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Gum rockrose (Cistus ladanifer)

Diputación de Málaga

Gum rockrose (Cistus ladanifer)

IDENTIFICATION

It is a bush or woody plant (up to 2 m high), very branched and with woody and erect branches of a reddish brown colour. The branches and leaves are imbued with a sticky and smelly substance called the ladano resin. The leaves are elongated and stretched, sheathed (welded on the base) on the stem; they are toughened and their edge is somewhat stirred down. The beam is dark green, glabrous and the underside is totally covered with furs with a star shape. The flowers are solitary, located in a terminal position, very large and showy. The petals are white, with a little yellow spot on the base; like a "nail", sometimes with another purple overlying one  The fruit is a rounded capsule, with a dense cover of furs. 

WHERE DOES IT LIVE?

It grows on siliceous soils, chalks and granites, from sea level to 1,500 meters above sea level. It prefers dry and sunny grounds. It is a bioindicator plant from decalcified soils and is considered as a colonizing plant on burned soils.

HOW DOES IT LIVE?

It flourishes from May to June. The gum rockroses dressed in white stands out in the countryside in spring thanks to its flowers size (up to 10 cm diameter). The flowers have four petals and are pollinated thanks to insects (entomophil). Fruiting takes place during the summer months. The capsule opens with the temperature increase, releasing a large variety of seeds which, as they are very small, are easily carried by the wind.

WHERE CAN WE SEE IT IN THE MALAGA PROVINCE?

This species appears in the whole Malaga province on a very dispersed way all over the territory, always on dry and decarbonated soils. It is common, for example, in the lower part of the Sierra Bermeja and in the Axarquia. In the Great Path, we can find it in stages 1, 2 and 29.

CURIOUS FACTS

The ladano is a resin and aromatic substance released by the leaves of this species.  The plant uses it to avoid competition with other plant species, impeding the growth of other plants nearby itself (which is known as the allopathic effect). This way, the gum rockrose can easily grow on poor or fired soils, which do not provide enough nutrients to be shared with other plants. The ladano is used for fragrance industry as the base of several smells. Formerly it was very appreciated as a healing; sedative, antiseptic effect, as well as to prepare a substance supposed to help treating hernias.

SIMILAR SPECIES

It can be confused with other gum species. This one produces ladano, which is why it is the only sticky one. The "nail" or spot on the petals base is an identity sign from this species.

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