Rose of the Virgin (Fagonia cretica)

The cretic Fagonia is also known as the virgin’s rose, the cretan caltrop, the virgin’s mantle or the Christmas rose among others. Its flowers are characterized by their good size and very vivid violet color, it belongs to the Zygofilaceae family and is typical of the rocky coasts of the Balearic Islands, especially they can be found in Formentera, Cabrera, Ibiza, Mallorca and also in the Mediterranean area of ​​Almería, Alicante and in the Canary Islands.


It is identified as an annual herbaceous plant that measures between 60 and 70 cm. It is one of those called climbing or prostrate, provided with thorns and leaves that are trifoliate. The base is woody but the rest of the plant is herbaceous.

The flowers tend to be a beautiful purplish or purplish color and are provided with 5 petals quite distant from each other and truncated at the base. It produces fruits in the form of a pentalocular and pentacarpelar capsule, where the shape of a star is observed from the upper part thanks to the five loculi with six cavities where the seeds are located, plus an elongated appendix at the apex of the fruit.

They are abundant, solitary and axillary, they measure up to 2 cm in diameter and have a pentameric symmetry, the sepals have an apical spine. The stamens are yellow, about 1 cm long, and stand out in the center of the flower. Flowering takes place in the months of March, April, May and June and the intricate ramifications are very typical of this plant.

Habitat and distribution of the Fagonia cretica

In its natural environment it is found where there are very stony and parched land, it is also typical of crops in a state of abandonment, on slopes, next to little traveled roads, paths, bushes, in small bushes and especially where there is exposure to the sun and high temperatures.

In fact, it is a Mediterranean Saharan, Iranoturanic and Macaronesian species that is extended by the eastern peninsulas and the south, in such a way that you will see it frequently in medium and low elevations of very hot inland regions as well as in the coastal strip of Murcia.

It develops without major inconveniences in loamy and chalky soils, in fact it prefers those that are stony, with a certain level of salinity and subnitrophiles, and it occurs very rarely in limestone. The sunny, thermal and very dry places (semi-arid areas) are their favorites.

Also known as pepper grass, this is a creeping plant native to the Canary Islands that has spread fairly quickly throughout the Mediterranean. Likewise, it originates in coastal areas of the Mediterranean as well as its islands, including Sicily, Malta or Crete, in the latter the first specimen was found.

Some curious facts

The flowering of this plant is early, but what stands out the most is its striking color that gives a great showiness to the good number of flowers that this herbaceous generates, but after the flowering process from mid-February and at the beginning of March the green color and turn dark purple which shows a very accelerated vegetative dormancy that is typical of a prominent adjustment of its biological cycle to adapt to sudden changes in the environmental conditions where it develops.

On the other hand, there is documented evidence regarding the cytotoxic effect produced by some chemical substances of this species, in the control of phytopathogens and also for the treatment of malignant tumors that occur in cases of breast cancer, although the latter does not yet have medical application.

These substances are translated into an aqueous extract that is used in the form of herbal tea, which according to research, has the ability to stop cell growth in malignant tumors for 5 hours. This is in the experimental phase, since it is still necessary to determine what are the elements that really fight these cancer cells.

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