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This is a strange, bizarre desert plant which grows from a short, thick trunk, with only two leaves that continuously grow from their base, and a long, thick taproot. After germination, the cotyledons grow to 25-35 mm in length, and are followed shortly afterwards by the appearance of the two permanent leaves. These leaves are produced opposite that of the cotyledons, and continue to grow throughout the life of the plant, eventually growing to 2-4 m long and usually becoming split into several strap-shaped sections.
A small, tough, woody cycad native to the southeast United States (Florida, Georgia), the Bahamas and the Caribbean south to Grand Cayman and Puerto Rico (possibly extinct on this island). The common name is Coontie or Koonti, derived from the Seminole Native American language conti hateka. This cycad produces reddish seed cones with a distinct acuminate tip. The leaves are 1-3 ft long, with 5-30 pairs of leaflets (pinnae). Each leaflet is linear to lanceolate or oblong-obovate, 3-10" long and 1" wide, entire or with indistinct teeth at the tip. They are often revolute, with prickly petioles. It is similar in many respects to the closely related Zamia pumila, but that species differs in the more obvious toothing on the leaflets. This is a low-growing plant, with trunk that grows to 1 ft high and diameter, but is often subterranean. Over time, it forms a multi-branched cluster, with a large, tuberous root system, which is actually an extension of the above-ground stems. Like other cycads, Zamia integrifolia is dioecious, having male or female plants. The male cones are cylindrical, growing to 2-5" long; they are often clustered. The female cones are elongate-ovoid and grow to 2-6" cm long and 2-3" in diameter. Inhabits a variety of habitats with well-drained sands or sandy loam soils. It prefers filtered sunlight to partial shade. A very hardy, and easily grown species for sub-tropical, and warm temperate areas. They prefer lightly shaded, well drained sandy soils. Once common to locally abundant, Zamia integrifolia is becoming increasingly uncommon. Populations are presently limited to central Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Though it was once endemic to southern Puerto Rico and Haiti, it appears to have been eradicated in those areas due to intensive land use. This plant is poisonous, producing a toxin that affects the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. The toxin can however be removed by careful leaching, and the roots and half-buried stems were used by Native American people (notably the Tequesta Indians, the Seminole Indians and the Maroons) for their yield of a sago-like starch. Sago is prepared from the stems. Sago is a dry granulated starch imported from the East Indies, much used for making puddings and as an article of diet for the sick; also, as starch, for stiffening textile fabrics. The root is typically prepared for food by grinding it using a wooden mortar and pestle. The pulp is then saturated and drained. The drained fluid is allowed to dry and the resulting yellowish flour is used in the preparation of various foods. In industrial preparation, multiple macerations serve to bleach the flour to a whiter color.
This is an old fashioned, but very rewarding garden plant. Zantedeschia is named after Professor Zantedeschi, probably Giovanni Zantedeschi, 1773-1846, an Italian physician and botanist. The flowers are faintly scented and this attracts various crawling insects and bees which are responsible for pollinating the flowers. The spathe turns green after flowering and covers the ripening berries. It rots away when these are ripe and the succulent yellow berries attract birds, which are responsible for seed dispersal. The rhizome is large and eaten by wild pigs and porcupines and the ripe fruit enjoyed by birds. Raw plant material causes swelling of the throat because of microscopic, sharp calcium oxalate crystals. The leaves are used as a poultice and a treatment for headaches. May be used as a marginal plant along streams, or on the edge of a pond. Plant in partial shade if there is no permanent water. It can be planted as a foliage plant in deep shade under trees but will not flower well in this position. It is fast growing and likes very rich, well-drained conditions. It is an excellent cutflower and lasts a long time in water. Nowadays there are other forms of this species which will enliven an old theme. There is also an attractive form with leaves spotted white. Requires consistently moist soil.
Z. strateumatica, has become naturalized in southern Florida after being introduced into the area as an adventive with Centipede Grass from China (this is where the Florida nickname "Centipede Grass Orchid" came from for this species.) Looks too nice to be just a weed! It emerges in winter, blooming in late December and January; within a few weeks, the plants vanish. The following year, they may return, and from the same root a new plant will grow next to the previous one.
This species is distributed from southeastern Viet Nam to the south of high central Viet Nam and extends to the eastern parts of Cambodia. Though rather common in southeastern Viet Nam, this species has only recently been described. The species is listed as Vulnerable. Species Authority: Mood and Theilade. In Pham (2003) this species is misidentified as Zingiber acuminatum.
The foliage is stunning. Its really a show stopper in the yard. Grows in shady places in evergreen to semi-evergreen forest undergrowth. Usually found as single plants, but rarely forming large clumps.