Cycad, a tropical or subtropical plant that somewhat resembles a palm tree. It typically has a thick, woody stem that is scaly and from 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 m) tall. At the top of the stem is a crown of fernlike leaves. Some plants bear male cones; others bear female cones.
There are about 100 species of cycads. In the Mesozoic Era, about 240 million to 65 million years ago, there were many more species. The Japanese sago palm is cultivated in tropical gardens for its graceful leaves, two to seven feet (60 to 210 cm) long. The coontie, native to southern Florida, has an underground stem. The stem contains an edible starch, which the Seminole Indians used to make bread. They also made soap from the plant's sap.
Cycads belong to the division Cycadophyta Some botanists group all the cycad genera into one family — the family Cycadaceae; others split the cycad genera into three families—the Cycadaceae, the Zamiaceae, and the Stangeriaceae. The Japanese sago palm is Cycas revoluta; the coontie is Zamia floridana.