Family: Zamiaceae
Common Name: Burrawang, Zamia Palm

This genus comprises 14 species of cycads, all natives of Australia, varying from very large plants to dwarf, trunkless types with only a few leaves showing above ground. These have large, swollen, underground stems, tapering into thick taproots, twisted midribs and often much-divided leaflets which point in different directions. The cones are borne among the leaves, the cone scales ending in a single, strong, sharp spine. The seeds under the female scales are shed at maturity by disintegration of the whole cone. None of the species is commonly cultivated, but M. cornmrazis is probably the usual species grown. Most others are found only in botanical gardens or enthusiasts' collections. Some species are quite rare and threatened in their natural habitats. Efforts are being made to conserve them.


M. burrawang, from coastal New South Wales, is a variable species-sometimes almost trunkless, at other times with a small trunk about 30 cm (12 in) high, and occasionally a little higher and covered in old leaf bases. The shiny, dark green leaves are gracefully arching and grow 1.5 m (5 ft) or more long. The numerous, straight, sharp-pointed leaflets are borne in two regular rows. The male cones, up to 45 cm (18 in) long, are curved outward.

M. miquelii, from coastal Queensland and northern New South Wales, is like M. communis but has fewer leaves and smaller, shorter-spired cones.

M. moorei, from southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, is by far the largest species, with a huge trunk up to 7 m (23 ft) tall in the wild, though generally about 2-4 m (6-13 ft) in cultivation. It has a thick crown of elegantly arching, rich green leaves up to 3 m (10 ft) long. The cones are similar to those of M. cornmunis. It could easily be mistaken for a palm at first glance.

M. pauli-guilielmi, from southeastern Queensland and northern New South Wales, is quite variable, though generally trunkless, with only a few, erect leaves up to 1 m (3 ft) long, twisted midribs and spidery leaflets up to 30 cm (12 in) long and 5 mm (1/5 in) wide. The cones are small and usually solitary. It makes an interesting ornamental.


These cycads are frost-tender so in frost-prone climates should be grown in an intermediate to warm greenhouse or conservatory. Grow in deep pots of gritty, soil-based potting compost and provide maximum light but shade from direct sun. Atmospheric humidity should be low to moderate. Keep the compost only slightly moist in winter. Outdoors grow in deep, light, well-drained soil in partial shade. Propagate from ripe seed germinated at 25°-30°C (77°-86°F). Early growth is very slow.


Zone 10.

Click to view map of zones
Climate zone map
Macropiper      Magnolia