by Stephen Mifsud
   25 Jul 2024      ()
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Cynomorium coccineum   (General's Root)

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

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Profile Date Dec-2007 (taxon update: none)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (2022). Cynomorium coccineum - datasheet created on Dec-2007. Retrieved from on 25-Jul-2024

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Cynomorium coccineumL.
Published in Sp. Pl. : 970 (1753)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

No Main Synonyms

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 :

Protected by law: Schedule VI of [S.L. 549.44] (strictly protected species)

Red List (1989) :

Threatened status for the Maltese Islands and has been listed in the Red Data Book (1st ed.)

Flowering Time :

April – June

Colour of Flowers:

Red, Brown or Dark


Not particularly toxic

Name Derivation :


Planting in rural areas :

Can be planted in rural areas according to ERA Guidelines

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).

Description, Habitat 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.
(from Euro+Med Checklist, 2019)
  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

Links & Further literature (0 papers)

Google Web

Google Images

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Research Gate




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



World Flora Online

Plants of the World Online

Vienna Virt. Herb.

RBGE Herbarium

KEW Herbarium




Kindly Email if there are papers and publications about local studies or information about this species to be included in the list above.

Species Images (11 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.

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Section A:  Additional Information about this plant species
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Section B:   Where have you seen this plant on the Maltese Islands?
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Try to be as concise as possible. Examples: Dingli Cliffs (near chapel), Wied Incita (Zebbug side), Triq il-Kbira (Qormi), Barriera ta' Ghajn Abdul (Xlendi), Fields East of Salib tal-gholja (Siggiewi). GPS co-ordinates are also welcomed!
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