Martynia, a genus of plants, named in honor of Prof. John Martyn, of Cambridge, Eng., and belonging to a suborder of the Bignoni-acea, which some botanists regard as entitled to rank as an order, the sesamece. They are low branching annuals, with thick stems, which, as well as the simple rounded leaves, are clammy pubescent, and the whole plant has a rather heavy unpleasant odor. The flowers are in racemes, large, bell-shaped, five-lobed, and somewhat two-lipped; fertile stamens two or four. The fruit is an oval pod terminated by a long, slender, incurved beak, fleshy at first, but toward maturity becoming woody, and when quite ripe the beak splits into two hooked rigid horns, liberating numerous black and wrinkled seeds. There are six or eight species natives of warm countries, except one indigenous to the United States and found as far north as southern Illinois. Some of the species are cultivated as ornamental plants, their large, showy, red and yellow flowers strongly resembling those of the gloxinias. M. fragrant, from Mexico, has violet-purple flowers, which give off a pleasant vanilla-like odor.
The native species, M. proboscidea, is sometimes called the unicorn plant, and is cultivated in gardens for the sake of its young fruit; the flowers in this species are dull white or purplish and spotted with yellow and purple. The young pods, taken when still thoroughly Bucculent, are used for pickling, and are by many considered better than any other vegetable for the purpose. In the southern states the fruit is called martinoes.