Photo Dennis Stevenson
The Cycad Pages
Zamia fairchildiana

Zamia fairchildiana L.D. Gómez, Phytologia 50: 401-404 (1982).
"TYPE: Costa Rica, Rio Claro, near Serena, Peninsula de Osa, Puntarenas, L.D. Gomez 7948 (holo CR)."

from Gomez (1982)

Etymology: named in honor of Dr. Graham Fairchild entomologist in Central America, avid cycad student, and son of David Fairchild.

Historical notes: Slightly before and following the publication of Zamia fairchildiana and Zamia pseudomonticola, the identity of the two species has been confused as a result of incorrect labeling of plants introduced into botanical garden and private collections. Examination of the type specimens, descriptions, and the illustrations of leaflets accompanying the original publication indicates that the names of these two species have been reversed in these collections. The outline drawings of the leaflets presented here are taken from the original publication. It is clear from these illustrations that Z. pseudomonticola, Figure I, has been misidentified as Z. fairchildiana, Figures E-F, and vice versa.

Distinguishing features: Zamia fairchildiana is characterized by obvious subfalcate leaflets, 2-4 cm wide, that are sparsely toothed in the upper fourth and acute apically and seed cones from 20-30 cm long. In contrast, Z. pseudomonticola is characterized by elliptic to elliptic-lanceolate leaflets, 4-6 cm wide, that are entire margined and abruptly long acuminate apically and seed cones 12-20 cm long.

Distribution and habitat: Southeastern Costa Rica with populations occurring sporadically to Cuna Yala in eastern Panama. This species is found at elevations from 50-1500 m, but is most common with the largest populations occurring on slopes of varying soil types ranging from rocky to clay from 400-900 m in primary and secondary rainforest.

Conservation status: Zamia fairchildiana may be the most common cycad species in Panama. There are several large reproducing populations some of which are now in protected forests. Not listed in the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants.


Stem arborescent, 0.5-1 m tall, 6-15 cm diam.

Leaves 3-10, O.7-2 (2.5) m long; petiole densely prickled, 0.3-0.5 (0.8) m long; rachis with prickles in lower third, 10-30 pairs of leaflets.

Leaflets oblong, subfalcate basally, acute apically, sparsely serrulate apically, the larger median ones 20-40 cm long, 2-4 cm wide.

Pollen cones cream to yellow, cylindrical, 10-40 cm long, 2-5 cm diam.

Seed cones yellow-green to light brown, cylindrical 20-30 cm long, 6-10 cm diam.

Seeds red, ovoid, 1-1.5 cm long.

The Cycad Pages

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Written and maintained by Ken Hill 1998-2010
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