A sundew with a leaf bent around a fly trapped by mucilage.

Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance produced by most plants and some microorganisms. It is a polar glycoprotein and an exopolysaccharide.

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.


Human uses

Mucilage is edible, but tastes rather bland[citation needed]. It is used in medicine for its demulcent properties. Traditionally marshmallows were made from the extract of the mucilaginous root of the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis); due to the demulcent nature of the extract, it served as a cough suppressant. The inner bark of the slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), a North American tree species, has long been used as a demulcent, and is still produced commercially for that purpose.

Mucilage mixed with water is used as a glue, especially for bonding paper items such as labels, postage stamps, and envelope flaps. Differing types and varying strengths of mucilage can also be used for other adhesive applications, including gluing labels to metal cans, wood to china, and leather to pasteboard.[1]

During the fermentation of natto soybeans, extracellular enzymes produced by the bacterium Bacillus natto react with soybean sugars to produce mucilage. The amount and viscosity of the mucilage are important natto characteristics, contributing to natto’s unique taste and smell.

The mucilage of two kinds of insectivorous plants, sundew (Drosera) and butterwort (Pinguicula), is used for the traditional production of a yoghurt-like Swedish dairy product called filmjölk.

Use in medicine

Starch mucilage, Flax seeds mucilage, Roots of Althaea officinalis. Mucilage can be used in: gastrointestinal inflammatory processes; associated to topical irritation agents. The mechanism of action is that mucilages cover the mucous membranes and prevent irritation of the nerve endings. Mucilages does not exert resorptive action.

Plant sources

The following plants are known to contain far greater concentrations of mucilage than is typically found in most plants:

See also

  • Marine mucilage


  1. ^ Dawidowsky, Ferdinand (2009). Glue, Gelatine, Animal Charcoal, Phosphorus, Cements, Pastes, and Mucilages. BiblioLife. pp. 1. ISBN 978-1113006110. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • mucilage — [ mysilaʒ ] n. m. • 1314; lat. mucilago, de mucus ♦ Didact. Substance végétale (extraite de lichens, de graines de lin, de la bourrache), composée de pectines, ayant la propriété de gonfler dans l eau et employée en pharmacie comme excipient… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Mucilage — Mu ci*lage, n. [F., from L. mucilago a musty juice, fr. mucus mucus, slime. See {Mucus}.] 1. (Bot. Chem.) A gummy or gelatinous substance produced in certain plants by the action of water on the cell wall, as in the seeds of quinces, of flax, etc …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mucilage — (n.) late 14c., mussillage, viscous substance found in vegetable material, from O.Fr. mucilage (14c.), from L.L. mucilago musty or moldy juice (4c.), from L. mucere be musty or moldy, from mucus mucus (see MUCUS (Cf. mucus)). Meaning adhesive is… …   Etymology dictionary

  • mucilage — [myo͞o′si lij΄] n. [ME muscilage < MFr mucilage < LL mucilago, musty juice < L mucere: see MUCID] 1. any of various thick, sticky substances produced in certain plants ☆ 2. any watery solution of gum, glue, etc. used as an adhesive …   English World dictionary

  • mucilage — Mucilage, Mucilago, apud recentiores medicos …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • Mucilage — Un mucilage est une substance végétale constituée de polysaccharides, qui gonfle au contact de l eau et produit une substance visqueuse semblable à la gélatine. Les substances (notamment d origine fongique ou animale) présentant des… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • mucilage — (mu si la j ) s. m. 1°   Substance végétale de nature visqueuse, coagulable en gelée par l alcool, qui se rapproche beaucoup de la gomme, et qui se trouve en grande quantité dans les racines de guimauve et de grande consoude, dans la graine de… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

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  • mucilage canal —   Passage within an organ which allows for the transport of mucilage …   Expanded glossary of Cycad terms

  • mucilage cell — noun : a plant cell that secretes mucilage (sense 1) usually by disorganization of its wall …   Useful english dictionary

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