plant genus, 1771, from Latin, from Greek Silphion, name of a North African Mediterranean plant whose identity has been lost, the gum or juice of which was prized by the ancients as a condiment and a medicine. Probably of African origin.
The compass-plant, or rosin-weed, as it is commonly called, is the silphium laciniatum of the botanists.
When, in 658, Cyrenaica was incorporated with the Roman Republic, the province paid an annual tribute in silphium.
The plant is known botanically as silphium laciniatum, and belongs to the natural order Compositae.
The compass plants include, among others, the wild lettuce (Lactuca scariola) and rosin weed (silphium laciniatum).
The most important object of commerce of the Cyrenaica was the silphium, a plant the root of which sold for its weight in silver.
Assafœtida, the resinous matter of the silphium, is used largely by the Greeks in the preparation of their food.
There are more than twenty species of rosin-weed or silphium, all probably similar in their medicinal virtues.
With the characters of silphium, but the 5–12 fertile ray-flowers in a single series.
The soil is sandy, arid, and produces nothing but silphium, while more to the south the land is well irrigated and fertile.
Within the mountains, on the high plateau, assafoetida (silphium) was found, and probably some other medicinal herbs.