The Coontie is an ancient plant that produces long, palm-like leaves and no flowers. It has long, glossy, deep green leaves and large seed cones with bright orange seeds. It is a host plant for the rare and endangered Atala butterfly. Growing coontie is not difficult if you have the right spot for it and a warm climate. It adds tropical greenery to shady beds and enlivens indoor spaces when planted in containers. This plant goes by several names: coontie, Zamia coontie, Seminole bread, comfort root, and Florida arrowroot but all fall under the same scientific name of Zamia integrifolia. Native to Florida, southern Georgia and the Caribbean, this plant is related to those that existed well before the dinosaurs, although it is commonly mistaken for a type of palm or fern. The Seminole Indians as well as early European settlers extracted starch from the stem of the plant and it provided a dietary staple. Today, the coontie is threatened in its natural habitat. Easy to grow. Does best in rich, free-draining soil in full sun or part shade. Water in well in summer, back off a lot in winter. Use quality fertilizer regularly to produce strong growth. It is used in tropical gardens, Balinese gardens, native plant gardens and xeric gardens and as a groundcover, a border plant, a specimen plant, a potted plant and as a bonsai plant.
1. Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat.
2. Soak the seed in water for several hours.
3. The seeds like moist, sandy, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
4. Place the seeds on the soil.
5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. They germinate in a few weeks.
6. Water the seeds.
7. Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade.
8. When the seedlings have a few leaves, they can be transplanted.