Ferula assa-foetida (Gintzburger et al., 2003)

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Eryngium mirandum
Gintzburger et al., Rangelands in Uzbekistan, 2003
Ferula assa-foetida (Gintzburger et al., 2003)
Eminium lehmannii
Ferula assa-foetida
Ferula assa-foetida
Ferula assa-foetida
Ferula assa-foetida
Ferula kyzylkumica
Ferula oopoda
Ferula oopoda
Ferula varia


Ferula assa-foetida L.

Local name:

  • Russian: Ферула вонючая (смолоносница) - ferula vonjučaja (smolonosnica)
  • Uzbek: Sassyk kovrak, Kovrak, Shashir
  • Turkmen: Chomych

Chromosome numbers: 2n = 22 (Hakansson 1953; Poddubnaya Arnoldi 1982).

Description and morphology: Ephemeroid. Perennial plant (height about 1 m), monocarpic (after 7–9 years) with a succulent, cylindrical and deeply penetrating root. Stem: single, strong ramified at the top, fleshy, thick with rosette-like leaves (40–100 cm diameter) arising from base. Leaves: alternate, 80 cm long, soft, much divided on large lobes with sheathing stalks at the base. Flowers: borne in many radial terminal umbels, compound in a large spheroid umbel. Perianth with tiny calyx of 5 teeth and 5 free, ovoid, often notched and sometimes unequal in size, pale colour petals; 5 stamens alternating with the petals. Ovary inferior; 2 fused carpels, ripening into two separate, but indehiscent parts, suspended from the tip of the axis. Starts growing from end of February-early March.

Reproduction: Sexual, polyembryony, parthenocarpy. Flowering: March–April. Fruit maturation: April–May. Fruit: large, flattened, ovateelliptic achene divided into 5-ribbed mericarp with wing-like margins. Oil ducts 2–3 per furrow. Seed: white brown, flatly compressed, about 3–20 in one inflorescence. Small erect embryo (about half size of seed), surrounded by endosperm and thin seed coat. Pericarp contains large quantity of inhibitors. Dormancy A1–B2 type. Field and laboratory seed germination is very low. Long-term stratification (0–10 °C) for 1–1.5 or more months or treatment with sand or peat greatly increase germination. Washing and/or removal of fruit body positively influences germination rate.

Pastoral importance: Expected yield of green forage: 0.25–0.5 t DM/ha. Seed crops may reach 0.5 t/ha. Used both as pasture and concentrate- silage mixed with Artemisia. Before flowering, green leaves are readily eaten by camels and horses. Fruit and seed are mostly consumed by sheep, goats and gazelles in spring and summer.

Fodder value: Mature fruits contain (% DM): fat 9.5; ash 10.9; crude protein 22.8–30.0; cellulose 29.0; nitrogen-free extract 34.0. Leaves (% DM): fat 6.8; ash 10.9; crude protein 24.5; cellulose 10.3. Root of vegetative plants (% DM): soluble sugar 18.4–25.8; starch 17.6–29.7; cellulose 3.3–18.2; protein 6.2–9.5. During vegetation, contains 31.5 mg/kg carotin, aromatic resin (pitch) (31.3–65.1%) and volatile oil (6.9–17%). Local people store seeds for fattening livestock in winter, after soaking fruits in boiled water for 24 hours before using.

Economic interest: Forage and medicinal. It is used for resins, volatile oil, food and fibre and also for perfume and soap.

Habitat: Psammo-xerophyte. Found in pastures on foothills, and in semi-desert and sandy desert. Often occurs as a single plant but may form dense communities (100–1500 plants/ha) on clay-loamy foothill plains, in sandy deserts, on grey-gypsum soils.

Distribution: Middle, Minor and East Asia, and Kazakhstan.

Other: Ferula spp.

  • Ferula oopoda (Boiss. et Buhse) Boiss. (in Karakum desert, Turkmenistan).
  • Ferula varia (Schrenk.) Trautv. (in Ayakgujunkde, Küljüktau hills).