Definitions

sagapenum

Ferula

[fer-oo-luh, fer-yoo-]

Ferula (from Latin ferula, "rod") is a genus of about 170 species of flowering plants in the family Apiaceae, native to the Mediterranean region east to central Asia, mostly growing in arid climates. They are herbaceous perennial plants growing to 1–4 m tall, with stout, hollow, somewhat succulent stems. The leaves are tripinnate or even more finely divided, with a stout basal sheath clasping the stem. The flowers are yellow, produced in large umbels. Many plants of this genus, especially F. communis are referred to as "giant fennel," although they are not fennel in the strict sense.

Selected species

  • Ferula assafoetida - Asafoetida
  • Ferula caspica
  • Ferula communis - Giant fennel
  • Ferula conocaula
  • Ferula diversivittata
  • Ferula foetida
  • Ferula gummosa, syn. galbaniflua - Galbanum
  • Ferula hermonis
  • Ferula karelinii
  • Ferula linkii
  • Ferula longifolia
  • Ferula marmarica
  • Ferula moschata, syn. sumbul - Muskroot
  • Ferula narthex - Ferula
  • Ferula orientalis
  • Ferula persica
  • Ferula schair
  • Ferula szowitziana
  • Ferula tingitiana
  • The Roman spice silphium probably came from a now extinct species of Ferula.

Uses

The gummy resin of many species of Ferula is used for medical or culinary purposes:
Ferula assafoetida is used to make the spice asafoetida, or hing
Ferula gummosa makes galbanum
Ferula persica makes sagapenum
Ferula moschata makes sumbul
Ferula tingitana makes "African Ammoniacum"
Silphium was used to make laserpicium

The Romans called the hollow light rod made from this plant a ferula (compare also fasces, judicial birches). Such rods were used for walking sticks, splints, for stirring boiling liquids, and for corporal punishment.

The ferula also shows up in mythological contexts. The main shaft of a thyrsus was traditionally made from this plant, and Prometheus smuggled fire to humanity by hiding it in a ferula as well.

Women in Central Asia as well as a small number in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina use these to induce abortion in first trimester.

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