Cynomorium

Cynomorium coccineum

''Cynomorium'' is a genus of parasitic perennial flowering plants in the family Cynomoriaceae. The genus consists of only one species, ''Cynomorium coccineum'' . Its placement in the Saxifragales was resolved in 2016 with the help of nuclear, plastid, and mitochondrial sequences obtained from next-generation sequencing . Common names include the misleading Maltese fungus or Maltese mushroom; also desert thumb, red thumb, ''tarthuth'' and ''suoyang'' . A rare or local species, it grows in dry, rocky or sandy soils, often in salt marshes or other saline habitats close to the coast. It has had a wide variety of uses in European, Arabian and Chinese herbal medicine.
Cynomorium  coccineum A peculiar parasite. Found from the Medierranean to China.  Cynomorium,Cynomorium coccineum,Geotagged,Winter

Appearance

This plant has no chlorophyll and is unable to photosynthesise. It is a geophyte, spending most of its life underground, in the form of a rhizome, which is attached to the roots of its host plant; it is a holoparasite, i.e. totally dependent on its host. The low-growing inflorescence emerges , on a fleshy, unbranched stem with scale-like, membranous leaves. Dark-red or purplish, the inflorescence consists of a dense, erect, club-shaped mass, some 15–30 cm long, of minute scarlet flowers, which may be male, female or hermaphrodite. It is pollinated by flies, attracted to the plant by its sweet, slightly cabbage-like odour. Once pollinated, the spike turns black. The fruit is a small, indehiscent nut.

In the Mediterranean region, ''Cynomorium'' is a parasite of salt-tolerant plants in the Cistaceae or Amaranthaceae ; elsewhere it parasitizes Amaranthaceae, Tamaricaceae and, in China, Nitrariaceae, especially ''Nitraria sibirica''. Other authorities suggest the host plants are saltbushes .

DNA studies suggest that ''Cynomorium'' is not a member of the Balanophoraceae, as previously thought, but more probably belongs to the Saxifragales, possibly near Crassulaceae .
Cynomorium  coccineum A desert parasite. Cynomorium,Cynomorium coccineum,Geotagged,Israel,Spring

Distribution

''Cynomorium coccineum'' var. ''coccineum'' is found in Mediterranean regions, from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands and Mauritania through Tunisia and Bahrain in the south; Spain, Portugal, southern Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Gozo, Malta and the Eastern Mediterranean. Its range extends as far east as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

''Cynomorium coccineum'' var. ''songaricum'' is found in Central Asia and Mongolia, where it grows at high altitudes. Several authorities consider this to be a separate species, ''C. songaricum''; it is called "''suoyang''" in China, where it is extensively collected as a herbal remedy for illnesses including sexual worries and nocturnal emissions.
Cynomorium  coccineum This time "twins". Cynomorium,Cynomorium coccineum,Geotagged,Jordan,Spring

Evolution

Sir David Attenborough has suggested that, following the reasoning of the "Doctrine of signatures", the phallic shape of the inflorescence suggested to early herbalists that ''Cynomorium'' should be used as a cure for erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems. Its colour suggested that it would cure anaemia and other diseases of the blood. It has been used for similar purposes in the east and west of its range: crusaders carried dried spikes to help them recover from their wounds.

Other traditional uses have included treatments for apoplexy, dysentery, sexually transmitted diseases, hypertension, vomiting and irregular menstruation.

A city in China, near Guazhou in what is now Gansu Province, was named Suoyang City after the 7th-century general Xue Rengui and his army survived a siege there by eating the plant. Much later, it was "introduced" to China from Mongolia during the Yuan dynasty as a medicinal plant, and is first mentioned by Zhu Danxi in ''Bencao Yanyi Buyi'' in 1347. It was an ingredient in his recipe for ''Huquian Wan'' used for impotence and/or weak legs.

During the 16th century, the Knights of Malta greatly prized the plant and sent samples of it to European royalty. They incorrectly believed it to be a fungus, and it became known as "''fungus melitensis''", "Maltese Mushroom". The Knights jealously guarded "Fungus Rock" just off the coast of Gozo. They even tried smoothing the outcrop's sides to prevent theft of the plants, which was said to be punishable by death. The only access was by a precarious cable car, which was maintained into the early 19th century. The rock is now a nature reserve, so access is still strictly limited.

In the Middle Ages, Arabic physicians called it "tarthuth" and "the treasure of drugs". An ''aqrabadhin'', or medical formulary, compiled by Al-Kindi in the 9th century lists tarthuth as an ingredient in a salve to relieve skin irritation; later, Rhazes recommended it to cure piles, nosebleeds, and dysfunctional uterine bleeding.

In Saudi Arabia, where ''Cynomorium'' is also called "tarthuth", in addition to the uses detailed above an infusion made from the ground, dried mature spike has been used to treat colic and stomach ulcers. It was eaten on long journeys by the Bedouin people, who would clean and peel the fresh spikes and eat the crisp white interior, which is said to be succulent and sweet, with a flavour of apples and a pleasantly astringent effect. It is also relished by camels.

It has often been used as a "famine food" . Among many other uses it has been used as a contraceptive, a toothpaste, and a non-fading crimson fabric dye.

Uses

Sir David Attenborough has suggested that, following the reasoning of the "Doctrine of signatures", the phallic shape of the inflorescence suggested to early herbalists that ''Cynomorium'' should be used as a cure for erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems. Its colour suggested that it would cure anaemia and other diseases of the blood. It has been used for similar purposes in the east and west of its range: crusaders carried dried spikes to help them recover from their wounds.

Other traditional uses have included treatments for apoplexy, dysentery, sexually transmitted diseases, hypertension, vomiting and irregular menstruation.

A city in China, near Guazhou in what is now Gansu Province, was named Suoyang City after the 7th-century general Xue Rengui and his army survived a siege there by eating the plant. Much later, it was "introduced" to China from Mongolia during the Yuan dynasty as a medicinal plant, and is first mentioned by Zhu Danxi in ''Bencao Yanyi Buyi'' in 1347. It was an ingredient in his recipe for ''Huquian Wan'' used for impotence and/or weak legs.

During the 16th century, the Knights of Malta greatly prized the plant and sent samples of it to European royalty. They incorrectly believed it to be a fungus, and it became known as "''fungus melitensis''", "Maltese Mushroom". The Knights jealously guarded "Fungus Rock" just off the coast of Gozo. They even tried smoothing the outcrop's sides to prevent theft of the plants, which was said to be punishable by death. The only access was by a precarious cable car, which was maintained into the early 19th century. The rock is now a nature reserve, so access is still strictly limited.

In the Middle Ages, Arabic physicians called it "tarthuth" and "the treasure of drugs". An ''aqrabadhin'', or medical formulary, compiled by Al-Kindi in the 9th century lists tarthuth as an ingredient in a salve to relieve skin irritation; later, Rhazes recommended it to cure piles, nosebleeds, and dysfunctional uterine bleeding.

In Saudi Arabia, where ''Cynomorium'' is also called "tarthuth", in addition to the uses detailed above an infusion made from the ground, dried mature spike has been used to treat colic and stomach ulcers. It was eaten on long journeys by the Bedouin people, who would clean and peel the fresh spikes and eat the crisp white interior, which is said to be succulent and sweet, with a flavour of apples and a pleasantly astringent effect. It is also relished by camels.

It has often been used as a "famine food" . Among many other uses it has been used as a contraceptive, a toothpaste, and a non-fading crimson fabric dye.

References:

Some text fragments are auto parsed from Wikipedia.

Taxonomy
KingdomPlantae
DivisionAngiosperms
ClassEudicots
OrderSaxifragales
FamilyUnknown Family
GenusCynomorium
SpeciesC. coccineum
Photographed in
Israel
Jordan