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the coontie family
The type genus is Zamia, but the name arose as a misreading of Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia. Pliny had used the term azaniæ nuces to describe pine cones that open on the tree, having borrowed the word from the Greek, αζανειν (azanein), to dry up. A copying error led to the current name of this genus and family. Zamiaceae are tropical cycads that are superficially palm-like. Their cylindrical stems are often underground, but sometimes tall and erect, the stems often clad with persistent leaf bases, especially in Australian genera. The leaves are simply pinnate, spirally arranged, interspersed with cataphylls; the leaflets are sometimes dichotomously divided. The plants are dioecious: the male spore-bearing leaves are spirally aggregated into cone-like structures that grow along the axes; the female are densely crowded, and each bear 2 ovules. Seeds are typically large, sometimes up to the size of goose eggs.
Dioon spinulosum - Giant Dioon
Zamia furfuraceae. - Cardboard Cycad
Photograph © Daniel L. Nickrent, available from http://www.phytoimages.siu.edu
Page last updated 31st March 2018