The mastic or Pistacia lentiscus is a shrub or small evergreen tree originating in the countries bordering the Mediterranean. It has an erect habit, very branched, and can reach 4-5 m in height and 2-3 m in width; the foliage is roundish, and generally has a very short stem, although sometimes it can be developed as a sapling. The bark is reddish; the leaves are composed, consisting of 10-12 oval leaflets, dark green, shiny leather, shiny; at the beginning of spring, at the leaf axil, small florets bloom together in racemes, the female flowers are greenish, the male flowers are darker and tending to red; in summer the flowers give way to small fruits, roundish red berries, which become black when ripe, in winter. The leaves and branches are intensely scented, the resin contained in the bark was used to produce a rubbery mastic since ancient times, called Greek mastic ni, from which the Italian word mastice derives; still today the plant is used in herbal medicine and in the perfume industry.
Family and gender Anacardiaceae, Pistacia, lentiscusType of plant Shrub or tree, from 3 to 6 meters high, evergreenExposure Sun, slight shade in the SouthRustic Up to -10 ° C. It prefers hot compared to coldGround Indifferent, even very poorcolors Red and then black fruitsIrrigation Very drought resistantFlowering From March to MayComposting lightThe mastic requires sunny positions to develop at its best, but it can also withstand the partial shade; in general it can withstand temperatures close to -10 ° C, although in regions with particularly cold winters it is good to repair it with tnt, or place it near a wall or other shrubs. It is a plant that absolutely loves direct light and heat. The ideal is therefore to place it in a position located to the south.Clearly this becomes more and more important as his cultivation moves towards the northern regions.If we live on the coasts or on the islands we can obtain beautiful specimens with a slightly shaded exposure. For example, the shadow of the morning is not detrimental if instead lighting is constant in the afternoon.watering
this shrub generally does not need watering, although in the summer months, particularly hot and dry, it may be necessary to water it every 15-20 days. In spring and autumn, bury a mature organic fertilizer at the foot of the plant.
place it in a rich, loose and well-drained soil; in nature the mastic grows in rocky and poor soils, in the garden it often tends to develop faster than in the places of origin, being able to draw greater quantities of nutrients from the soil. The mastic is a very tolerant plant from this point of view. It adapts to all types of soil, from the poorest to the richest. It also lives fairly well with compact clayey substrates.
in spring it is possible to sow the seeds collected during the winter; if desired it is also possible to practice semi-woody cuttings in late spring, but generally the lentisk cuttings root with great difficulty.
Pests and diseases
Powdery mildew, mites and cochineal can sometimes attack the plant, especially if it is grown in poorly ventilated areas. It is a rather healthy vegetable and in nature it is rather autonomous.
It is usually affected by some mites (such as Eriophyes stephanii) and by aphids (Anopleura lentisci). Both of these parasites cause the appearance of galls at the expense of the leaves. In particular the leaf limbo that curls is hit.
Area of the mastic tree
Its origin can be identified in the Mediterranean area of the European, Asian and African continents. It is a typical shrub of the bush. It is particularly common in coastal areas and still prefers not very high altitudes. Generally it can be found up to 600 meters above sea level. It is widespread in southern Tuscany and Marche. In Northern Italy it is found practically only in Liguria.
As we have said, it becomes part of the Mediterranean maquis together with olive trees and myrtle.
The cultivation of the mastic is rather simple. It is indeed a shrub that easily adapts to many different situations. For example, it also tolerates very poor or stony soils very well. For this reason, for example, areas that have been much used previously or where there is a danger of desertification are also used for regeneration. It has also been shown to resist fires very well and is therefore a plant inserted in areas with these problems both to contain them and to revive the natural habitat.
We can say that it is a rather rustic shrub since it is capable of withstanding temperatures of even -10 ° C. It can therefore also be used in Northern Italy, if we exclude the alpine areas; the important thing is that, at least in the early years, it is protected with suitable material (for example a double layer of non-woven fabric). The best results will be obtained by placing the specimen in a sunny and very hot area.
If we live in very cold areas we can grow it in a container. It must be rather broad and above all deep. It is very important to create a very thick drainage layer on the bottom, perhaps composed of gravel or expanded clay.
This shrub is extremely resistant to drought. Like many xerophyte plants it is able to close the stomata of the leaves to avoid dispersing precious water. Therefore it usually does not need human intervention. In open ground we can only irrigate at most once a month during the first two years, especially during the summer. However, we avoid short waterings with little water. These promote the growth of superficial roots and make the plant less stable and less resistant in the long run.
The ideal is to water very sporadically by distributing large quantities of liquid. In this way the water will go deep and the plant will be stimulated to grow longer roots and in the future it will prove more autonomous, as it is usually in its natural environment.
Being a vegetable used to poor substrates it usually does not need any type of fertilization. If we want, however, at the beginning of winter, spread a good quantity of organic soil conditioner (very mature manure, cornunghia) around the foliage. In spring it may be sufficient to distribute a handful of slow release rather balanced granular fertilizer. During the first years we can prefer one that brings more nitrogen, afterwards any product for fruit plants will be more than good.
Generally it is not necessary because it naturally acquires the form that we find in the spontaneous state. However we can also decide to make it grow as a tree. In that case it will be necessary to choose a single jet coming from underground and free it for a certain portion. Above we will model the crown, possibly with an open shape. The mastic can also be used for the realization of formal or informal hedges in the Mediterranean environment. It also tolerates drastic cuts and thanks to the small leaves it can be easily shaped according to our tastes. The most important interventions will have to be done during the first few years. The main branches will be truncated to increase the birth of secondary branches and consequently make the shrub more dense and covering. Later you will have to intervene only to maintain the shapes and eventually eliminate weak branches, dead or misdirected.
The reproduction of the lentisk can be carried out mainly by seed or by cutting.
Sowing takes place in spring, when daytime temperatures fluctuate between 10 and 15 ° C. Before starting, however, you need to vernalize the seeds by keeping them, for example, in the fridge for at least two months.
The method most commonly used in nurseries is herbaceous cutting. In general we proceed in July by taking segments of the year and inserting them in a very light compound with a high percentage of sand and agriperite. The substrate must always be kept humid and at a temperature of about 20 ° C, in a shaded area. The rooting is usually fast and the plants can already be placed in individual containers in the autumn and then moved to the ground the following spring, after the end of the frosts.
Lentisco - Pistacia lentiscus: Uses and curiosity
In the traditional medicine of the Mediterranean countries, the resin of the lentisk (obtained by cutting into the trunk) is commonly used to fight diseases of the digestive system and in particular the ulcers of the stomach. Its effectiveness in any case has been confirmed by recent scientific studies, in particular it is capable of fighting the bacterium Heliobacter pylori. However, one way to perform these treatments is through chewing the resin. It is a very common practice in some islands of Greece.
In some areas and in some languages this vegetable is also called "mastic tree". In fact it is used to obtain a rubber with a very aromatic aroma and flavor. There is evidence that this was already used in antiquity as we do today with chewing gum.
It is also required by the confectionery and cosmetics industries.
The mastic wood has a color ranging from pink to ocher with beautiful yellow veins. It is used for the realization of small wooden sculptures and also for cabinet-making.
The oil that is extracted from its fruits has a yellow color and a very intense aroma. It is used for therapeutic purposes and as an essential oil for massages. Some of its decongestant properties against the lymphatic system are universally recognized. In Sardinia, where it is very common, its oil was used by the population in the absence of that of olive. It was also used as a lamp oil.
The mastic is an evergreen native of the areas that overlook the Mediterranean basin. It can reach around