is a gooey polar glycoprotein
; an exopolysaccharide
; a polymer
produced by most plants and some microorganisms.
It occurs in various parts of nearly all classes of plant, usually in relatively small percentages, and is frequently associated with other substances, such as tannins and alkaloids.
Mucilage in plants is thought to aid in water storage and seed germination, and to act as a membrane thickener and food reserve. Among the richest sources are cacti (and other succulents), and flax seeds.
Mucilage has a unique purpose in some carnivorous plants. The plant genera Drosera (Sundews), Pinguicula, and others have leaves studded with mucilage-secreting glands, and use a "flypaper trap" to capture insects.
Exopolysaccharides are the most stabilising factor for microaggregates and are widely distributed in soils. Therefore exopolysaccharide-producing "soil algae" play a vital role in the ecology of the world's soils. The substance covers the outside of, for example, unicellular or filamentous green algae and cyanobacteria. Amongst the green algae especially, the group Volvocales are known to produce exopolysaccharides in a certain part of their life cycle.
Mucilage is edible, but tastes rather bland. It is used in medicine
for its demulcent
properties. Traditionally marshmallows
were made from the extract of the mucilaginous root of the marshmallow plant
and due to the demulcent nature of the extract, worked as a cough suppressant. It is used as a type of glue for paper. Some carnivorous plants with mucilage are used for the traditional production of a dairy product in Sweden, called filmjölk
During the fermentation of natto soybean, extracellular enzymes produced by Bacillus natto react with soybean sugars to produce mucilage. The amount and viscosity of the mucilage are important natto characteristics and contribute to natto’s unique taste and smell.
The following plants are known to contain far greater concentrations of mucilage than is typically found in most plants:
is also a term for an adhesive
composed of a solution of a sticky vegetable product or vegetable gum
in water, used primarily to seal paper
(e.g., postage stamps
- Mucilage McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 5th edition
- Mucilage Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2007)