Silphium rediscovered?

Luigi dug up this great article — Devil’s Dung: The World’s Smelliest Spice — which reveals more about asafoetida than you could possibly ever have wanted to know. Lord but it is strange stuff to cook with, and yet I do like what it does for a dish. But I digress. Buried in a sidebar near the bottom of the page is a claim, complete with coy question mark, that silphium, most prized spice of ancient Rome, might be alive and well. The article recounts the history of silphium, and how it was believed to have gone extinct by the 1st century CE, so I won’t repeat that here. It also mentions the possibility that Cachrys ferulacea and ancient silphium are one and the same.1 Personally, I have no idea, and I’m not even sure I know how one would know, but I’m intrigued. Thanks Luigi.

  1. GBIF doesn’t yet know about the record from Cyrenia. []

5 Replies to “Silphium rediscovered?”

  1. Wow, I’ve been intrigued by Silphium for quite a while in the context of doing research on the devil’s bean (Vicia narbonensis L.) Ful iblis, fûl-iblîs Arabic (Palestine, North Africa), Devil’s bean Löw (1967), Kernick (1978), Post (1932). Better check it out. Thanks for being vigilant.

    1. Excellent. So the Devil has a claw and a bean, and, inevitably, dung. What else could he eat, and I don’t mean devilled eggs or kidneys, just common names of plants or plant parts?

      1. a few more devil parts, not many of them edible, though…

        The “Mansfeld database” at the IPK in Gatersleben, Germany has a common name search function for their painstakingly collected linguistic biodiversity:

        1. blue devils: Echium vulgare L.
        2. devil bean: Crotalaria retusa L.
        3. devil lily: Lilium lancifolium Thunb.
        4. devil’s backbone: Kalanchoe daigremontiana Hamet & Perr.
        5. devil’s claw: Proboscidea parviflora (Woot.) Woot. & Standl.
        6. devil’s claws: Acacia greggii A. Gray
        7. devil’s coachcohip: Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (L.) Valil
        8. devil’s cotton: Abroma augustum (L.) L.f.
        9. devils dung: Ferula foetida (Bunge) Regel
        10. devil’s thorn: Tribulus terrestris L.
        11. devil’s tongue: Amorphophallus konjac K. Koch

        Using diabolous synonyms such as Teufel (German) yields further results:

        1. Teufelsklaue: Acacia greggii A. Gray
        2. Teufelskralle: Phyteuma Lour.

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