Zamia lindleyi Warsz. ex A.Dietr., a distinct species native to the highlands of Panama, has in the past been erroneously treated as a synonym of Zamia chigua[
Zamia chigua has also been confused with Zamia roezlii, a distinct species that is also native to Colombia[
Aulacophyllum ortgiesii Regel
Palmifolium chigua (Seem.) Kuntze
Zamia lindleyana H.L.Wendl.
Common Name: Chigua Macho
Zamia chigua is a slow-growing, evergreen, palm-like plant with a subterranean to erect, usually unbranched main stem that can eventually be around 2 metres tall and 15cm in diameter; this is topped by a crown of 3 - 15 large leaves each around 50 - 300cm long[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
Zamia chigua is classified as 'Near Threatened' 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[
Northwestern S. America - Colombia
Coastal rainforest and along river margins; at elevations up to 150 metres[
|Conservation Status||Near Threatened
Zamia chigua is native to the hot, moist tropics, where annual temperatures average around 24°c with summer highs above 30°c, and humidity about 85%.. Mean annual rainfall is within the range 6,000 - 8,000mm[
Requires a position in some shade and a well-drained but moist soils. Plants are intolerant of drought[
]. The plant grows in the wild in soils that are extremely poor in boron, phosphorus, and zinc. In addition, the levels of calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium are quite low but the soil is saturated with aluminum. Soil pH ranges from 4.3 - 5.0[
The plant is sometimes cultivated within its native range, the local people often planting them around their huts by simply cutting wild plants off with a machete and placing the stem in a shallow hole[
All parts of this plant are potentially toxic and should not be eaten unless effective measures are taken to remove the toxins.
Seeds - boiled and mashed before being eaten[
]. The ovoid seeds are 30 - 35mm long and 15 - 20mm in diameter, contained in an oblong cone around 20 - 30cm long and 8 - 12cm in diameter[
Seed - remove the fleshy coating and surface sow on damp sand. Germination is best at around 23 - 29°c[
]. Pot up young seedlings into a rich, moist medium, as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow on at high temperatures without any check to growth until 2 - 3 leaves have been produced at one time, otherwise they may enter dormancy[
If you have any useful information about this plant, please leave a comment. Comments have to be approved before they are shown here.