by Stephen Mifsud
   27 May 2020      ()
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Cynomorium coccineum   (General's Root)

Cynomorium coccineum   (CYNOMORIACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands at or after year 2000.

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Profile Date Oct-2010 (last update: 12-Jan-2019)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (Oct-2010) Cynomorium coccineum retrieved from on 2020-May-27

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Cynomorium coccineum L.
Published in Sp. Pl. 970 (1753)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

No Main Synonyms
Full list of synonyms : [Euro+Med] [PlantList] [IPNI] [POWO] [Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

Cynomoriaceae Lindl. (The Cynomoriaceae Family)
1 species from the Cynomoriaceae family is recorded from the Maltese Islands.

English name(s) :

General's Root, Maltese Fungus

Maltese name(s) :

Għerq il-ġeneral, Għerq sinjur, Żobb l-Art

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Present on the Maltese islands before man

Frequency :

Very Common     Common     Frequent     Scarce     Rare     Very Rare     Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: GEOPHYTE (bearing underground bulbs, rhizomes, stolons, etc.)
Germination [info]: Dicotyledon

Legal Protection [link]:

Protected by law: schedule VI of legal notice LN311/2006. (strictly protected species)

Red List (1989) :

This species has a threatened status and is listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands

Flowering Time :


Colour of Flowers:

Red, Brown and Dark

Remarks :

A parasitic plant which feeds on the roots of a few coastal-rupestral plant species namely Atriplex lanfrancoi but possibly switches onto roots of Limbarda crithmoides and Crithmum maritimum too. The old vernicular name 'Maltese Fungus' is huge a misnomer both because the species is not a fungus and and also for it is not a species belonging or endemic to Malta. However it was first known from Dwejra in the Island of Gozo and was called as the Maltese Fungus for many decades. The species is distributed in several Mediterranean countries especially in sand dunes of North Africa, Sicily and Sardegna. It was thought to be present also in China, but studies confirmed that it corresponds to the closely related plant :Cynomorium coccineum subsp. songaricum (Rupr.) J. Leonard (1986) - Cynomorium songaricum

The plant has been proteceted from public collection since the early 18th century by the Knights of Saint John and the location where it was known to occur - an islet called Fungus Rock, was guarded and possibly the first protected site in Europe for the presence of a valued species. Indeed, only high members of the Order of St. John could collect and make use of the medicinal virtues of the plant, while public caught in possession of the plant would have been sent in prison or to the galleries. Further information can be found in this article by Guido Lanfranco (1960).

Species Description and Distribution

Habitat in Europe:

Parasitic on various plants, usually in saline habitats.

Preferred habitat in Malta:

Data will be available in the next update of this website.

Botanical Description:

Plant dark red to purplish-black. Stems 15-30 cm, arising from a branched, underground rhizome, erect, stout, fleshy, bearing numerous triangular-lanceolate scale-leaves. Inflorescence 6-12 x 2-4 cm, terminal, cylindrical-clavate, with a stout, fleshy axis on which are numerous dense, subcapitate cymes subtended by triangular-peltate, deciduous bracts.

Distributional range:

Mediterranean region, mainly in the west S. Portugal very localised.

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):

Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):

the Balaeric Islands, Corse, Spain (incl. Andorra but excl. the Balaerics), Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), Portugal, Sardinia, Sicily and/or Malta

Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(Euro+Med Checklist, 2017) - Country codes

Ag Bl(I) Ca(L) Co -Cr Eg Hs(S) Ir It Jo Li Lu Ma Sa Si(M S) Sn Sy Tn

Images (14 images)
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-0.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-1.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-2.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-3.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-4.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-5.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-6.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-7.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-8.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-9.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-10.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-11.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-12.
   Cynomorium coccineum   -   Image Code: CYMCC-13.

Links & Further info

Google Web

Google Images

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Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



The Plant List


Vienna Virt. Hb.





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