Antirrhinum majus

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For other uses, see Snapdragon (disambiguation).
Antirrhinum majus
Antirrhinum majus from Thasos.JPG
Plant growing in an old wall in Thasos, Greece
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Plantaginaceae /
Genus: Antirrhinum
Species: A. majus
Binomial name
Antirrhinum majus

Antirrhinum majus (common snapdragon; often - especially in horticulture - simply "snapdragon") is a species of flowering plant belonging to the genus Antirrhinum. It is native to the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal north to southern France, and east to Turkey and Syria. [2][3] The common name "snapdragon", originates from the flowers' reaction to having their throats squeezed, which causes the "mouth" of the flower to snap open like a dragon's mouth.


It is an herbaceous perennial plant, growing to 0.5–1 m tall, rarely up to 2 m. The leaves are spirally arranged, broadly lanceolate, 1–7 cm long and 2-2.5 cm broad. The flowers are produced on a tall spike, each flower is 3.5-4.5 cm long, zygomorphic, with two 'lips' closing the corolla tube; wild plants have pink to purple flowers, often with yellow lips. The fruit is an ovoid capsule 10–14 mm diameter, containing numerous small seeds. [4] The plants are pollinated by bumblebees, and the flowers close over the insects when they enter and deposit pollen on their bodies.


Antirrhinum majus
Antirrhinum majus subsp. linkianum

There are five subspecies:[2][3]

  • Antirrhinum majus subsp. majus. Southern France, northeast Spain.
  • Antirrhinum majus subsp. cirrhigerum (Ficalho) Franco. Southern Portugal, southwest Spain.
  • Antirrhinum majus subsp. linkianum (Boiss. & Reut.) Rothm. Western Portugal (endemic).
  • Antirrhinum majus subsp. litigiosum (Pau) Rothm. Southeastern Spain.
  • Antirrhinum majus subsp. tortuosum (Bosc) Rouy. Throughout the species' range.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

A peloric Snapdragon

Though perennial, the species is often cultivated as a biennial or annual plant, particularly in colder areas where it may not survive the winter. Numerous cultivars are available, including plants with lavender, orange, pink, yellow, or white flowers, and also plants with peloric flowers, where the normal flowering spike is topped with a single large, symmetrical flower. [4][5]

The trailing (creeping) variety is often referred to as A. majus pendula (syn. A. pendula, A. repens).

It often escapes from cultivation, and naturalised populations occur widely in Europe north of the native range,[4] and elsewhere in temperate regions of the world.[3]

In the laboratory it is a model organism,[6] for example containing the gene DEFICIENS which provides the letter "D" in the acronym MADS-box for a family of genes which are important in plant development.


Antirrhinin is an anthocyanin found in A. majus.[7] It is the 3-rutinoside of cyanidin.


  1. ^ Tank, David C.; Beardsley, Paul M.; Kelchner, Scot A.; Olmstead, Richard G. (2006). "Review of the systematics of Scrophulariaceae s.l. and their current disposition". Australian Systematic Botany. 19 (4): 289–307. doi:10.1071/SB05009. 
  2. ^ a b Flora Europaea: Antirrhinum majus
  3. ^ a b c Germplasm Resources Information Network: Antirrhinum majus
  4. ^ a b c Blamey, M.; Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2. 
  5. ^ Huxley, A, ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. ISBN 0-333-47494-5. 
  6. ^ Oyama, R. K.; Baum, D. A. (2004). "Phylogenetic relationships of North American Antirrhinum (Veronicaceae)". American Journal of Botany. 91 (6): 918–25. doi:10.3732/ajb.91.6.918. PMID 21653448. 
  7. ^ Scott-Moncrieff, R (1930). "Natural anthocyanin pigments: The magenta flower pigment of Antirrhinum majus". Biochemical Journal. 24 (3): 753–766. PMC 1254517Freely accessible. PMID 16744416.