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Giant fennel

One of the most striking plants in the Cretan wilderness, but also on the roadside, is the giant fennel (Ferula communis). Its stem is up to 3 cm thick and it can grow to 3 m high.

From spring to early summer, the giant fennel forms umbrella-shaped umbels with many small yellow flowers. After flowering, the stem dries up but remains standing. Inside, a spongy pulp hardens, which has been of great importance to the Mediterranean population for thousands of years, as it can hold embers for a very long period of time. That is why fishermen and seamen brought the stalks of the giant fennel to sea and always had a fire ready. The embers could also be brought from one hearth to another on land and in the villages.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire in a stick made of giant fennel and brought it to earth. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, saw its usefulness as a walking stick. This staff of Dionysus received another function at festivals in his honor. If you put a pine cone on it, it will turn into a phallic symbol. Dionysus was also the god of fertility par excellence. Everyone who took part in the feasts of Dionysia, therefore, had to carry this Thyrsus staff with them.

Although it is related to the tuberous fennel, the giant fennel should not be eaten because it is very poisonous!

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