The DNA sequence of the small-subunit ribosomal RNA coding region for the cycad Zamia pumila L. was determined. The Zamia small-subunit rRNA was found to be 1813 nucleotides in length and approximately 92% identical to published angiosperm small-subunit rRNA sequences. Conserved regions interspersed with variable regions are observed corresponding to those found in other eukaryotic small-subunit sequences. Using representatives from protist, fungal, plant, and animal groups, a distance matrix was constructed of average nucleotide substitution rates for pairs of organisms. Phylogenetic trees were inferred from similarities between sequences. The sequence of Zamia represents the earliest divergence from the higher plant lineage reported to date for small-subunit rRNA data. Inferred phylogenies also support a monophyletic origin for the angiosperms consistent with studies citing phenotypic characters.