Sunday, January 07, 2007

Coontie:The Great Xeriscape Filler Plant

This is an adult Coontie, (Zamia). I transplanted this plant a year or so ago. If you searched the archives you could find a post about the move. In that post you can see the massive storage root that dwarfs the above ground foliage.
Vicki of Outside In is xeriscaping her yard down in overbuilt Pinellas County and is trying to do the right thing by conserving irrigation water by planting tough natives. This is such a rare transplant attitude that I feel compelled to actually "welcome" her to Florida instead of my usual, "ENJOY YOUR VISIT, NOW GO HOME" attitude.
I mentioned coontie to her... just trying to be helpful. Then, coincidently, I mentioned it to Sophie and suddenly I owe a post about coontie.
I did recently use coontie seeds as a puzzler and I have to confess it is a favorite plant of mine. I like plants that don't die here at hell farm and don't fuss if I forget to water them ... and that the deer don't covet.
There's some neat Florida history associated with the plant also. The root contains an edible starch that the first immigrants and later Europeans used when they arrived. The root has to be processed to remove some toxins, but the starch can be used for breads, etc. It was actually a thriving industry years ago.
Today, coontie is hot in the landscaping business for the reasons mentioned above. The state DOT has finally started using it with native palmetto and wire grasses to landscape medians so that they look good no matter how dry or wet it is.
I have two varieties here at PF, one that was already here with thin leaf blades and one variety from my grandfather's yard with wider leaves. That one is really special to me as it is a connection to my Papa and Nana. Both are gone, as is their old Victorian house where I spent so much time as a kid.
Now an apartment complex sits there and there's no trace of our history at the site, but I have my coontie plants as a connection.


vicki said...

Oh, thank you for this post! I like the looks of that mature plant. I also love the information contained herein. I'll try HD- I did try Lowes. I'll check the online site, too.

I have moved my grandother's bleeding heart 14 (count 'em) times, from student apartments to starter home and so forth. I have now moved it for the last time- to the Chicago courtyard where it will be fairly lonely without all it's perennial friends but it reminds me of her and that she was the original good steward/gardener in our family. I certainly understand your connection.

Here in Florida it's a whole new ballgame when it comes to plants!
And most everything else. Off to write a post about the yard.

kathy a said...

gosh, that's a good-looking plant!

i think the definition of what plants need little or no extra water must vary so much across the country. of course, so does the definition of native plants.

i grew up in los angeles, the sinkhole of the universe in terms of using native plants and conserving scarce water -- it was a shock to realize that all those green lawns were growing in a desert. thankfully, am in a less arid spot now.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

A very lovely Coontie with such wonderful memories of your Papa & Nana.

I was reading Kathy a's comment above and I remember trying to tell my kids about growing up with a timed underground sprinkle system in the yard. It was a norm in all homes. No one here has ever heard of them. I lived in Calif. at the time.

Alan said...

How much shade do coonties tolerate? I vaguely seem to recall they're not full sun lovers.

I'm almost to the point that I want to start putting in some non-practical landscape type plants and coontie and silver palmetto would work well.