Denver Plants

Common name: "Cardboard Palm"
Latin name:
Zamia furfuracea

Cardboard Palm - Zamia furfuracea
Native to: East coast of Mexico.
Growth habit:
A small upright bush usually not over 38" in height or width.   
Flowers:
Yes, very unusual.
Temps:
Normal indoor temps
Humidity:
Not critical.
Pests: Watch for mealy bug and scale.
Lighting:
Pictured Houseplant: 10" Cardboard Palm
Houseplant Cultural information: From the age of the dinosaur this prehistoric looking plant has a very distinct look. Cardboard Palms slow growing foliage is thick and firm with a feel and look of plastic. Once or twice a year (usually in spring) you will get a rapid spurt of growth. During this growing period be sure to keep the Cardboard Palm in as bright of light as possible.

Cardboard Palms prefer very bright lighting for proper growth. Direct sun or very strong filtered light from a east, south or west windows will do nicely. Heated sunrooms or greenhouse are an excellent place to grow a Cardboard Palm.

Cardboard Palms are sort of like a succulent not requiring a lot of water. On larger plants allow the soil to dry 1" to 2" from the surface soil before watering. Water all the way around the plant until water runs from the drainage holes. Remove excess water from the drip tray within a couple of hours to help prevent root rot.

Feed only twice a year. Once in the early spring when the Cardboard Palm begins to grow, and once in the late fall with Peter's Houseplant Special plant food. 

Cardboard Palms are propagated by planting seed.

Common houseplant pests can include: Foliar Mealy bug or Scale.

"Cardboard Palms" are available from small containers to very large containers. A large, mature plant may be 3 to 4 foot tall and up to 6 foot wide with a heavy trunk. A large specimen like this would be quite expensive. 

Poisonous Plant Notice

A visitor to Denver Plants sent us an email stating that she had lost two pets that had eaten ripened seeds from a female Cardboard Palm. This visitor wanted us to share her experience with the public. The following is the text from her email.

"This is a request that you update information you show on the "Cardboard Palm". Your list indicates that the plant's roots are poisonous, with a rating of 1. (The number 1 rating means highly toxic). Please be aware that all parts of the plant are poisonous. Of particular concern are the seeds of the female plant, which resemble bright red jelly beans when the pod splits and the seeds ripen. The toxicity causes liver and kidney failure... and there is no known antidote. We know, as we lost two dogs to this plant before we knew what it was. Very few people are aware of this. Please do your readers and subscribers a favor and let them know just how dangerous this plant can be if it's not properly isolated from pets and toddlers". 

During my 30 year career as a house plant distributor I have sold hundreds of "Cardboard Palms" and never heard of a poisoning case here in the Denver Metro area... although it is possible, as the plant is listed on our poisonous plants list along with several other common houseplants. 

One possible reason that we have never heard of a poisoning case is that grown indoors it would take many years for the plant to mature and produce flowers and seed, which could attract pet. In most instances a Cardboard Palm generally would not receive enough lighting to ever produce seed indoors. Apparently the stems and leaves are also poisonous. The stems are covered with thorns which would help detour a pet or toddler from chewing on them. Cardboard Palm's leaves are very leathery and not easily removed from the plant. 

Cardboard Palms are fascinating and beautiful plants. I own one myself. My pets and my "Cardboard Palm" get along just fine.

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