Cynomorium coccineum – Famine Foods

Cynomorium coccineum


Middle East: an emergency food cited in the Bible (Job 30:4). The parasitic scarlet plant attaches itself to the roots of saltwort (Atriplex sp.). The host plants – probably Atriplex dimorphostegia, Kar. & Kir.; Atriplex halimus, L.; Atriplex rosea, L.; and Atriplex tatarica, L. – were also gathered and eaten for their soft, mucilaginous leaves.



Common Names: Maltese fungus or Maltese mushroom; also Desert thumb, ed thumb, Tarthuth (Bedouin) and suoyang (Chinese).

Botanical Family: Cynomoriaceae.

Distribution: Cynomorium coccineum is found in Mediterranean regions, from Lanzarote in the
Canary Islands andAfghanistan Mauritania through Tunisia and Bahrain in the south; Spain, Portugal, southern Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Gozo, Malta and the Eastern Mediterranean.[14] Its range extends as far east as , Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Underground stems dug up and reportedly eaten as famine food, in the Canary Islands; however,  extensive  research, by the compiler, was unable  to verify this latter statement.


Thorgood, Christopher. 2022. Chasing Plants
Journeys with a Botanist through Rainforests, Swamps, and Mountains
Chicago: University of Chicago Press


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