Zamia Integrifolia "Palatka Giant"
- Category: Plants
HabitatDry pinelands or dry oak woods, usually in sand or marl (coral rock), also in hammocks, from sea level to about 100 m (330 ft). On the Gulf Coast it is often associated with shell deposits left by early Indian inhabitants.
DistributionUnited States, extreme southeastern Georgia, southward through peninsular Florida, including the Florida keys.
In 1767, Dr Alexander Garden, of Charleston, South Carolina sent plants that reached the garden of the princess of Wales in 1768. There they came to the attention of William Aiton, the superintendant, Aiton was a Scot who had been hired by Alexandra, princess of Wales, to establish a botanical garden at Kew, her residence. It was from this beginning that the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, emerged as a scientific institution. From Gardens, specimens, Carl Linnaeus, the son, described Zamia integrifolia in Auton's Hortus kewensis in 1789.
The taxonomy of the Floria zamias is still not acceptable to all researchers of the genus, and there continue to be many unanswered questions. At present, Zamia integrifolia is the only name used for all zamias found in Florida and George. In the past, Z. augustifolia (actually a Bahamian species), Z. floridana, Z. silvicola, and Z. umbrosa had all been described from or attributed to Florida. Not only are the Florida zamias assigned to Z. integrifolia but most of those from the West Indies as well. The West Indian populations differ more dramatically in their morphology and need more detailed study. Needless to say, there is still work to be done in the Z. integrifolia complex.
The various forms found in Florida, though growing in differing habitats, have genetic differences that cannot be accounted for by the effects of their surroundings.
Zamia integrifolia grows well in cultivation and is generally trouble-free. Larvae of the Zamia butterfly (Eumaeus atala) can attack it. It does best in subtropical to tropical climates but can grow equally well in temperate climates. It must always be planted with the tuper slightly below ground level to protect it in times of freezing weather. Even if its leaves are killed by frost, it will send up a new flush as soon as the weather warms. The small size of Z. integrifolia makes it a fine border plant or for use in any cramped garden space. Multiheaded specimens are good subjects for bonsai and in other types of planters.
The conservation status Zamia integrifolia is not good. The decline of the Florida zamias started in the nineteenth century when massive numbers of Z. integrifolia were removed from their habitat to be processed into Floria arrowroot, a flourlike starch produced used in making bread and crackers. During the peak production years, 9100 - 14,000 kg (10-15 tons) of plants were processed each day! The last factory closed in 1925 after the Zamia populations became too small to support it. In contemporary times, habitat destruction for agriculture and housing development has dealt a devastating blow to the continued existence of Florida zamias. More recently, Florida zamias have reached new heights of popularity as garden and landscape plants. In a highway project, several thousand plants were used in plantings along a major freeway. This growing popularity has caused more interest in artificial propagation, and many thousands of these zamias are now grown from seed.