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Zamioculcas zamiifolia

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The genus is regarded to be monotypic, with Zamioculcas zamiifolia, a rhizomatous perennial with pinnate, glossy, dark green, succulent leaves and pinnae of rounded to narrow shape, as the only species. read about a distinctly "different" Zamioculcas in Florence, Italy

MOBOT (Missouri Botanical Garden) VAST (VAScular Tropicos) Nomenclatural Data Base entries for Zamioculcas zamiifolia (based on MAYO, S. (1985): Araceae. In: R. POLHILL (ed.). Flora of Tropical East Africa); amended from other sources:

Accepted name:

Zamioculcas zamiifolia   (LODD.) ENGL.
published in: Das Pflanzenreich IV. 23B (Heft 37 Araceae-Pothoideae): p. 305. 1908 - {Pflanzenr. IV. 23B}
[read] A. Engler's description of the genus Zamioculcas and of Z. zamiifolia (HTML version)


Caladium zamiaefolium   LODD.
published in: The Botanical Cabinet, consisting of coloured delineations of plants, from all countries, with a short account of each, directions for management & c. & c. By CONRAD LODDIGES & Sons. The plates by GEORGE COOKE. Vol. 15 (1829). t. 1408 - {Bot. Cab. 15: t. 1408}

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, habit. Illustration by Verona Warkentin Simmons (18 KB) © 1999 by Dennis and Linda Cathcart, used with kind permission. To visit their website, just follow the link below !
Zamioculcas zamiifolia,
© 1999 D. & L. Cathcart
(used with kind permission)

Zamioculcas zamiifolia,
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© Tom Croat,
Missouri Botanical Garden


Zamioculcas lanceolata   PETER
published in: Nachrichten von der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Mathematisch-physikalische Klasse. Heft 3 (Die Araceae Deutsch-Ostafrikas). p. 209, in clavi, p. 220. 1929 - {Nachr. Ges. Wiss. Gottingen, Math.-Phys. Kl.}
[read] A. Peter's description of Zamioculcas lanceolata; key to the species of Zamioculcas (HTML version)

also quoted as:
Zamioculcas lanceolata   A.PETER
in: Nachr. Ges. Wiss. Gott. Math.-phys. Kl. pp. 185-225 (1929); cf. K. KRAUSE in ENGL. Jahrb. LXIV. Literaturber. p. 9 (1931).

Zamioculcas loddigesii   SCHOTT, nom. illeg.
published in: Synopsis aroidearum complectens enumerationem systematicam generum et specierum huius ordinis. p. 71. 1856 {Syn. Aroid. 71.}

Originally described as Zamioculcas:

Zamioculcas boivinii   DECNE.
published in: Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France 17: 321. 1870. {Bull. Soc. Bot. France}
is a Synonym for Gonatopus boivinii   (DECNE.) ENGL. (published in: Monographiae Phanerogamarum 2: p. 209. 1879. {Monogr. Phan.}.

Note: Zamioculeas, Zamiacaulcas zamiafolia, Z. zamiofolia etc. are no synonyms, but simply misspelled.

A. PETER's article:
full (gif images)
© 2001 SUB Göttingen

transcript (html)
of key and of latin description
transcript: description of Z. lanceolata; key to the species of Zamioculcas (HTML 13 KB)

transcript (PDF 156 KB)
of all Zamioculcas related passages

get Acrobat® Reader® complete transcript of all Zamioculcas related passages (PDF 156kB)

Taxonomical history

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   The Type specimen is an image named Caladium zamiaefolium in Vol. 15 (1828) of CONRAD LODDIGES's "Botanical Cabinet", a collection of 2000 botanical images published in 20 volumes between 1817 and 1833. Loddiges & Sons was a british nursery that became famous for the introduction of many new tropical species to Europe.

   When HEINRICH WILHELM SCHOTT (1794-1865), Director of the Imperial Gardens at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, placed the plant depicted in the "Botanical Cabinet" into his new genus Zamioculcas in 1856, he named the only species Z. loddigesii in honour of LODDIGES.

   This epithet was declared invalid (according to the principle of priority in nomenclature) by ADOLF ENGLER (1844-1930), Professor at the University of Berlin and director of the Berlin Botanical Garden in Dahlem, in 1908. He recognized the earlier painting as a first description (and only changed the latin gender of the epithet to Z. zamiifolia).

   In 1929, the german botanist GUSTAV ALBERT PETER (1853-1937) described Z. lanceolata as a second species in the genus Zamioculcas, distinguishing it from Z. loddigesii as the other species.
This description is not recognized by taxonomy; presumably because PETER refers to the taxon with thick, ovoid pinnae as Z. loddigesii and characterizes his new Z. lanceolata as having thinner, lanceolate leaflets. Unfortunately, the type painting in LODDIGES's "Botanical Cabinet" is said to show the thin-leaved plant as well (pers. comm., unpublished), so PETER would only have re-described a taxon that had already been published validly before.
On the other hand, ENGLER (Pflanzenr. IV. 23B.), while recognizing LODDIGES's image as a first description, described Zamioculcas zamiifolia as having inflated leaf bases ["Folii (...) petiolus (...) e basi 2–3 cm crassa"] and elliptical- or obovate-lanceolate, pointed leaflets that are 8-15cm long and ~3-5cm wide ["foliolis (...) elliptico- vel obovato-lanceolatis acutis, (...) 8–15 cm longis, circ. 3–5 cm latis"], which matches PETER's description of "Z. loddigesii" rather than that of the thin-leaved plant that had been depicted by LODDIGES and that was given priority by ENGLER in the same article...

Annotation: Well, if these communications can be verified, this would leave one interesting question to be answered: What about the other taxon with thick, ovoid leaflets that is being traded as "Zamioculcas zamiifolia" in hundreds of thousands worldwide ?

   In my opinion, there is no doubt that there are indeed two different taxa (see below) that actually show differences that are similar to those described by PETER. However, with Z. zamiifolia being the only valid name in the genus at present, I will continue to use that name on these pages when referring to the thick-leaved plant with inflated leaf bases. The other taxon is referred to as "different" or "other" Zamioculcas. There will be no speculations about the taxonomical rank of either of these taxa on these pages at this time.

   If you happen to have an image of this painting (plate 1408 from Loddiges) or of plate 5985 by HOOKER in Curtis' Botanical Magazine (mentioned by ENGLER and PETER), I'd be most grateful to see it and/or to get permission to present it here.

A. Engler's description of the genus Zamioculcas and of Z. zamiifolia (HTML version)
ENGLER's article online

A. Peter's description of Zamioculcas lanceolata; key to the species of Zamioculcas (HTML version)
PETER's article online








Second Taxon
in Zamioculcas?

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   PETER's description of a second species - although not valid taxonomically - is still interesting. Within a week after the first draft of this page (describing my own observation of a "different" Zamioculcas in the Giardino dei Semplici in Florence, Italy) had gone online, I received email messages from two plant lovers on that very issue, confirming that they grow both "forms" and that the differences were evident.
Read about my observations on this page a "different" Zamioculcas in Florence, Italy

See annotation above.

   The National Botanic Garden of Belgium in Meise (near Brussels) has a second taxon as well in their Living Plants Collections (but not the one I'm referring to above):

Zamioculcas (Araceae)
Total of taxa: 2

Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Lodd.) Engl.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Lodd.) Engl. 'Variegata'

Annotation: This is the only reference to a variegated Zz that I have found so far. No image available yet.

(100 KB) © 2002-2003 Norbert Anderwald
"different" Zamioculcas
in Firenze, Italy
(May 2001)

a "different" Zamioculcas in Florence, Italy


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   The name Zamioculcas derives from Zamia (a genus of the cycad family Zamiaceae) and qolqas (Arabic for taro, i.e. the tropical crop Colocasia esculenta. The name of this aroid genus, Colocasia, contains the same stem).

   The reference to Zamia relates to a certain similarity with the pinnate leaves of some members of this Cycad genus that have dark green, ± xeromorph leaflets with a shape reminding of those of Zz. This superficial resemblance is repeated in the epithet zamiifolia (=with Zamia's leaves).

   Regardless of floral differences (Zamioculcas is a monocot angiosperm, Zamia is a cycad gymnosperm), Zamia -like virtually all Cycads- has a rosette of leaves on top of a normally monopodious wooden stem (and not alternate leaves from a tuberous underground rhizome like Zz); Zamia's leaflets are parallel-veined (Zz: reticulate), and no Cycad has either the quite conspicuous inflated leaf bases or the 'knee' in the leaf petiole of Zamioculcas.

   According to IPNI (International Plant Names Index), the epithets zamiifolium, zamiaefolia, or zamioides are also found in the following (mostly outdated) combinations (results © the Plant Names Project, quoted in full):

Alstroemeriaceae: Alstroemeria zamioides Baker
in: Journ. Bot. xv. (1877) 262.
Original Data: Notes: Bras

Aspleniaceae: Asplenium zamiifolium Willd.
in: Species Plantarum ed. 4, 5(1) (25-27 Jan. 1810) 325.
Type: As Text: "Habitat in umbrosis ad Caracas ... Brodemeyer."

Balanophoraceae: Ombrophytum zamioides Wedd.
in: Ann. Sc. Nat. Ser. III. xiv. (1850) 184. t. 10.
Original Data: Notes: Peruv

Coniferae: Podocarpus zamiaefolia A.Rich.
in: Ess. Fl. N. Zel. 360.
Original Data: Notes: =Dammara australis

Coniferae: Podocarpus zamiaefolia Hort. ex Carr.
in: Conif. ed. I. 441.
Original Data: Notes: =latifolia

   An english vernacular name for Zamioculcas is "Aroid Palm"; however, Zz is not a tree (it does not even have a wooden stem), which is a very distinctive character of (most) palms. (After all, you wouldn't call a fern or a member of the Apiaceae a "palm", only because it has pinnate leaves, would you?)

   The (quasi) common English name "Zz plant" has no connection with "ZZ Top" (a music group), but is, of course, an abbreviation of the scientific name. (Annotation:  ;-)

Images of some species of Zamia:
Zamia pumila
© James Manhart
Zamia furfuracea
© www.cycad.org
Zamia fischeri
Zamia loddigesii
© Hugh Wilson

Other Literature references

(not available online)

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Other literature references (from various www sources) in chronological order (see also nomenclature):
(I'd be most grateful for submissions of any of these texts!)

Zamioculcas SCHOTT (1856)
Tribe Zamioculcadeae SCHOTT ex ENGL.,
- Nova Acta Acad. Leopold-Carol. 39: 141. 1876 (Zamioculcaseae).

ENGLER, A. (1881b). Über Reproduction von Zamioculcas loddigesii DECNE. aus ihren Fiederblättchen. - Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 1: 189-190.

OBERMEYER, A. A. & R. G. STREY. (1969). Zamioculcas zamiifolia. - Kongel. Danske Vidensk. Selsk. Skr., Naturvidensk. Math. Afd., ser. 7: 40.

SORAN, V., B. SMITH & R. VINTILA. (1973). Absorption spectra of Zamioculcas boivinii chloroplasts recorded in vivio and after isolation by micro-spectrophotometric method. - Z Pflanzenphysiol) 1973, 69 (2): 100-108.
(Note: Zamioculcas boivinii is a synonym of Gonatopus boivinii; see nomenclature)

TRAGER, JN. (1982). Cacti and succulents for the amateur. - Cact. Succ. J. (U.S.A.) 54(4): 160-161 (1982)- illus. - notes: Zamioculcas zamifolia.

KAPLAN, D. R. (1983). The development of palm leaves Zamioculcas zamiifolia. - Scientific American July 1983. v. 249 (1) (Sci Am): 98-105. ill. 

MAYO, S. (1985): Araceae. - In: POLHILL, R. (ed.): Flora of Tropical East Africa.

TROFIMOVA, I. A. (1985). (Transl. Title:) Biomorphology and development of Zamioculcas in greenhouse conditions. - Biulleten' Glavnogo botanicheskogo sada. (Biull Gl Bot Sada) 1985. (137): 79-83. ill.

BARABÉ, D. & S. FORGET. (1988b). Anatomie des fleurs fertiles et steriles de Zamioculcas (Araceae). - Bull. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat., Paris, Adansonia 10(4): 411-419.

NEWTON, L. (1997). Zamioculcas zamiifolia. - Ballya 4(3): 68-69 (1997)

HESSE, M., J. BOGNER, H. HALBRITTER, M. WEBER. (2001): Palynology of the perigoniate Aroideae: Zamioculcas, Gonatopus and Stylochaeton (Araceae) - In: CIVEYREL, L., C. A. FURNESS, G. El GHAZALY (ed.): The Role of Palynology in Phylogeny and Systematics. Pollen symposium. XVI International Palynological Congress, Saint Louis 1999. - Grana 40(1-2): 26 - 34
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genus page distribution page
July 9, 2001
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January 19, 2003

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