Additional notes (click to expand)

Featured Plant

The name Cistus creticus was first used by Carl Linnaeus in 1762. Despite genetic testing the taxonomy of the Cistus genus still depends on morphological features of the plants' vegetative and generative organs. This can be confusing, because with this particular genus, polymorphism and an easy formation of the hybrids between the closely related species is regarded as commonplace. The genus Cistus is indigenous to the Mediterranean where the most diversity occurs as species within the genus freely hybridize. Growing in open areas of stony, infertile soil they tolerate drought and coastal exposure and are known for their durability. Their seeds’ viability increases after being exposed to high temperatures, so they are able to germinate following the forest fires which occur in the region. Cistus has an interesting symbiosis with a fungus called Tuber melanosporum: this increases the nutrient absorption for the plant and inhibits the growth of other plants in the vicinity. The plant is self-fertile and is pollinated by bees. The characteristic feature of the genus is a combination of diverse hair types on the leaf, stem, and calyx, an adaptation to drought conditions which induce leaves to decrease in size and grow more hair. In Cistus creticus and more particularly Cistus ladanifer these glandular hairs yield an oleo-resin. The resin, known as Ladanum is an acceptable substitute for ambergris (which is obtained from the sperm whale) and so is important in perfume and incense manufacture. It is collected by dragging a type of rake through the plant, the resin adhering to the teeth of the rake, or by boiling the twigs and skimming off the resin. Most resin is produced at the hottest time of the year. Traditionally, a number of Cistus species including this one have been used in Mediterranean folk medicine as herbal tea infusions for healing digestive problems and colds, as extracts for the treatment of diseases, and as fragrances. Its uses were listed in Dioscorides’ Materia Medica (70AD) and repeated by Dodoens in 1554: ‘Ladanum dronketh with olde wine, stoppeth the laske [periods], and provoketh urine. It is very good against the hardness of the matrix or mother [uterus] layde to in the manner of a pessarie, and it draweth down the secondes or afterbirth.’ Other uses he described included a local application to prevent hair loss and cure earache; to remove scars, and on the chest to alleviate coughs. The fumes from leaves burnt on hot coals, were said to cure uterine disorders.


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Geographical distribution

  • Africa, Northern Africa, Algeria
  • Africa, Northern Africa, Libya
  • Africa, Northern Africa, Morocco
  • Africa, Northern Africa, Tunisia
  • Asia-Temperate, Caucasus
  • Asia-Temperate, Western Asia, Cyprus
  • Asia-Temperate, Western Asia, Israel
  • Asia-Temperate, Western Asia, Jordan
  • Asia-Temperate, Western Asia, Lebanon-Syria
  • Asia-Temperate, Western Asia, Turkey
  • Europe, Eastern Europe, Ukraine
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Albania
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Bulgaria
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Greece
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Italy
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Yugoslavia
  • Europe, Southwestern Europe, France
  • Europe, Southwestern Europe, Portugal
  • Europe, Southwestern Europe, Spain

Cistus creticus L.

Genus: Cistus
Species: creticus L.
Common names: Cretan rockrose
Distribution summary: Mediterranean
Habit: Shrub
Hardiness: H3 - Half hardy; unheated greenhouse/mild winter
Habitat: Scrub and waste land
Garden status: Currently grown
Garden location: Europe & Mediterranean (E), Plants of the World (B)
Flowering months: June
Reason for growing: Medicinal

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