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Cycad, Cardboard Palm

Zamia furfuracea

Family: Zamiaceae
Genus: Zamia (ZAM-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: furfuracea (fur-fur-AH-see-uh) (Info)


Tropicals and Tender Perennials


Foliage Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)


USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:

Light Shade


Seed is poisonous if ingested

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:



Grown for foliage

Other details:

This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:

Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Chandler, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Brea, California

Brentwood, California

Carlsbad, California

Castro Valley, California

Clayton, California

Encino, California

Fairfield, California

Hayward, California

Huntington Beach, California

Lompoc, California

Los Angeles, California

Merced, California

Reseda, California

San Diego, California (2 reports)

Spring Valley, California

Bartow, Florida

Big Pine Key, Florida

Boca Raton, Florida

Bradley, Florida

Brandon, Florida

Brooksville, Florida

Clearwater, Florida

Dunedin, Florida

Dunnellon, Florida

Ellenton, Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2 reports)

Hollywood, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida (4 reports)

Jupiter, Florida

Kissimmee, Florida

Loxahatchee, Florida

Melbourne, Florida

Melbourne Beach, Florida

Miami, Florida

Miami Beach, Florida

Naples, Florida

Niceville, Florida

Oldsmar, Florida

Orlando, Florida

Pensacola, Florida

Plant City, Florida

Saint Petersburg, Florida

Sarasota, Florida (2 reports)

Seffner, Florida

Seminole, Florida

Sun City Center, Florida

Tampa, Florida (2 reports)

Valrico, Florida

Vero Beach, Florida (2 reports)

Wellborn, Florida

Zephyrhills, Florida

Brunswick, Georgia

Honomu, Hawaii

Hammond, Louisiana

Natchez, Mississippi

Kure Beach, North Carolina

Brownsville, Texas

Dickinson, Texas

Harlingen, Texas

Houston, Texas

La Porte, Texas

Richmond, Texas

Victoria, Texas

Seattle, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Oct 18, 2014, LaWolf8 from Los Angeles, CA wrote:

I had one in a pot 20 years ago, it always amazed people and I always had fun with the name and the looks on people's faces. I left it with my roommates and it eventually died. I'm going to plant one soon out in Palm Springs new place, a HUGE Sago is there already with afternoon shade.

People need to research toxic plants there are many. The obvious thing is to cut off the seed structures, by not letting it go to seed it will be more robust. This is like dead heading your flower seeds for more growth. The male form is no problem but even I will wash my hands after pruning or handling it, same with the Sago.

Wikipedia: toxic/poisonous plants and be amazed.


On Jul 20, 2013, Bronto from Scottsdale, AZ wrote:

Thrives in moderate large container on a concrete porch with no direct sunlight any time of year in the low desert of Arizona. Winter of 2012-2013 winter freeze killed all the fronds but not the plant/roots when it was left unprotected over 5 nights of hard freeze in mid-20's F. After trimming dead fronds back to trunk, loads of fronds re-emerged a few month later.


On Jun 10, 2013, nana_ann from Chandler, AZ wrote:

I've had this plant in Zone 9, Phoenix, AZ area from 2004-2013 so far. It's in a container in the shade outside. So far it's continued to survive both heat & freezes. I thought for sure I'd lost it after this winter's brutal freezes (for Arizona, hehe), but 3 months later and some good 90 degree heat & it's back. If you can get it to live, I think the heat here keeps the plant to a more moderate size, because if it hadn't been for the occasional dieback, it was starting to overgrow the location it was placed in.


On May 7, 2012, maryjoan54 from Overland Park, KS wrote:

Has anyone divided the Zamia fufuracea by splicing into the crown. Mine has 3 shoots on it and I would like to take one of them off and start a new one. Any suggestions?


On Apr 23, 2012, mabelsmom1 from Cooper City, FL wrote:

Important information regarding the toxicity of the cardboard palm.

When my dog Mabel (a 3 year old Lab mix) ate cardboard palm seeds a few months ago I was desperate to find a way to save her. My vet had never encountered this type of poisoning before and we didn't know she had eaten a deadly plant almost 10 days prior!

The plants had been in my front yard for decades and the dogs had always eaten palm seeds and were fine. Until now.

Mabel went into severe liver failure and my vet was baffled by the little amount of information and research surrounding this type of poisoning.

She was dying and after reading this page (one of the few that had information from other pet owners) I was horrified to learn she could die a slow ... read more


On Mar 15, 2011, maryrgv from Port Isabel, TX wrote:

We use the palms for landscaping. And they are putting out seeds now. I want to know how to start new ones. I have many seeds now. But the freeze here did hurt them. someone told me to cut them to the what they called the pineapple and they will come back. I need some help.


On Dec 27, 2010, dez42 from Naples, FL wrote:

I am in zone 10 (turning to 11 lately!) and the leatherleaf or cardboard'palm' grows fast and huge here. It is a very sculptural understory plant, and if one has the space looks wonderful when several grow together! It can stand drought conditions for a while, but will eventually stunt or die (can soak every 10 days or so for a handsome plant).
As far as toxicity dangers, I haven't had any problems with a large property and many domestic birds, cats, dogs and other critters wild or tame.I am so sorry for those who have had pets poisoned! BUT any avid gardener with a large collection of plants has toxicity issues whether they are aware of it or not. Please if at all possible and as soon as possible teach your pets and children not to sample plants (or other substances found in the g... read more


On Nov 23, 2010, rockmanwss from Wilmington, DE wrote:

I live in Wilmington, DE Zone 6-7 borderline. I have this cycad planted on the south side of the house with my King Sago palm. My sago has been planted for 12 years now and is about 6 feet high. Every year at Thanksgiving I wrap the trunk with a 100 lite strand of twinkle lights and throw another strand in the center, fold up the leaves and wrap it with plastic. I plan to do the same this year with the Cardboard palm and see if I'm successful getting it through the winter.


On Sep 25, 2008, trynfindit from Jacksonville, FL wrote:

There have been several comments about the hugely toxic effects of this plant and the Sago Palm. Great care has to be taken to prevent children and pets from having access to them.

We have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi who will eat anything that doesn't get away from him. One night our Corgi, who was about 2 y/o at the time, went into another room apparently to be by himself, which is very unlike him and, when we found him he was just laying on his side, staring at nothing. He couldn't even hold his head up. He'd thrown up a few feet away from where he was laying. We immediately scooped him up and got him to the emergency vet who pumped his stomach and did any number of other things. He told us not to feed our dog at all (as anything our dog ate would further upset his stoma... read more


On May 6, 2008, mbsimmons from San Benito, TX wrote:

I have one cardboard palm - 8 years old. It is very hardy in my 9b zone. It fared well after a Christmas snow in 2004 and having to be moved mid-summer (temps in the upper 90s). I has only produced seeds once. Did not know the toxicity of its seeds. I still love this plant - but will be removing the seed cone the day it breaks open.


On Feb 28, 2008, Lindakj from Nokomis, FL wrote:

My puppy recently ate the red berries from this plant. More should be published about the toxicity of this plant. It is two weeks tomorrow and she is still at the emergency vet. Please do not have this plant around if you have pets or children.


On Feb 17, 2008, metadatician from Seattle, WA wrote:

I've had this as a houseplant for 4 months now (in Seattle, WA) and am having trouble keeping it going. I moved it to a SE window where it gets more sunlight, but it's still dropping leaves. An attractive plant, but I'm not finding it as easy to care for as others have.


On Feb 6, 2008, chellamaral from Vero Beach, FL wrote:

I am a horticulture professional, but realitively new to Florida gardening. I recently installed a 100% native landscape planting on 1/4 acre. Zamia Furfuracea is a focal point in my back yard.

It is the first season that these huge plants flowered. I was aware the flowers (seed cones) were present. I knew that my Josie, 2 year old Lab, would probably sample the seeds and had actually had a discussion about this with a fellow horticulture professional with almost 30 years local experience. I, too, cautiously sampled a seed to check for sweetness as Josie commonly eats Sabal palmetto seeds that fall from these palms.

Later that day I found Josie nosing around the seeds that had started falling from one plant and was aware she had sampled. I removed 8 large cone... read more


On Jun 20, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Zamia furfuracea is native to Veracruz, Mexico.

It grows under or near shrub cover on sand dunes, where average annual rainfall is 79 inches.

Zamiaceae are listed on CITES Appendix II.


On Jun 17, 2007, VeroDave from Vero Beach, FL wrote:

I have grown about a dozen of these from seeds I harvested about 10 years ago. Stared them in my herb garden, for 2-3 years, and then into a variety of pots until placing them in the ground. They are huge now and stuning, marking the north-east edge of my property. The only bad experiece I had was with one plant that was very healty looking the first year it produced the seed pod. I let it rippen on the plant, but this seemed to place too much stress on the plant (this was the first season after planting it in the ground). So I transplanted it back to a pot, and replaced it in the ground (same hole)with the largest specimen I still had in a pot. The sick plant lost all but one leaf, but the following spring it came back. The next year it went back in the ground an today it looks fin... read more


On Mar 6, 2007, myakka1210 from Fort Lauderdale, FL wrote:

This is a very interesting and easy to grow Cycad in a warm environment, however please note:


I am in the process of loosing my male Pug due to liver failure after 20 days because of the high toxicity of the seeds. He ate approx 40 seeds, and vomited them up about 1 hour later. Unfortunately, I did not see the seed pod, as it was hidden in the dense overgrowth of the plant. I usually remove the pods before they open. Now I will be removing the plants altogether.

There is very little information online, even available to Vets on Cycad poisoning. If you love your pet, DO NOT plant this is an area that the pet can get to the seeds. The seeds are actually quite tasty (yes - I tried a taste - don't worry, I spit it out)... read more


On Mar 4, 2007, MungieCat from Siloam Springs, AR wrote:

I received a cardboard palm for my birthday in January---a small houseplant version. (I do not have a green thumb) Unfortunately, we had a bad ice storm that knocked out our electricity for 6 days. We left our home, and our plant to freeze. I completely forgot about it with all the stress of trees falling on our house---etc. It got to the low 20's in our house. My palm did lose all its leaves. I have lifted it out of the pot to look at roots, but I can't tell anything. I will replant it and watch it for awhile. If it survives, then I know it is more hardy than I've been reading!


On Mar 4, 2007, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

It was a pleasant surprise to learn this Zamia i had purchased at a supermarket last spring not only survived the freeze in a small pot-but continued to unfurl fronds from the falls growth spurt. It has stayed evergreen through almost a week of 30-32 nights in January 07. I should add more to the yard.
Just the usual cycad care-don't overdo anything, and it's fine.

Edit end of summer 2007: Amazing-it is now on its third flush since i bought it in little more than a year's time. All on an outdoor plant. Never have i had any species of cycad flush that often in our relative cool climate Oh,and you bay area neophyte cycad hobbyists,the growth of in ground tropical cycads far exceeds what you would get in a pot. Surprising so is the margin.


On Mar 4, 2007, hdiodati from Montreal
Canada wrote:

A friend of mine read the toxicity data on this plant that I just purchased last week and he says that it probably gives off toxic fumes.


On Aug 9, 2006, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I am stretching the limits here in borderline Zone 8b/9a by growing the Cardboard Palm. I got it through last winter with temperatures down as low as about 28 F by covering it with several inches of hay and throwing a sheet or blanket over it on the coldest nights. There was somefreeze leaf burn on the outer edges where the mulch covering was thinnest, causing these outer edges to turn a light brown color, but the plant has sent up fantastic new growth this year and is looking great! It has been a nice addition to my botanical collection. The related species, Coonties (Zamia floridana), are native to my area, are completely cold hardy in this Zone, and grow without any special care.



On Aug 5, 2006, tmccullo from Houston, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

Just planted ours. We have seen them in South Texas and South Miami and loved them. We have alkaline soil so it should do pretty well. I am sure we will have to cover it on cold nights.


On Jun 27, 2006, basilio from Athens
Greece (Zone 9b) wrote:

This plant is really bulletproof in my zone, coastal 9b, where it survives winter's cold and very strong salty winds with absolutely no problem. I have it potted at my balcony, therefore protected from heavy rains, and that's about it as far as protection is concerned. It's a hardy plant with no special requirements, although I suspect it would be a faster grower in warmer or tropical zones (it's only producing about 4-5 leaves a year, all at once, where I live). Apart from this relative disadvantage (common to all cycads), it's one of the easiest plants in my collection.


On Feb 16, 2006, zsnp from Pensacola, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

We experienced that temperatures below 32F damage the old leaves. The leaves turn brown and then fall off. It takes the plant very long time to grow new leaves. So, we usually cover the entire plant when the weather gets too cold.


On Dec 11, 2005, CastIronPlant22 from Lompoc, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

I have had this as a potted house plant for a long time now--about 5 years. It is really slow, and no fertilizer out there seems to help it. Sometimes, some leaves fall off the stem part, and it makes the whole leaf look bad. Sometimes, one or two leaves will turn light brown and fall off, while the others are still green. It's a Mickey Mouse kind of plant to me. I love it, though I just can't seem to get rid of it. They are very expensive here in CA, so I think I will hold onto mine. It's too cold for it here outside.


On Aug 30, 2005, vossner from Richmond, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

Did not know about toxicity of plant until I started reading the PF. Planted inground in full sun for about 5-6 years, it has been extremely slow growing for me. In the wintertime leaves get ugly and they fall off but in spring new shoots come up. I'm rating it neutral for toxicity and for being so slow to grow. It is fun to touch the leaves, they do feel like cardboard.

March 2014: has now been in my garden for 14 yrs, still low maint and still slow growing. Have never seen seeds on it.


On Jun 18, 2005, Fbeth from Pearland, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I got my first cardboard palm from a gardening center on sale. It was in a gallon size container. The only ones I'd ever seen before were two HUGE ones in Galveston, Texas at The Pyramids. I planted mine and kept it in my New Orleans style courtyard in the heart of Houston, watering it nearly every day during the very hot summertime, and not much during the fall through winter.

Being very protected in the courtyard, and the winters being very mild in Houston, the plant thrived. Within 5 years it was measuring 8' in diameter!! (Folks...that's across the plant!) Every spring it gave me 12 new long stems of leaflets.

Then in the 6th year I had to move in July--A HOT time of the year to move & plants don't like to move anyway. This home is just 12 miles fr... read more


On May 8, 2005, greyyhawkk from Seattle, WA wrote:

I'm thinking that, if the seed is highly toxic... well so is chocolate or antifreeze which dogs love. These are things we usually keep out of reach. We don't get rid of them as being not worth the risk. I have a pet. His name is Thomas the Cat and I love him very much. His friend is Harry the Cat. When my cardboard palm starts to shoot a cone up, I will put the plant out of reach.


On May 2, 2005, ladyannne from Merced, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

Unusual, delightful house plant. The new growth is fascinating. This plant does not like wet feet.


On Aug 21, 2004, RoyRogers from Tampa, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Very nice plant. I didn't know about the toxicity issue.

I think the Florida Coontie is the one that needs a male and female plant to produce seed and not the "Cardboard" ' palms. At least that's my experience with both of the 2 plants.

Roy Rogers
Tampa, Fl


On May 30, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

I surprises me to see see the warnings about not overwatering or to water sparingly. We live in one of the wettest regions in the world and the plants do very well here! I certainly have never babied it. We planted from a small plant in a 6 inch pot and it now takes over a whole corner of the back yard!


On May 29, 2004, Lobivopsis wrote:

Cycads do not produce true fruits as they are gymnosperms like conifers and ginkos (they are non floweing plants).


On Apr 4, 2004, Robertt from Saint Petersburg, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I've had just one plant for many years and it always puts out seeds every year. No other plant in sight... interesting.


On Mar 22, 2004, jeh4050 wrote:

We have had much success growing this plant and propagating from seed in the East Central Florida area. They required no special care and thrived in the yard. However, we have recently found this plant's seeds to be extremely toxic to our dog. We hope that he lives through the experience. There is no antidote for the toxin contained in this plant and the prognosis for an animal having ingested the seeds is not good.

PLEASE!! carefully consider whether or not this plant is worth the risk before adding it to your landscape especially if you have animals or small children. We dug all of ours up as well as our koontie palms as they are also poisonous and produce a similar seed pod. For us, no plant is worth this risk. Thank God it wasn't a child.


On Dec 29, 2003, dallasguy wrote:

I bought a Cardboard Palm and placed it in a west window in the winter. The leaves started turning yellow then brown and are falling off. I water sparingly, and my home is about 70F to 75F during the day, and in the 60F degree-range at night.


On Sep 22, 2003, sleepybenja from North Port, FL wrote:

I have 4 cardboard palms growing inland Florida. Every winter they must be covered and sometimes even that isn't enough, and they lose all their leaves; so far they have always come back. I have lots of little ones sprouting out, but they are easy to pull out - it is very attractive plant to me.


On Aug 15, 2003, KWDave from Key West, FL (Zone 11) wrote:

This plant grows very well in what I refer to as Dante's Inferno, a sun-drenched rooftop deck with merciless sun in downtown Key West. It is watered every other day, and seems to really like being fed at two-week intervals. This one is dear to my heart, because when I started caring for it, it had two dried out fronds and lived in a cracked plastic pot. Transplanting to a large terra cotta pot with good medium has resulted in about 24 fronds, two seed pods, and astounding growth inside of three months.


On Jul 20, 2003, texasplantlady from Dickinson, TX wrote:

Very easy to grow from seed!


On Jul 5, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is one of the most commonly grown cycads in all of California and Florida (and probably many other states near Florida). It is a very attractive and non-fastidious plant that has unique physical characteristics. As with ALL cycads, there are male and female plants. You need at least one of each to get fertile seed, as well as the pollinator. If you don't live in Florida where there are at least some natural cycad pollinators, you will probably have to be the pollinator--that is, if you want to try to get viable seed out of your plants).

I am a veterinarian and am familiar with the toxicity of this and other cycads, though the incidence of cycad poisoning is still somewhat rare here in California where most of these plants do not form seeds well (particularly Zamias)...... read more


On Mar 25, 2003, DanaRae wrote:

All parts of the cardboard palm are poisonous to animals and humans. The toxicity causes liver and kidney failure, eventual paralysis. Dehydration sets in very quickly. There is no antidote. There are fatality reports filed with Poison Control on dogs and livestock.

There was a small Cardboard Palm in the screened pool room of the home we bought in Florida. We had no idea what it was. When the female pod opens, it reveals bright yellow seeds that gradually turn red, resembling jelly beans.

Our two dogs, who'd never shown a previous interest in vegetation, were attracted to the berries, which we only realized when they began throwing them up. Despite all attempts by our veterinarian, we lost one dog in two days, the other in two weeks. Unfortunately, this aspe... read more


On Aug 4, 2002, bleu wrote:

When the fruit ripens, the birds are very fond of the pretty red seeds. The result is little tiny cardboard palms all over the place. They pull out easily and grow to a reasonable size in two years. On the bright side, cardboard palm is a great accent, specimen or container plant for the patio or deck.