Smallest Gymnosperm - Zamia pygmaea

The smallest living cycad and (presumably) the smallest gymnosperm in the world is Zamia pygmaea, growing no taller than 10 inches. This species of plant is found exclusively in Cuba and is known by many vernacular names such as “guayaro”, guayra” etc.

Description of Zamia pygmaea

The plant is quite short, with most specimens growing just around 25 cm in height. This species belongs to the family Zamiaceae and the class Cycadopsida.

The plant has a short trunk with a crown of short, stiff leaves with rounded leaflets. The plant also has a hypogeal stem bearing small sheathing cataphylls. Compound leaves range from 1-4 in its native habitat and all the way up to 20 leaves in cultivated specimens. The seeds are more or less egg-shaped and red to orange in colour.

The IUCN Red List classified this species as Critically Endangered with less than 250 mature plants existing in Western Cuba. Primary threats include excessive harvest from the wild, agricultural expansion, and deforestation.

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