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Family Araceae
Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Lodd. et al) Engl.

Jin qian shu

Scientific names Common names
Zamioculcas zamiifolia Lodd. et al. Aroid palm (Engl.)
Zamioculcas loddigesii Emerald fronds (Engl.)
Zamioculcas lanceolata Golden tree (Engl.)
Caladium zamiaefolium Lodd. et al. Succulent philodendron (Engl.)
  Zanzibar gem (Engl.)
  Zu Zu plant (Engl.)
  ZZ plant (Engl)

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Jin qian shu.

General info
Zamioculcas is a genus of flowering plant in the Araceae family, with the single species Zamioculcas .

Zu zu plant is an evergreen plant that grows from a stout underground, succulent water-storing rhizome, attaining a height of 45 to 60 centimeters. Leaves are pinnate, 40 to 60 centimeters long, with 6-8 pairs of leaflets 7 to 15 centimeters long, smooth, shiny and dark green. Flowers are small bright yellow to brown on bronze spadix 5 centimeters long, partly hidden among the leaf bases.

- Common pot cultivation in the Philippines.
- Introduced.
- Native to eastern Africa, from Kenya to northeastern South Africa.
- Wide scale commercial propagation by Dutch nurseries around 1996.

No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
• In the jungles of Ghana, leaves used by shamans to relieve stomach ache.
• Considered to have air-purifying property; included in the list of "Plants that Detoxify the Air."

Caution !
All parts of the plant are reported poisonous if ingested.

Research studies showed ZZ to be one of the plants most effective in counter-acting off-gassed chemicals and maintaining a balanced internal humidity. (2)
Phytoremediation / BTEX: Zamioculcas has the potential of reducing the concentration of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) from contaminated indoor air. Benzene, a smaller molecule, is taken up by plants faster than toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. The toxicity of BTEX on plant leaves and roots was not found. (4)
Xylene Removal: Study evaluated fifteen plant species for removal efficiency of xylene from contaminated air. Among the test plants, Z. zamiifolia showed the highest xylene removal efficiency. (5)

Can plants control indoor air pollution?
Recent reports in the media and promotions by the decorative houseplant industry characterize plants as "nature's clean air machine", claiming that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research shows plants remove indoor air pollutants. While it is true that plants remove carbon dioxide from the air, and the ability of plants to remove certain other pollutants from water is the basis for some pollution control methods, the ability of plants to control indoor air pollution is less well established. Most research to date used small chambers without any air exchange which makes extrapolation to real world environments extremely uncertain. The only available study of the use of plants to control indoor air pollutants in an actual building could not determine any benefit from the use of plants69. As a practical means of pollution control, the plant removal mechanisms appear to be inconsequential compared to common ventilation and air exchange rates. In other words, the ability of plants to actually improve indoor air quality is limited in comparison with provision of adequate ventilation.
     While decorative foliage plants may be aesthetically pleasing, it should be noted that over damp planter soil conditions may actually promote growth of unhealthy microorganisms.

Ornamental cultivation.

Last Updated July 2014

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Zamioculcas / AvianWeb
Plants that Clean Pollutants out of the Air
Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals / Can plants control indoor air pollution? /
Environmental Protection Agency

Phytoremediation of BTEX from Indoor Air by Zamioculcas zamiifolia / Waranat Sriprapat, Paitip Thiravetyan / Water Air and Soil Pollution (Impact Factor: 1.75). 224(3). / DOI: 10.1007/s11270-013-1482-8
Factors affecting xylene-contaminated air removal by the ornamental plant Zamioculcas zamiifolia. / BioMed Search.com

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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