The sunny afternoon weather was perfect for a stroll around Perico Preserve last weekend. The bright red fruit of this smallish plant caught our attention. After a bit of research I discovered the origin of its local name, Coontie (Zamia integrifolia).
The Seminole people, who called it conti hateka (for white root or white bread), utilized the starch from the stem and root of the plant to make a type of bread. They had to harvest this resource carefully as it contains cycasin, a known neurotoxin.
Also commonly called Florida Arrowroot and Wild Sago, it is the only cycad native to North America. Often mistaken for a fern or even a palm, it is found throughout Florida, southern Georgia, and the Caribbean. As a gymnosperm it is one of the oldest plant forms, with fossils dating back 280 million years.
What a fun little find!