Ferula conocaula is a perennial monocarpic, strongly onion-scented plant. Stem solitary, very stout, up to 15 cm thick at base, tapering towards apex, hispid, paniculate-branched, branches thick, lower branches alternate, upper branches verticillate, purplish tinged with age. Basal leaves petiolate; blade triangular in outline, ternate-pinnatifid; ultimate segments lanceolate or lanceolate-elliptic, to 27 × 7 cm, finely crenate, adaxially glabrous, abaxially densely puberulous. Cauline leaves reduced with expanded sheaths, uppermost almost wholly sheathing. Terminal umbels often sessile or short-pedunculate, lateral umbels long-pedunculate, usually exceeding terminal; umbels 8–14 mm across; bracts absent; rays 12–50, subequal; bracteoles few, lanceolate, small, deciduous; umbellules ca. 15-flowered. Stylopodium low-conic, base dilated; styles elongate, recurved. Fruit ellipsoid, ca. 10 × 5 mm; vittae 1–2 in each furrow, 8–14 on commissure.
It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Jun to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it could succeed outdoors in some parts of this country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Succeeds in most soils. Prefers a deep fertile soil in a sunny position. Plants have a long taproot and are intolerant of root disturbance. They should be planted into their final positions as soon as possible. Monocarpic, the plant takes some years before it flowers and dies after flowering.
Seed – best sown as soon as the seed is ripe in a greenhouse in autumn. Otherwise sow in April in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Plant them out into their permanent positions whilst still small because the plants dislike root disturbance. Give the plants a protective mulch for at least their first winter outdoors. Division in autumn. This may be inadvisable due to the plants dislike of root disturbance.
The gum resin, obtained from the roots, is anthelmintic, carminative, digestive and expectorant. It is used in the treatment of indigestion, dysentery, tumours, parasitic and anthelmintic infections. The essential oil in the resin can be expelled through the lungs and so is used in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough.
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