Zamia ulei is an evergreen plant with a subterranean, tuberous, spindle shaped, generally unbranched stem around 12 - 30cm long and 4 - 8cm in diameter; it is topped by usually 1 - 2 large, upright leaves around 60 - 150cm long[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a source of starch for food etc.
Zamia ulei has a population size that is estimated to be less than 10,000 mature individuals, and continued logging in the region will pose a problem in the future. The plant 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[
S. America - Bolivia, Peru, northwestern Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela
Grows on protected slopes in rainforest and in open tropical forests in very sandy soil; at elevations around 100 - 200 metres[
]. Also occurs near the summits of low quartzite hills[
|Conservation Status||Near Threatened
Zamia ulei is a plant of the moist tropics, growing in a region where the mean annual rainfall is around 2,000mm, falling mainly in the summer[
An almost universal requirement for cycads is a well-drained but moisture-retentive soil, and by far the best soils are sandy gravels and light loams which provide the required drainage and aeration necessary for good growth. Cycads will generally not grow well in clay soils unless those soils are heavily amended with sand and organic matter[
]. A neutral soil (pH 7), is generally best for most species of cycads and allows the proper absorption of nutrients. A slightly acid soil is better for most cycads than a basic one[
Cycad species can usually be transplanted easily even when quite large. The best time for moving them is just before the beginning of a new growing season, the roots being trimmed if they are damaged and perhaps some leaves being removed. New roots should develop quickly as the season progresses[
Species in this genus 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[
A dioecious species, with individual plants producing either all male or all female cones. Therefore both male and female forms of the plant need to be grown if seed is required[
]. On very rare occasions, usually when a plant has been under severe stress, it can change sex and produce either all female or all male cones[
All parts of this plant are potentially toxic and should not be eaten unless effective measures are taken to remove the toxins.
The tuberous subterranean stem is a rich source of starch[
]. (As Zamia cupatiensis)
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[
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