ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Racist Relics?

In Melvin Hunter's interesting article in the Nov. 25, 1991 issue of The Scientist, "Racist Relics: An Ugly Blight On Our Botanical Nomenclature" (page 13), I believe he incorrectly ascribes a racist origin for the common name of the dwarf American cycad found in the southeastern United States, Zamia integrifolia (Hunter uses Zambia floridana, another species, but with the genus misspelled.) He notes that the plant ". . . has been called a Coontie, a reference to the tree's long, slender green

Sl Cumbaa
In Melvin Hunter's interesting article in the Nov. 25, 1991 issue of The Scientist, "Racist Relics: An Ugly Blight On Our Botanical Nomenclature" (page 13), I believe he incorrectly ascribes a racist origin for the common name of the dwarf American cycad found in the southeastern United States, Zamia integrifolia (Hunter uses Zambia floridana, another species, but with the genus misspelled.) He notes that the plant ". . . has been called a Coontie, a reference to the tree's long, slender green leaves."

According to the ethnographer John R. Swanton, a specialist in southeastern U.S. native peoples and their languages, the name comes from the Seminole name "kunti," more specifically "kunti hatki" ("white kunti") to distinguish it from the root of the China briar (Smilax), which they called "kunti tcati" ("red kunti"). When the Seminoles moved into Florida in the mid-18th century, they found the remnant Timucua and Calusa populations...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?
ADVERTISEMENT