Photo Dennis Stevenson
The Cycad Pages
Zamia purpurea

Zamia purpurea "Vovides, J.D. Rees & Vázq. Torres", Flora de Veracruz 26: 28-31 (1983).
"TYPE: Mexico, Veracruz, Vovides 734 (holo XAL)."

Etymology: Named with reference to the deep reddish-purple emerging leaves and purplish young seed cones.

Historical notes: Described in 1983 from material collected in Veracruz.

Distinguishing features: Zamia purpurea is the only known species of Zamia with distinctly purple ovulate cones. Vegetatively the species can be distinguished from other species with subterranean stems and purplish emerging leaves that have only 3-5 pairs of leaflets with prominent venation, most notably, Z. dressleri. Zamia dressleri has much larger leaflets, 30-50 cm long and 12-15 cm wide, and prominent adaxial grooves between the veins in contrast to the smaller leaflets, 10-25 cm long and 2-8 cm wide, and non-grooved adaxial surface found in Z. purpurea. Additionally, Z. purpurea can be distinguished from other Central American species of Zamia such as Z. cremnophila, Z. lacandona, Z. standleyi, and Z. verschaffeltii with reddish to purplish emerging leaves because these species have neither elliptic leaflets nor prominent veins on the abaxial surface.

Distribution and habitat: Known only from a very few localities in Oaxaca and Veracruz, Mexico where it grows in at 100-500m in semi-evergreen to evergreen rainforest on well drained soils.

Conservation: Although surviving in cultivation, wild populations are few and far between and appear to be barely surviving. This is a species where thorough studies of its population structure and reproductive biology would go a long way in towards ensuring its survival. 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Category E,II,E.
Photo Ken Hill


Stem subterranean, 3-5 cm diam.

Cataphylls of two types, broadly triangular and 1-2 cm long or narrowly triangular and 2-4 cm long.

Leaves 2-6, 0.20-1 m long; petiole 10-50 cm long, sparsely to densely prickled; rachis with 3-6 pairs of leaflets, bright reddish-purple when emerging and often brownish green when mature.

Leaflets elliptic to oblong-elliptic, veins prominent and often slightly raised on abaxial surface but not grooved between on the adaxial surface, cuneate basally, acuminate apically, margins serrate in upper half, the larger median ones 10-25 cm long, 2-8 cm wide.

Pollen cones light-brown, short pedunculate, conical to cylindrical, 2.5-3.5 cm long, 0.8-1 cm diam.; microsporophylls with blunt peltate tips, sporangia on abaxial surface only.

Seed cones purplish to purplish brown, short pedunculate, ovoid cylindrical, 6-8 cm long, 3-4 cm diam.

Seeds red, ovoid, 0.7 cm diam.

2n = 22.

The Cycad Pages

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Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
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