on this page: untypical aroid - perigonate Aroideae species - perigonate Aroideae distribution - genetic resources

Zamioculcas SCHOTT
and related genera

intro species page

and the
Aroid family

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Zamioculcas is a quite untypical member of the Aroid Family (Araceae):

- It has pinnate leaves of the type mainly found in dicots. Pinnation originates from a fractioning of meristemous tissue during initial phases of leaf development, opposed to the compound leaves of many other monocots, e.g. Monstera or many palms (Arecaceae), where pinnation originates from necrosis of already developed leaf tissue.
Within the aroid family, pinnate leaves are known only from Zamioculcas (pinnate) and Gonatopus (bi- or tripinnate).

- Complete regeneration can be observed from leaflets (even from partial cuttings; see image), from entire leaves, or from bare leaf stalks (own observation). According to the UConn EEB Conservatory, this potential is unique in the Araceae:

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.

- The unisexual* flowers have a developed perigon, a feature that -within the usually aperigonate Aroideae subfamily- Zamioculcas has in common only with Gonatopus and Stylochaeton (perigonate Aroideae).

*) Note: The flowers of Zamioculcas are morphologically hermaphroditical, but physiologically unisexual. Male (and sterile) flowers show an infertile pistil (see image); female flowers contain "stamina imperfecta" (Engler).

- According to P.F. STEVENS (2001 onwards) (Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 3, May 2002), "Zamioculcas has introse* anthers" (apparently in contrast to the rest of the aroid family).

*) recte: "introrse" (which means "facing inward; turned toward the axis. Used especially of anthers." © American Heritage® Dictionary)

- According to M. HESSE (1999), palynological characters support the placement of Zamioculcas - along with Gonatopus - into an own subfamily of the Araceae:

The inaperturate pollen of the aperigonate Aroideae has a thick, spongy endexine, which is mostly covered by a polysaccharidic stratum (Weber et al. Int J Pl Sci 160/2, 1999).
Pollen of the perigoniate Aroideae (sensu Mayo et al., 1997: Zamioculcas, Gonatopus and Stylochaeton) deviates from that of the aperigonate in important exine and aperture characters (thick nonapertural ektexine and thick apertural endexine in the zonosulcate Z. and G., thin, unstratified ektexine in the inaperturate St.).
The palynological characters underline the present tribal alignement of Z./G., and of St., but support even the placement of Z. and G. in a new subfamily with St. still remaining in the Aroideae.
The presence or absence of an aperture, of the polysaccharidic stratum or of the spongy endexine appears connected with the aroid floral biology.

The genus is regarded to be monotypic, with Z. zamiifolia as the only species.species page

Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Zz leaflet, upper side (45kB) © 2002 Norbert Anderwald
leaflet, upper side
Leaflet cutting with young tuber, 1 year old. (66kB) © 2002 Norbert Anderwald
Leaflet cutting
with young tuber
(upper and lower sides).
The leaflet has dried up;
the tuber is still alive.

fertile female and immature male flowers (44 KB) © 2002 Norbert Anderwald
above: immature male flower;
below: fertile female flower

top: male and sterile flower (longitudinal section); below: stamen (dorsal and frontal view). From A. Engler, Das Pflanzenreich IV. 23B. p. 305, Fig. 85 C-E
above: male and sterile flower (longitudinal section); below: stamen (dorsal and frontal view).
From A. Engler, Pflanzenr. IV. 23B. p. 305, Fig. 85 C-E

Perigonate Aroideae:
Species list

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Described and accepted names of the 3 genera of the perigonate Aroideae. The list includes the number of synonyms or infraspecific taxa (according to IPNI and MOBOT), but only the accepted species (according to MOBOT) are listed by name (along with generic synonyms).

According to MOBOT, Stylochaeton (Stylochiton) has 23 currently accepted species, Gonatopus has 4, and Zamioculcas is monotypic.

Total number of described taxa,
including synonyms and infraspecific taxa
Accepted names
Zamioculcas SCHOTT 5 5 zamiifolia (LODD.) ENGL.
Gonatopus HOOK. f. ex ENGL.

(incl. Microculcas,
7 8 boivinii (DECNE.) ENGL.
- Microculcas PETER 2 2 (Syn. of Gonatopus marattioides)
- Heterolobium PETER 2 2 (Syn. of Gonatopus petiolatus)
Stylochaeton LEPRIEUR, 1834
(see also: Stylochiton)
5 3 bogneri MAYO
natalensis SCHOTT, 1853
zenkeri ENGL.
- Stylochiton SCHOTT, 1855
(orth. var. of Stylochaeton)
32 41 angolensis ENGL., 1892
barteri N.E. BR.
bogneri MAYO, 1985
borumensis N.E. BR.
chevalieri ENGL., 1907
crassispathus BOGNER, 1984
cuculliferus PETER, 1930
dalzielii N.E. BR., 1910
euryphyllus MILDBR., 1936
gabonicus N.E. BR.
grandis N.E. BR.
hostiifolius ENGL.
hypogeum LEPR., 1834
kerensis N.E. BR.
lancifolius KOTSCHY & PEYR., 1867
milneanus MAYO, 1985
natalensis SCHOTT, 1853
puberulus N.E. BR.
rogersii N.E. BR., 1912
salaamicus N.E. BR., 1901
similis N.E. BR.
warneckei ENGL.
zenkeri ENGL., 1899

48 KB © 2002 Norbert Anderwald
Zamioculcas zamiifolia
- male flowers

Gonatopus boivinii
- inflorescence
© 2001 Rainer Martin

- single leaf
© 2000 D. & L. Cathcart

- habit, inflorescence
© 2001 Charles E. Dills

- inflorescences, info
© 2001 Cal Lemke

Stylochaeton bogneri
- leaves
© 2001 David Scherberich

Perigonate Aroideae:

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The three genera all originate from tropical (South-) East (to Central) Africa, with Stylochaeton occurring also in Western Africa. Distribution (compiled from various sources):

(incl. Stylochiton, orth. var.)
sources: IPNI; MOBOT
(incl. Microculcas,
sources: IPNI; MOBOT
sources: GRIN/NPGS,
except *) sources: PETER, ENGLER ("Ob wild?")
"Afr. trop." "Afr. trop." "Afr. trop."
West & Central Africa East Africa Central & East Africa East Africa
Sierra Leone Sudan (Chari)
Ghana Ethiopia
Nigeria Congo
Cameroon Kenya Kenya Kenya
(Democratic Republic
of the Congo)
Tanzania Tanzania
(Tanganyika, Zanzibar)
(Tanganyika, Zanzibar)
Central African Republic Malawi Malawi Malawi
Gabon Zambia Zambia
Angola Mozambique Mozambique Mozambique
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
South Africa South Africa
(Transvaal, Natal)
South Africa
Réunion Island
distribution page
Countries where 2 or all three genera are reported from are highlighted in grey.

Annotation: The list may be incomplete, as "Afr. trop." is not a very accurate term.

Note the almost identical list of countries for Gonatopus and Zamioculcas. This might indicate close relationship or common ancestry.

It is conspicuous that Stylochaeton, in addition to palynological differences (see above), also has both a much wider distribution and a larger number of species. This might indicate that this genus represents a younger clade, while Gonatopus and Zamioculcas could be remnants from an older clade, more specialized e.g. towards drought resistance (Zamioculcas: tolerance by succulence; Gonatopus: avoidance by dormancy).

The UConn EEB Conservatory says that Gonatopus (and Zamioculcas) are regarded to be relics from the Tertiary period:

Gonatopus (...) A unique genus closely allied to Zamioculcas and both genera are of African origin that together form the tribe Zamioculcadeae. Considered to be relics of the ancient african flora that survived the extinctions caused by climate changes in the Tertiary and Quaternary epochs.


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Genetic information resources

Links to genetic information resources on Zamioculcas zamiifolia:

TAXON Info for TaxID 78374 (TBI division of the DKFZ in Heidelberg)

Search the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) databases for Zz.

Search engine of ARS Genome Database at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

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intro species page
July 9, 2001
open navigation frame last update:
October 29, 2002

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