The Gymnosperm Database


Ceratozamia mexicana [C.J. Earle].


Distribution of Ceratozamia species (redrawn from Jones 1993).


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Brongniart 1846

Common Names

The scientific name translates as "horncone."

Taxonomic notes

A genus of 17 species:

I have yet to prepare a description of two species. C. becerrae Pérez-Ferrera, Vovides, et Schutzman 2004 is closely related to C. miqueliana (Vovides et al. 2004a). C. vovidesii Pérez-Farrera et Iglesias 2007 has affinities with C. matudae and C. mirandae, but differs from them in leaf, male and female cones, and trunk morphology (Pérez-Farrera et al. 2007).

To examine the original descriptions of species in Ceratozamia, see the inventory at The Cycad Society website, which includes 27 species (as of mid-2012). I refer you there for more current information.

The systematics of the genus have been presented by Stevenson et al. (1986) and by Vovides et al. (2004b). The latter authors identify several species complexes associated with Pleistocene floristic refugia, with subsequent radiation northwards, perhaps accompanied by rapid speciation.


"Terrestrial cycads with a relatively slender, ovoid or cylindrical, rarely branched trunk which may be partly subterranean and partly emergent or wholly emergent. Leaf bases falling free at senescence. New leaves emerging in flushes, green or copper coloured, glabrous or hairy. Mature leaves pinnate, oblong or lanceolate in outline, straight, mostly flat in cross-section. Petioles swollen at the base, hairy, bearing prickles although in some species these are extremely sparse or absent. Rhachis straight or twisted, bearing prickles or unarmed. Leaflets articulate at the base, opposite to nearly opposite, evenly spaced or in clusters, straight or falcate, entire, margins flat, involute or revolute; veins prominent or immersed and obscure. Male cones one or two, cylindrical, erect, hairy, pedunculate; sporophylls usually with two prominent spine-like horns, those on the female cones longer and stouter than the male. Female cones generally solitary, ovoid, shortly hairy; sporophylls with two prominent spine-like horns. Seeds radiospermic, ovoid to subglobose, the sarcotesta cream to whitish.

"Species of Ceratozamia share many characters with the genus Zamia but all species of Ceratozamia can be immediately distinguished by the paired, horn-like projections on the peltate sporophylls. Other useful generic features include:

Distribution and Ecology

Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Most species are found at elevations of 800 to 1800 m in cloud forests in the mountains of Mexico, with a couple of widely distributed species extending farther south and to low elevations. Populations are distributed in a relatively narrow band that more or less parallels the mountain systems of the region (Jones 1993).

"Vegetation types range from the almost constantly wet tropical rainforests to less wet broad-leaved forests and to drier types which contain a mixture of pines and oaks and have a pronounced seasonal wet-dry regime. Researchers have noted strong correlations between species in factors such as leaflet width and texture and the wetness of the habitat (broad, thin-textured leaves in wet habitats versus narrow or inrolled, leathery leaves in drier habitats)" (Jones 1993).

Big tree

C. robusta.



All species are at least occasionally used as ornamentals (Jones 1993).



"Species of Ceratozamia have suffered at the hands of poachers and all are included on Appendix 1 of CITES" (Jones 1993).

Ceratozamia is first known from leaf fragments in Eocene deposits on Kupreanof Island, Alaska (Jones 1993).

"The generic name refers to the paired, horn-like projections which are found on the male and female sporophylls of all species (Greek ceras, 'horn'; Zamia, the name of another genus)" (Jones 1993).


Pérez-Farrera, M.A., J. Gonzalez-Astorga, S. Avendano, and C.G. Iglesias. 2007. A new species of Ceratozamia (Zamiaceae) from the Sierra Madre of Chiapas, Mexico, with comments on species relationships. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 153:393-400.

Stevenson, D., S. Sabato and M. Vazquez-Torres. 1986. A new species of Ceratozamia (Zamiaceae) from Veracruz, Mexico with comments on species relationships, habitats, and vegetative morphology in Ceratozamia. Brittonia 38: 17-26.

Vovides, A.P., M.A. Pérez-Farrera, B. Schutzman, C. Iglesias, L. Hernandez-Sandoval, and M. Martinez. 2004a. A new species of Ceratozamia (Zamiaceae) from Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 146:123-128.

Vovides, A.P., D. Gonzalez, M.A. Pérez-Farrera, S. Avedano, and C. Barcenas. 2004b. A review of research on the cycad genus Ceratozamia Brongn. (Zamiaceae) in Mexico. Taxon 53(2):291-297.

See also

Chemnick, Jeffrey, Timothy J. Gregory and Morales S. Salas. 1997. Ceratozamia mixeorum (Zamiaceae), a new species from Oaxaca, Mexico with comments on distribution, habitat, and species relationships. Phytologia 83: 47-52.

Vazquez-Torres, Mario and Andrew P. Vovides. 1998. A new species of Ceratozamia (Zamiaceae) from Veracruz, Mexico. Novon 8: 87-90.

Whitelock (2002).

Last Modified 2017-12-29