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.
Common Name: Coontie, Seminole bread, Florida arrowroot, compties, comfort root
Botanical Name: Zamia pumila syn. Zamia floridana
Plant Type: Cycad
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.
Source (“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”): THE AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY A-Z ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDEN PLANTS; NATIVE FLORIDA PLANTS: LOW-MAINTENANCE LANDSCAPING AMD GARDENING