Cyclamen is a genus of 23 species of perennial flowering plants in the family Primulaceae. Cyclamen species are native to Europe and the Mediterranean Basin east to Iran, with one species in Somalia. They grow from tubers and are valued for their flowers with upswept petals and variably patterned leaves.
It was traditionally classified in the family Primulaceae, was reclassified in the family Myrsinaceae in 2000, and finally, in 2009 with the introduction of the APG III system, was returned to the subfamily Myrsinoideae within the family Primulaceae.
Cyclamen is Medieval Latin, from earlier Latin cyclamīnos, from Ancient Greek κυκλάμινος, kyklā́mīnos (also kyklāmī́s), probably from κύκλος, kýklos "circle", because of the round tuber. In English, the species of the genus are commonly called by the genus name.
In many languages, cyclamen species are colloquially called by a name like the English sowbread, because they are said to be eaten by pigs: pain de pourceau in French, pan porcino in Italian, varkensbrood in Dutch, "pigs' manjū" in Japanese.
Cyclamens have a tuber, from which the flowers and roots grow. In most species, leaves come up in autumn, grow through the winter, and die in spring, then the plant goes dormant through the dry Mediterranean summer.
The storage organ of the cyclamen is a round tuber that develops from the hypocotyl (the stem of a seedling). It is often mistakenly called a corm, but a corm (found in crocuses for example) has a papery tunic and a basal plate from which the roots grow. The storage organ of the cyclamen has no papery covering and, depending on the species, roots may grow out of any part. It is therefore properly classified as a tuber (somewhat like a potato). The tuber may produce roots from the top, sides, or bottom, depending on the species. Cyclamen persicum and Cyclamen coum root from the bottom; Cyclamen hederifolium roots from the top and sides. Cyclamen graecum has thick anchor roots on the bottom.
The shape of the tuber may be near spherical, as in Cyclamen coum or flattened, as in Cyclamen hederifolium. In some older specimens of Cyclamen purpurascens and Cyclamen rohlfsianum, growing points on the tuber become separated by shoulders of tissue, and the tuber becomes misshapen. In most other species, the tuber is round in old age.
Leaves and flowers sprout from growing points on the top of the tuber. Growing points that have lengthened and become like woody stems are known as floral trunks.
The size of the tuber varies depending on species. In Cyclamen hederifolium, older tubers commonly reach 24 cm (9.4 in) across, but in Cyclamen parviflorum, tubers do not grow larger than 2 cm (1 in) across.
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