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This is a "living fossil" plant, surviving on earth since the time of the dinosaurs. Cardboard Palm belongs to the Cycad family (cycad is greek for "palm" which many cycads resemble). Other cycads include Coontie Palm and Sago Palm (neither of these are really palms!) Cardboard Palm has 3 to 4 foot leaves that emerge from a central point forming a rosette. When grown in bright sunlight the rosette becomes a 3 foot high clump of tightly overlapping leaves that will slowly grow to 6 feet in diameter. The thick leathery leaves are pinnate and have 5 inch long by 1 inch wide oval leaflets. They are slightly fuzzy and feel a little like cardboard when rubbed (hence the name Cardboard Palm!) The foliage emerges from a thick fleshy trunk that serves as a water reservoir in times of drought. Male and female reproductive structures (cones) form on separate plants. Even very young plants produce these interestingly shaped cones. When ripe, the female cone breaks to reveal an array of tightly packed, bright red 1 inch seeds. Location Cardboard Palm is native to the warm sandy coastal plains of Mexico and is a common landscape item in tropical and sub-tropical areas all over the world. It is also a popular and easy to grow houseplant. Plant in neutral, well-drained sandy soil. Mulch with organic materials (bark or leaf mold). Sustains leaf damage at 28 degrees F. Cardboard palm makes a great accent or specimen plant. Use near the patio, in mixed foundation plantings or in perennial beds. This cycad is salt resistant and can be used in beachside plantings. Also makes a great container plant for the patio or deck. It is a great houseplant tough enough to survive occasional neglect and harsh indoor environments. Large outdoor clumps are striking as the light olive green new growth emerges to hover above a base of darker mature leaves. Specimens can be grown indoors in shallow containers. Used this way, the partially exposed tuberous stem and the airy crown of leaves create a striking bonsai specimen. With it beautiful shape, exotic looking cones and instinct for survival, Cardboard Palm is one of the favorite indoor plants.
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.
An ancient relic, along with Gonatopus, with a unique characteristic (for Aroids) in that the leaflet can fall to the ground, root and form bulblets. This feature is not known in aroids outside of the Zamioculcadeae. It has strong, shiny elliptical leaves which are like tall, green feathers growing out of the pot, which give it a distinctly quirky appearance. The stalks are fleshy. Tolerates low water, low light and a degree of neglect which make it a fine houseplant. Easy to look after, it prefers to be too dry rather than too wet, so water sparingly. A sign of overwatering is if the lower leaves turn yellow. Zamioculcas has been made available for cultivation to a wider public only some years ago (around 1996) by Dutch nurseries.