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Last Update 08/29/12

Florida Native Plant Section

Florida Native TM FloridaGardener.com

Zamia pumila syn. Zamia floridana

 Coontie, Seminole bread, Florida arrowroot

Coontie -- pronounced kün-tē -- (Zamia pumila syn. Zamia floridana) aka arrowroot,  compties, Seminole bread or comfort root.

The coontie is a Florida native that is a Cycad -- a "living fossil." These primitive plants were a dominant form of plant life during the time of the Dinosaurs and are a larval food for the rare Florida Atala butterfly.

When the Seminoles moved into Florida in the 1700s, they used this plant as a food source. The Indians would cut up pieces of the stems and pound them into a powder which they would wash in water several times to form a starch paste. The paste was fermented, dried and used as flour. The Creek (Florida dialect) word kontí· roughly means “flour root”.

In the 1800’s several factories in Florida produced starch from the coontie and as the plant grows very slowly -- it can take 30 years to grow a plant that might have a large enough stem to weigh five pounds -- between the starch factories harvesting them and development in Florida, wild coontie was almost wiped out!

Coontie is not a plant for the water-wise gardener as it prefers rich, moist, well drained soil (in the wild it grows in Florida hammocks and pinelands, FYI it is on the Florida Commercially Exploited Plant list, which prohibits collecting it from the wild). Coontie will grow in full sun, but prefers partial shade.

 

Zamia groundcover. Click image to enlarge.

Zamia groundcover.
Click image to enlarge.

Zamia. Click image to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Ken Martz.

Zamia. Click image to enlarge.
Photo courtesy of
Ken Martz.

Zamia male cones covered in pollen. Click image to enlarge.

Zamia male cones covered in pollen.
Click image to enlarge.

Zamia female cones. Click image to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Ken Martz.

Zamia female cones.Click image to enlarge.
Photo courtesy of
Ken Martz.

Zamia seeds emerging from female cone. Click image to enlarge.

Zamia seeds emerging from female cone.
Click image to enlarge.

Zamia seeds. Click image to enlarge.

Zamia seeds.
Click image to enlarge.

Plant Facts:

Common Name:   Coontie, Seminole bread, Florida arrowroot, compties, comfort root

Botanical Name:   Zamia pumila syn. Zamia floridana

Plant Type:  Cycad

Zones: 8-11

Height:  Clumping plant to 3' high spreading to 6' or more.

Soil Requirements:  Fertile, moist, well-drained soil.

Water Requirements: Water freely during growing season, less water in cooler months.

Light Requirements: Full sun (with midday shade) to partial shade.

Leaves:  Terminal rosettes of pinnate leaves, 24-48" long, each with up to 60 linear to inversely lance-shaped, leathery, deep-green leaflets.

Flowers: Large, russet-green flower cones eventually turn felted-dark brown. To 6" long, usually in summer. Male and female cones on separate plants.

Fruit: Female cones bear shiny orange seeds after pollination.

Uses:  Protected species -- do not collect from the wild. Great for use as a slow-growing, low maintenance ground cover. Deep tap roots make Zamia difficult to transplant from established plantings. NOT EDIBLE! Are parts of coontie contain the toxin cycasin.

Propagation:  Seed

Source:  Native Florida Plants: Low-Maintenance Landscaping and Gardening;   AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY A-Z ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDEN PLANTS

 
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