19 Mar 2012

Red Thumb (Cynomorium coccineum) - Dhahran Hills

The Red Thumb (Cynomorium coccineum) is a parasitic, leafless plant without chlorophyll. It is a fleshy, reddish, club-shapped perennial herb that can grow up to 30 centimetres high and is parasitic on the roots of desert shrubs. It is only visible above ground during its spring flowering period. The flowering stems may emerge from the ground singly but more often they are grouped several together. The interflorescence is dark-red to purplish and is made up of minute scarlet flowers which may be male or female. Flies are attracted by the smell given off from the plant and are thought to be pollinators of the plant whihc once pollinated turns black. They grow on sandy, saline, ground with this plant photogrpahed in Dhahran camp near the percolation pond. The plant is known as 'tarthuth' by the Bedouin and is also known as Maltese Fungus and Desert Thumb and is used in many herbal medicines around the world.


  1. Due to its' dark Red colour it was also thought to be able to cure aneamia and other blood-related diseases and dried spikes were carried by the Crusaders in order to treat wounds and due to its' shape was thought to be able to treat erectile disfunction altho whether they carried it for that purpose is'nt known! I thought they would have been too busy fighting.....On a more serious note research being carried out into the plants' actual medicinal properties seems to provisionally confirm several of the traditional uses. Extracts of the herb appear to inhibit HIV, improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. It may also have a hormonal effect that would confirm its efficacy in treating impotence.

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie,

    Thanks for the excellent comment - very informative. I knew it was used in medicine but had no idea for what.