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Anathrika – Giant Fennel (Ferula communis)

This noble and robust Giant Fennel decorates our countryside in springtime creating a striking silhouette against a clear blue sky. Anathrika is a tall flower-stalk, thick as a broomstick, with large leaves divided into many slender segments, topped with rounded umbels of yellow unscented flowers. Ferula communis is abundant throughout Cyprus, blooming from March to May. Anathrika rises proudly along the high ways and roads, in field boundaries, in slopes and gullies and sometimes in sandy and stony soils, even up to a 600m altitude.

Anathrika is closely related to the Greek mythology. Maenads, the devoted followers of Dionysus, the god of wine, carried a thyrsus, a long stick of Anathrika wrapped with ivy or vine leaves and topped with a pine cone, used as ritual accessories during the Dionysian processions and cults. Thyrsus was a symbol of prosperity and fertility.

In the myth of Prometheus, it is said that he defied the Olympian Gods by stealing fire from Hephaestus’ workshop and gifted it to humanity. Prometheus concealed the flame in the hollow stalk of a Giant Fennel, whose pith burns slowly and evenly without destroying the outer stalk. Zeus got mad and made Hephaestus himself to chain Prometheus on Mound Caucasus where an eagle would eat his liver eternally.

Ferula communis was known in the antiquity as narthex. In ancient times, due to its flexibility and strength, its soft interior and light weight, was used to stabilize fractures. For this reason, nowadays the plaster cast used for broken bones in the arm or leg is called “narthex”, referring to the Greek name of the plant.

For Cypriots, this plant is connected to the popular and very tasty Anathrika’s mushrooms, which as its name suggests, are found near the roots of the plant. Also, in the old times, the wood of Anathrika was used for making stools and other decorative objects.

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