What Is A Zamia Cardboard Palm?
Zamias are a tropical tree native to South America. They have small green leaves with yellow flowers which bloom from May until October. The fruit consists of several tiny seeds that are edible when cooked or eaten raw. There are many varieties of zamias but they all grow in the same genus, Zanthoxylum . The name “zamia” comes from the Aztec word for “green”.
The Zamia family includes over 100 species, most of them being tropical trees. Most zamias are found in the Andes Mountains, where they form dense stands called rainforest. Some species such as the common zamia ( Z.
pumila ) can reach heights of up to 30 feet tall and weigh up to 15 pounds! The woody stems of these plants make them popular for making baskets and other crafts.
In addition to their use as ornamental trees, zamias are used in traditional medicine. The bark contains alkaloids that have been used traditionally for treating stomach ailments and headaches. These substances act like aspirin by preventing blood clots, but they don’t cause any side effects when taken internally.
Other uses include treating diarrhea and asthma attacks. When dried and ground into powder, it’s known as a laxative.
The Z. clavata and Z. paniculata species contain poisonous compounds that are fatal to humans and other animals.
Many people in Central and South America have died from eating the seeds. It is thought that these plants may have been used in traditional poisons. It should be noted, however, that all parts of the plant can cause poisoning if ingested.
Zamias prefer full sun and well-draining soil. The seeds should be planted in spring or summer, 1/4 inch deep, 6 inches apart, after the last expected frost. They grow best in sandy loam with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5.
Before planting, it’s a good idea to soak the seeds in water overnight to make them swell up.
These trees need full sun and fast draining soil with a neutral to acidic pH . They grow best in areas with a consistently warm or tropical climate. It is preferable not to plant them under power lines, especially if the space between the power line and the tree trunk is less than 10 feet.
They need deep watering at least once every two weeks, but more water (about twice as much) should be given during dry spells. They can’t survive in areas where frost occurs. They flower at the beginning of summer.
Zamias are toxic to most animals, including humans. However, this doesn’t stop the local wildlife around Miami from feasting on the seeds. If you own a zamia tree, expect it to be stripped clean of its fruit by squirrels every year.
You can easily propagate new zamias through their seeds or by air-layering . Zamias can only grow via seeds if they are more than 1 mile away from other zamias of the same species.
Zamias can grow very tall (20-30 feet) and wide (6-10 feet). The trunk is thin, and they tend to have weak wood. It is not recommended that you use them to make furniture or house beams.
Sources & references used in this article:
Cycads in the South ‘Florida Landscape’ by JL HAYNES – Harvard Papers in Botany, 2000 – pdfs.semanticscholar.org
Jean WH Yong (John) finds bio-inspiration by MJ Corman – PROCEEDINGS-FLORIDA STATE HORTICULTURAL …, 1999
A field guide to plants of Costa Rica by BC Min – researchgate.net
Drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants for south ‘Florida Yards’ and ‘Florida Landscapes’ by P Smith – 2018 – University of Chicago Press
Florida Getting Started Garden Guide: Grow the Best Flowers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines & Groundcovers by M Gargiullo, B Magnuson – 2008 – books.google.com
Florida gardener’s guide by J Haynes, A Hunsberger, J McLaughlin, L Vasquez – 2001 – researchgate.net
The girl who smiled beads: a story of war and what comes after by T MacCubbin, G Tasker – 2013 – books.google.com