Giant fennel (Ferula communis) is not a true fennel but is so named because it looks very similar to fennel. Giant fennel grows all over the Mediterranean, especially in the more arid areas. Here in Malta it is very common to see giant fennel growing on cliff tops – its bright yellow flowers providing a vivid contrast to the blue of the surrounding sea.
The plant flowers between March and early May after which seeds form on the umbels (the umbrella-like flowers). This plant is a perennial and easily grows to heights of 2.5 metres.
The sight of flowering giant fennel is a sure sign that spring is on its way. The plant has anti-coagulant properties and can be toxic if ingested in large quantities or over long periods of time. In antiquity it was known as narthex and it is said to be the plant used by Prometheus to steal fire from heaven to give to mankind.
Dingli Cliffs, March 2010
Fawwara, April 2011