9 Feb 2013

Desert Hyacinth (Cistanche tubulosa) - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili)

Whilst birdwatching at Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm we came across a number of very nice examples of Desert Hyacinth (Cistanche tubulosa) which is a widely distributed annual that produces a dense pyramid spike of bright yellow flowers topped by maroon-tinted buds. It is one of the showiest plants of Eastern Arabia with bright yellow, dense column of flowers sometimes approaching one metre in height. It has varying flower colour with the flowers either tightly packed in the spike or loose. The plants were seen along tracks and by the roadside of the farm and appeared to hvave come up quickly in the last few days as some were growing on sandy tracks with relatively new tyre tracks on them. They are widespread on sandy or sandy-silty ground and can tolerate saline environments as well as disturbed conditions, so are often seen growing near roads or tracks in the desert or along the shores of the Arabian Gulf. They are parasitic, one of several such plants in Arabia, and live off other plants to gain their nutritional needs, as they have no green parts or leaves to synthesise chlorophyll directly.


  1. Reminds me of our semi-parasitic Broomrapes, nice colours in a desert background.

    Laurie -

  2. Further research reveals it is indeed a Broomrape.....

    Desert hyacinth is all-flower bearing parasite plant, growing on roots of desert shrubs. It is a rare and endangered species. Most pereferred host for this parasite is Salvadora persica. Desert hyacinth is unable to synthesise chlorophyll directly and therefore has no green colouration. It is a widely distributed annual that produces a dense pyramid spike of bright yellow flowers topped by maroon-tinted buds. Its many tiny seeds may remain dormant for years until the roots of its host plant are close enough to trigger germination. The plant is able to tolerate saline environments and is most found in arid regions of Rajasthan, Punjab and Pakistan.
    Medicinal uses: [Warning: Unverified information] In Taiwan, Desert hyacinth is traditionally used as a tonic drug for deficiency of the kidney characterized by impotence, cold sensation in the loins and knees, female sterility, and constipation due to dryness of the bowel in the senile.

    Lots of uses and rare, favoured by the Chinese - that should put it on the endangered list straight away!

    ATB Laurie -

    1. Excellent info - Thanks for the work finding this out