Ferula communis or Giant Fennel is a frost hardy (except during very hard winters) herbaceous perennial that is a native of both the African and European sides of the Mediterranean region. It grows to just over 2 meters tall and has bright yellow flowers from late spring to early summer. It grows best in a full sun position and can be propagated from seed in the late summer. It is part of the Umbelliferae family of plants.
[Prefectdt note: – horticultural information is based on my experience of gardening in the UK and and Northern Europe, areas with other weather conditions may need alternative advice]
Ferula in Corporal Punishment
Ferula communis has stout hollow stems that are very strong, for an herbaceous plant, when cured. Ferula is the Latin word for rod and in roman times it was one of the most common instruments used for corporal punishment. Part of the oath taken by Gladiators before they started their training involved them willingly “to submit to be beaten with rods” These would, more than likely, be rods made from this plant. The unfortunate part of the bible that starts “Spare the rod” most probably refers to rods of Ferula communis. The popularity of this kind of rod for corporal punishment may arise from it’s reputation for being able to deliver a considerable amount of pain whilst leaving no bruising, having never experienced this type of implement I cannot attest to or deny this.
Other uses of the word Ferula for CP implements
In Catholic, Jesuit schools a whale bone within a casing of leather was often used for CP, this was also called a Ferula.
A form of short hardened piece of leather, used for striking the hands is also sometimes called a Ferula.
Other uses of Ferula communis
Ferula rods can also be used to make walking sticks, splints and cooking implements capable of being used in boiling liquids. The gummy resin of this plant and almost all of the other 170+ species of Ferula are used widely for cooking ingredients and medicines.
Ferula in mythology and fiction
Prometheus, famous for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to man, was supposed to have smuggled fire past the gods by hiding it in a Ferula staff.
In the Harry Potter series of books “Ferula” is a spell used to conjure up splints and bandages.