Calligonum caput-medusae Schrenk - Medusa.s Head Calligonum.

Taxonomic position.

Family Polygonaceae Juss. genus Calligonum L.

Morphology and biology.

Arboreous shrub 2-3 m tall, with trunk up to 12 cm diameter at base, with tap root, less often with rhizome and tap root with long (up to 20 m) lateral and adventitious roots. Branches geniculate-flexuous at angle of 45-60°, with light grey bark of old branches. Herbaceous shoots glabrous. Leaves shortened, 2-3 mm long, dryish. Flowers in 3-5 in sheath axils. Pedicels glabrous. Perianth red, less often white, glabrous. Stamens 13-14, with dark red anthers. Fruits 20-30(50) mm long, globose or broadly ovoid, yellow or red when young. Wings 2-crested, bristles on wings dense or sparse, 8-12(15) mm long, rigid, 3-5 times branched, very intertangled. Nutlet poorly twisted, less often intensely twisted by 90-120°, with high prominent ribs. Flowers in May, fruits in June - July. 2n=36.


European part of the former USSR (Lower Volga), Kazakhstan, Central Asia.


Occurs in saxaul and psammophyte-shrubby typical sand deserts, usually on secondary damaged and somewhat mobile sands, near wells, camps, along roads and caravan tracks, on slopes of overgrowing barkhans, hillocky and hillocky-ridgy sands. Often inhabits summits of sand hills to accumulate huge under-shrub hummocks. Never observed on overgrown hillocky sands, scarcely tolerant to sodding and salinization.

Use and economic value.

Land-improving plant.


Sokolov SI., Svjaseva OA., Kubli VA. 1980. Ranges of trees and shrubs of the USSR. V.2. Leningrad: Nauka. 144 p. (In Russian).
Soskov YuD. 1988. The genus Calligonum L. (systematics, geography, evolution). Thesis Doct. Biol. Sci. Leningrad. 472 p. (In Russian).

© Yu.D.Soskov, L.L.Malyshev


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