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Anacardiaceae, Pistacia lentiscus, Mastic tree – Chios Island, Greece

May 31, 2012

Pistacia lentiscus is a member of the Anacardiaceae family, relative of such well-known food crops as Mango, Cashew and Pistachio. P. lentiscus is a shrub or tree that grows in the dry rocky areas of Mediterranean region, from Morocco and the Iberian peninsula in the west through southern France and Turkey to Iraq and Iran. It is also native to the Canary Islands. The word mastic derives either from the Greek verb mastichein (“to gnash the teeth”, origin of the English word masticate) or massein (“to chew”). Masticar is the verb “to chew” in Spanish.

It is a tough tree, resistant to heavy frosts, coastal growing conditions,  and able grow in a very wide range of soils. Unlike other species of Pistacia, this one retains its leaves throughout the year. This characteristic, in addition to its attractive appearance, makes it a popular landscape species.

People in the Mediterranean region have used mastic as a medicine for gastrointestinal ailments for thousands of years. Dioscorides wrote about the medicinal properties of Mastic in his classic treatise De Materia Medica. Mastic oil has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Aside from its various cosmetic (toothpaste, shampoo, soap, lotion) and culinary uses (many), Mastic is also used in the production of high-grade varnishes.

The fruit is a drupe, first red and then black when ripe, about 4 mm in diameter.

Here is a previous post of what I think is Pistacia cucphuongensis which i photographed in the Khanh Hoa province of Vietnam.

Follow this Anacardiaceae link for info on other members of the botanical family.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 2, 2012 10:08:35 am

    We are growing Pistacia chinensis in the hope that we might be able to isolate some vera scion but its looking like we are going to be all colour and no fruit…oh well! Mastic is valuable in cooking as well and as of yet I haven’t managed to isolate a source of it to try it. Its apparently fantastic in icecream.

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