm wide.

Pollen cones 1-30, pedunculate, dark reddish brown, cylindrical to ovoid-cylindrical, apex acute, 3-15 cm long and 0.8-2 cm in diameter.

Seed cones 1-5, pedunculate, dark reddish brown sometimes, cylindrical to slightly ovoid with acuminate apex,6-15 cm long and 4-6 cm in diam.

Seeds with a red to orange-red, ovoid, 1-2 cm long.

2n = 16.

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
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