The Gymnosperm Database

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Adult female plant, megasporophyll with two ovules, and megastrobilus; by Edmundo Saavedra (Vovides et al. 1983).


A plant at the Quail Botanical Gardens, CA [C.J. Earle, 2004.04.06].


Distribution of Ceratozamia species (redrawn from Jones 1993).


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Ceratozamia mexicana

Brongniart 1846

Common Names

Costilla de león, palma imperial, piña del monte (Vovides et al. 1983), Mexican horncone.

Taxonomic notes

It is the type species of the genus, originally described from material cultivated in Paris. The Flora of Veracruz (Vovides et al. 1983) recognizes three varieties: mexicana, latifolia (Miq.) Schuster 1932, and robusta (Miq.) Dyer 1883. This treatment follows that of Jones (1993), who regards each of the three taxa as distinct species.


"A medium-sized cycad which in nature develops a trunk to 0.5 m tall and 20 cm across. Young leaves light green and hairy. Mature leaves up to twelve in a graceful crown, 1-1.5 m long, dark green, glabrous; petiole 20-50 cm long, swollen and woolly at the base, with numerous stout spines; leaflets fourteen to one hundred and fifty on each leaf, 20-30 cm × 1.5-4 cm, linear to lanceolate, crowded, thin textured, the margins rolled back, apex drawn out and attenuate. Male cones 20-30 cm × 10-12 cm, cylindrical, brown; sporophylls with two tiny horns; peduncle about 10 cm long. Female cones 20-35 cm × 10-12 cm, cylindrical, grey; sporophylls with two prominent stout horns; peduncle about 12 cm long. woolly. Seeds about 2 cm × 1.8 cm, smooth.

"It is quite variable in some morphological features including: trunks ranging from buried to fully emergent and globose to cylindrical; leaflets ranging from broad to narrow and from lax to stiffly erect; and prickles on the petioles and rhachises ranging from numerous to absent. ... [Compared to] C. robusta ... plants are less vigorous than that species and have smaller fronds and cones and attenuate apices on the leaflets" (Jones 1993).

Distribution and Ecology

Mexico: N-C Veracruz, where it is native to "a range of forested habitats including wet tropical rainforests and drier types from lowland regions to moderate elevations in the mountains" (Jones 1993).

Big tree




Widely grown as an ornamental (Jones 1993).



See also

Whitelock (2002).

Last Modified 2017-12-29