Ancient ‘miracle plant,’ believed extinct, said rediscovered in Turkey

An ancient plant hailed as a panacea that was consumed by most ancient Mediterranean cultures and believed to be extinct may have been rediscovered in Turkey.

Referred to as silphion, the yellow-flowered plant was described in Greek, Roman and Egyptian texts thousands of years ago and was thought to have been eaten into extinction by Roman Emperor Nero some 2,000 years ago.

Described by National Geographic as a “miracle plant,” silphion — also known as silphium — was used in classical antiquity as a seasoning, perfume, aphrodisiac, medicine, and even as a contraceptive.

The plant mostly grew in the ancient city of Cyrene in what is now Libya in North Africa and quickly became the city’s most coveted item of trade, with Cyrenacian coins bearing the image of the valuable plant — the only known image of the ancient plant in existence.

Historians and botanists alike had searched for the plant for hundreds of years but all efforts failed and they were forced to accept the theory that the plant was eaten into extinction, with Nero himself reported to have taken the last mouthful.


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