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Cyclamen persicum (Myrsinaceae)

Cyclamen persicum (Myrsinaceae)

In Edmond Rostand’s play, Cyrano de Bergerac’s delicate soul was belied by the monstrous appendage defacing him. Cyclamens are likewise, with a potato-like underground tuber giving rise to shoots, which turn into graceful aerial parts, the leaves and the flowers. The former, dark green, appear as long-stalked clumps at the base of the plant. The latter are solitary and show twisted and reflexed petals. The tuber is round, which gave the cyclamen its name in ancient times.
Cyclamens originate in the Eastern Mediterranean. Their ideal climate is dry summers when they are dormant and wet winters when they bloom. Their area of origin, also that of familiarity and fondness by people, included the Holy Land. Palestinians to this day consider the cyclamen one of their major edible plants. A typical dish consists of boiled cyclamen leaves, filled with rice, ground meat and spices, made into rolls prior to cooking, and served together with yogurt.
Cyclamens have contributed from times immemorial to perfumes. A synthetic molecule, known as cyclamen aldehyde, has enjoyed widespread use for its lily or linden-blossom odor. However, the chemical undergoes oxidation in air, which increases in light. Thus, the fragrance rapidly becomes stale and even rancid.
Cyclamens have not only been domesticated, they were turned into numerous cultivars for the joy of gardeners, and sale by florists. What mankind has wrought, mankind will wreck, sooner or later. The lament is all too familiar. Cyclamens are threatened with extinction in the wild, possibly as early as 2050. Climatic change is the cause. Due to global warming, the plant must migrate northward. Current areas of climatic distribution will contract and become inhospitable. Many cyclamen species will face the lack of an area of climatic suitability and will run a high risk of extinction.

William Carlos Williams, the American poet thus depicted and immortalized “The crimson cyclamen:”
The stem’s pink flanges
strongly marked.
stand to the fruit edge,
dividing, thinning
through the pink and downy
mesh — as the round stem
is pink also — cranking
to penciled lines
angularly deft
through all …