Maltese Ferule recognised as endemic species

The Environment Authority has announced the designation of a new endemic species for Malta, which reaffirms the North African affinity of some of the Maltese flora

Il-ferla
Il-ferla

The Environment and Resources Authority has announced the designation of a new endemic species for Malta – Il-Ferla or Ferule in English. The plant's scientific name is Ferula Melitensis.

The species is unique to the Maltese islands, hosting much difference both morphologically and genetically from other European and African ferule species. The ferule does whoever bare resemblance to the Tunisian Ferule which is not found in Malta

The difference between the Maltese plant and the more commonly found ferule, is that the Maltese plant is stockier, with difference's in leaves, flowers, flowering periods, fruits and seedings.

The plant is quite common in Malta, where it grows in a variety of different soils and habitats. 

Traditionally, the species was used for the treatment of dysentery or the treatment of skin infections – however such uses are no longer advised, as the plan can be poisonous if the inappropriate dosage is given.  

The ferule was also used to sharpen razor blades, or be an alternative to ‘firewood’ – the dried pith was sometimes also used to burn tinder slowly.

It is also known to produce compounds that have diverse pharmacological effects, including antibiotic/antimicrobial and compounds used in the treatment of cancer. It is because of this that the ferulenol is being considered as a lead compound in drug discovery.

The species also shed's more information on biogeography, confirming the North African affinity of some of the Maltese flora. Currently, the known origins of the Maltese ferule are assumed to be due to geographic isolation from North Africa as a result of alternating sea-levels in the period between 5.96 to 5.33 million years ago.

The is currently not the first plan species that confirm such a link since many unique endemic Maltese species show North African affinities such as the Maltese Salt Tree (Darniella melitensis; is-siġra tal-irmied) and the Maltese Fleabane (Chiliadenus bocconei; it-tulliera ta’ Malta).

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