Tropical Plant from Home Depot

Discussion in 'Plants: Identification' started by kitsfarmer2010, Jun 2, 2010.

  1. kitsfarmer2010

    kitsfarmer2010 Member

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    Hi,
    That's all they knew about it. We asked the guy in charge, he looked it up and came up with Tropical Plant. I've attached 2 photos. Any ideas? Or how to care for it?
     

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  2. togata57

    togata57 Contributor 10 Years

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    Maybe a 'ZZ plant', Zamioculcas zamiifolia. An aroid.
     
  3. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    As Togata said, this plant is in fact Zamioculcas zamiifolia. There are photos at the bottom to illustrate what I am attempted to explain.

    This response will be a bit technical but the intent is to explain how to properly grow the plant and keep the leaves from turning brown and dropping from the plant (becoming deciduous). Despite all the false advice found on the internet this plant needs to be watered regularly and if you don't if will eventually drop all the leaves and go dormant exactly the way it does in nature when the rain fall stops. The ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is found in the African countries of Zanzibar and Tanzania. Although it is commonly believed these are "desert" countries, neither of these countries are totally dry and both have long periods of significant rainfall followed by some months of dryness.

    This species is most commonly found commonly growing in rocky areas as well as on stone in evergreen forests. Likely for reasons of being able to sell the plant as one that does not need water, commercial growers promote this plant as one you can avoid watering for months on end but just like any other plant the ZZ needs water on a regular basis in order to produce have its chlorophyll produce sugars and oxygen in order to feed itself. The oxygen is simply released back into the environment. Far too many people underwater the plant then begin to panic if the leaves start drying up and falling from the plant. The falling leaves are simply a natural process known as being deciduous. Becoming deciduous is just the process of letting you know it is about to become dormant and enter its life sustaining "survival" mode.

    Z. zamiifolia is found naturally growing in both dry grassland as well as lowland forests on rocky lightly shaded terrain but infrequently in deep shade. The species appears to enjoy moderately bright light and commonly becomes deciduous during dormancy which occurs naturally during the natural dry season when there is no rain. The leaves are not true leaves but instead are part of a compound leaf where all the leaflets form a single leaf supported by a rachis.

    Complicated? It really isn’t but is also not necessary anyone understand this in order to grow the plant. If you are curious I have added a link to an article I wrote with the help of several scientists which explains the difference in a leaf and a compound leaf.

    Once the leaflets begin to drop it is not uncommon for them to form a tubercle, also called a bulblet, at the juncture of the leaflet and the petiole. The petiole is the short "stalk" that supports the leaf that extends from the rachis. If leaves begin to drop start checking the fallen leaflets; you may be able to grow new plants! These leaf tubercles allow the regeneration of a new plant.

    The tubercles regularly develop at the point where the leaflet and petiole (what most people incorrectly call a "stem", join together. The stem of a plant is the central axis or main support of the plant and can be a vine in some species, or the base of the plant from which petioles and leaves extend or in a cases such as this species a tuber. Some would look he the photos below and wish to call the rachis the stem but that is not normally possible. An aroid normally has only have one central axis (stem) and since the stem of the ZZ is buried under the soil by definition the support of the leaflets must be a rachis as is defined by the term compound leaf. The rachis is simply the woody support for the leaflets and petioles that extends up wards from the true stem, the tuber.

    If you use a magnifying glass you can likely see some tubercles on a few of your leaflets. Despite incorrect information found all over the internet this species does not grow from a bulb or a corm. Since it is a succulent aroid it grows from a tuber, and all aroids that possess underground starch storage only grow from a tuber.

    Many websites offer less than good advice on growing this plant because at least some of the growers actually don’t care if your plant dies. If it dies or "looks dead" you may well throw it out and buy another one and that makes them money. Don’t throw it out!

    If you check garden websites you will read where house plant growers commonly ask why their ZZ plant is "dying" and loosing all the leaves when they believe they are "following the rules". Those are the same "rules" which advise growers to rarely water the plant.

    Quite simply, those "rules" are not scientifically correct! Because growers sometimes don't understand what the term deciduous means or the purpose of the process, house plant growers tend to panic and think their plant is about to die. Had the plant been watered regularly there is no reason for the deciduous period to have even begun. In truth the condition is a natural part of the plant's growth and reproductive cycle.

    The loss of all the leaflets does not indicate a plant is almost dead but simply suffering as a result of a genetic survival characteristic due to poor growing conditions. If you starve a plant for water the plant is going to do exactly what Mother Nature designed it to do. In this case, the natural defense is to drop the leaflets since it can’t produce enough sugar from its chlorophyll to survive and must go into survival mode.

    Some sites including eHow recommend the use of "rich soil". Even though a specimen can survive for an amazingly long period of time in rich soil that holds water that does not mean the plant enjoys the condition in which it is being forced to survive.

    The information to use rich soil is not based in science. This plant grows naturally in fast draining sandy soil that does not stay soggy. Rich soil eventually suffocates as well as "drowns" a specimen causing the roots to rot as a result of saprophytes. A saprophyte is an organism such as a fungus or bacterium that grows on and derives nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter.

    When the roots of Zamioculcas zamiifolia are kept in wet soil they cannot easily gather oxygen and thus begin to decay. The end result is rapidly rotting roots and eventually a dead plant. However, all of this can easily be avoided and/or corrected.

    Following Mother Nature's example the soil mixture should be close to that found in the native regions where this species grows. Use a potting mix for cacti but it should also contain some soil along with a greater volume of sand, gravel and materials including Perlite that will slowly allow the roots to gather moisture while only staying damp and not being starved for oxygen.

    The plant should be regularly watered but not normally allowed to stay wet! In nature the ZZ can survive for long periods only as a naked rachis but as a houseplant it certainly won't be attractive without the leaflets. Just as a human or animal can uncomfortably survive for periods of time with no food and water so can the ZZ plant.

    Many major botanical gardens actually grow this species in their tropical rain forest sections with more "rain" than any houseplant grower would ever consider. I’ve kept one alive in our artificial rain forest for more than 5 years and we water 5 days a week for 6 minutes at a time. Since our ZZ is in very sandy soil it just does not care and continues to grow.

    I can give you the names of several botanical gardens and universities that do the same. Growers in Malaysia also commonly grow the species in wet rain forest conditions.

    Now, as for growing new plants from the leaflets. Using the plant’s own unique survival ability, house plant growers may be able to grow their own plant using this unique characteristics by placing a leaf with a petiole (especially one where a tubercle can be seen) in a sandy soil mix as explained above with the adaxial surface (upper side) facing up wards. Use a a fast food restaurant salad tray with holes punched through the bottom to allow drainage. Keep the high humidity in the container by misting the entirety of the soil and the leaflets and by covering them with the closed lid.

    Keep the clear plastic in moderately bright light. You may just be lucky enough to grow a new plant but be aware the process is not rapid! The normal process is three to six months but many growers have done it successfully.


    The information presented above comes largely from the scientific text The Genera of Araceae written by botanists Dr. Simon Mayo, Dr. Josef Bogner and Malaysian botanist Peter C. Boyce as well as personal communication with the authors.

    You will find a great deal more information at the link below if I haven’t completely worn you out to this point! http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Zamioculcas zamiifolia pc.html

    Good growing!

    Steve
     

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    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  4. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    While rereading the entire text in the Genera of Araceae on Zamioculcas zamiifolia I ran across several interesting quotes that made me wonder why so many people believe this plant grows in a desert and does not need water.

    Although you Can find several "named" species in the genus Zamioculcas there is now only a single accepted species, Zamioculcas zamiifolia. All the others are now considered synonymous with this single species.

    DISTRIBUTION: 1 sp.; tropical east and subtropical southeast Africa:— Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa (Natal), Tanzania (incl. Pemba, Zanzibar), Zimbabwe.

    Please note the botanists that authored this text indicate the species is found in "tropical east" Africa.

    ECOLOGY: tropical moist forest , savannas; geophytes on forest floor or in stony ground.

    Again, please note the authors indicate this plant is found in "tropical moist forest" although in the complete text they do indicate it can go dormant during periods of dryness.

    I have yet to understand why so many garden websites and plant "advice" columns wish to indicate this is a "desert plant" that does not to be watered often.

    If I improperly implied in the post above that no aroids can be found in desert terrain, I was incorrect. Like much of the misleading information found on the internet it is commonly believed the ZZ plant is found in the desert but aroid scientific texts state clearly there is only one aroid species found in desert terrain anywhere in the world. That information can be found in the text The Genera of Araceae on page 46, "No Araceae occur in true deserts except Eminium spiculatum subsp. negeuense, from the Negev desert (Koach 1988)." Later in the same paragraph you can read, "Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a succulent plant which stores water in its thick petioles and is sometimes found in very dry habitats, but is more common in evergreen seasonal forests and savannas."
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2010
  5. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Two of my photos above are incorrectly labeled. The small leaflet supports are known correctly as petiolules and the petiole is correctly beneath the rachis. We have recently updated the complete link noted above to explain all of this correctly.

    Steve
     

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