Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 370: 170-171


Pliny: Natural History

priorem fructum incipiente pubescere uva peragunt, alterum initio hiemis, quales eos non traditur.


XLII. Et ferulam inter externas dixisse conveniat arborumque generi adscripsisse, quoniam quarundam naturae, sicuti distinguemus, lignum omne corticis loco habent forinsecus, ligni autem loco fungosam intus medullam ut sabuci, quaedam vero inanitatem 123ut harundines. ferula calidis nascitur locis atque trans maria, geniculatis nodata scapis. duo eius genera: nartheca Graeci vocant adsurgentem in altitudinem, nartheciam vero semper humilem. a genibus exeunt folia maxima ut quaeque terrae proxima; cetera natura eadem quae aneto, et fructu simili. nulli fruticum levitas maior; ob id gestatu facilis baculorum usum senectuti praebet.


XLIII. Semen ferulae thapsian quidam vocavere, decepti ei, quoniam ferula sine dubio est thapsia, sed1 sui generis, folis feniculi, inani caule nec excedente baculi longitudinem; semen quale ferulae, radix candida. incisa lacte manat et contusa suco; nec corticem abdicant. omnia ea venena; quippe etiam fodientibus nocet si minima aspiret aura: intumescunt

  • 1V.l. om. sed.


year; they produce a first crop of fruit just at the time when the grapes are beginning to ripen, and a second at the beginning of winter. What sort of fruit is produced on these two occasions is not reported.

XLII. It may be suitable to have fennel giantaThe ferula and allied shrubs. mentioned among the exotics and assigned to the genus ‘tree,’ inasmuch as the structure of some plants, in the classification that we shall adopt, has the whole of the wood outside in place of bark and inside, in place of wood, a fungous pith like that of the elder, though some have an empty hollow inside like reeds. This fennel grows in hot countries over sea; its stalk is divided by knotted joints. It has two varieties, one called in Greek narthex, which rises to some height, the other narthecia, which always grows low. From the joints shoot out very large leaves, the larger the nearer to the ground; but in other respects it has the same nature as the dill, and the fruit is similar. No shrub supplies a wood of lighter weight, and consequently it is easy to carry, and supplies walking-sticks to be used by old gentlemen.b

XLIII. The seed of the fennel giant has been called by some thapsia, but these people are mistaken, since the thapsia,c though no doubt it is a giant fennel, is one of a peculiar kind, having the leaves of a fennel and a hollow stalk not exceeding the length of a walking-stick; the seed is like that of the giant fennel, but the root is white. When an incision is made in the thapsia milk oozes out, and when pounded it emits a sweet juice; even the bark is not thrown away.d All these parts of the tree are poisons; in fact it is injurious even to those engaged in digging it up if the slightest current of air blows from the

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938