Catakidozamia macleayi Miq.
Encephalartos denisonii (C.Moore & F.Muell.) F.Muell.
Lepidozamia denisonii (C.Moore & F.Muell.) Regel
Lepidozamia minor Miq.
Macrozamia denisonii C.Moore & F.Muell.
Macrozamia gigas Miq.
Macrozamia peroffskyana (Regel) Miq.
Zamia macleayi J.Schust.
Lepidozamia peroffskyana is an evergreen, palm-like plant with an erect main stem that can eventually be around 5 metres tall and cm in diameter; this is topped by a crown of large leaves each around cm long[
The plant was a traditional food of the native Aborigines, though it is little eaten at present. It is grown as an ornamental in gardens from the tropics to the warm temperate zone[
Although declining in some places due to habitat destruction, Lepidozamia peroffskyana still maintains large and stable populations across its range. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2010)[
We have no specific information for this species, but most if not all members of this genus are believed to contain toxins. The two main toxic compounds that have been identified are cycasin and macrozamin. When ingested in sufficient quantities, these compounds are extremely poisonous to humans and many other animals, and have been shown to cause liver damage and cancer. Cycasin and macrozamin have a cumulative effect upon the body and are suspected of causing neurological disorders when ingested in small amounts over long periods of time.
There is a long history of human use of this genus as a starch-rich food, but it should be noted that the plants needed to be treated in various ways in order to remove any toxic principles. Caution should be exercised even with properly prepared foods, since even then regular consumption may lead to severe health problems and death. Since many of these species are becoming increasingly rare in the wild, this is probably a food best left to times of food shortage when other, better foods, are not available[
Australia - northeast New South Wales, southeast Queensland
Scattered in small colonies in wet sclerophyll forests or on rainforest margins, usually in steep country; at elevations from sea level to 1,000 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Lepidozamia peroffskyana is found in moist forests in the warm temperate to subtropical zone in eastern Australia. Temperatures range from summer highs above 32°c to winter lows of 2°c with light frosts. In cultivation, several degrees of frost will not damage the leaves[
], Mean annual rainfall is around 1,700 - 2,000mm, falling mainly in summer and autumn[
An easily grown plant that seems to adapt well to various soil, water, and light conditions[
]. It grows best in dappled shade, but is not demanding in its requirements providing drainage is good[
]. It can withstand extended dry periods[
The plant is slow growing but can produce an attractive foliage display in 3 - 4 years from seed[
Well adapted to surviving fires, the plant quickly sprouts a new crown if the old leaves are burnt[
Species in this genus often form structures known as coralloid roots. These roots branch off from the taproot or secondary roots and are distinctive in that they grow laterally or upward, forming a nodular mass at the apex. These coralloid roots occur slightly below or slightly above the soil surface and generally contain cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. These are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available as a nutrient to the plant. The ability to extract this important nutrient from the air explains how many cycad species are able to survive on almost sterile soils[
The plant contains toxins, and no part of it should be eaten unless it is treated to remove these toxins. See notes above.
Seed - cooked[
]. A traditional food of the native Aborigines, the seed was treated in order to remove toxins and then ground into a starch-rich powder[
]. The large cones on female plants can weigh up to 30 kilos. They can be 90cm long and contain as many as 360 oblong seeds, each around 43 - 60mm long and 28 - 33mm in diameter[
A gum exudes more or less freely from the cut ends of the cones and bases of leaves. If put to drain on a plate, the flattened shapes of 'button lac' will be very readily obtained. If one of these flattened pieces is then placed in water, it begins to swell immediately, and this absorption of water goes on for several days, by the end of which period the gum has swelled to about fifty times its original size. It then presents the appearance of an almost colourless, quivering jelly.
This jelly assumes a pseudo-crystalline appearance, forming angular masses. This result is, of course, in consequence of the minute fissures in the dried gum. The gum breaks readily, has a bright fracture, and in the mouth feels somewhat like tragacanth[
The gum was suspected once of being responsible for the poisonous effects of these plants but has been exonerated[
The empty seeds are cut in two, then provided with a hinge and clasp, and used as match boxes[
The large seeds are easily germinated, but take several months before showing signs of life. Heat can speed the process but only after the seed has gone through its maturing period of about 6 months while the embryo develops. Some growers keep the seed in a bag in a cool, dark, moist place for up to 12 months before sowing, it should then germinate fairly quickly if given heat[
]. Sow the seeds in a tray in a freely-draining medium and place in moderate shade. Bottom heat at about 27°c will hasten seed germination dramatically. Young roots are quite brittle and once germination takes place, the root grows rapidly. It is important to pot up the seedlings at this time in order to give them enough root-space. Grow on the plants in pots until large enough to plant out[
If you have any useful information about this plant, please leave a comment. Comments have to be approved before they are shown here.