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Is There Any Silphium Seed? Story Of Extinct Plant Seed

Do you know Silphium Seed pods may have inspired the shape of the heart? Now the plant is extinct, it’s difficult to know how people used to grow and use them!

The Silphium Seed had a unique heart shape, and people believe that it may have given rise to the connection between heart and love. Additionally, ancient Romans and Egyptians used the seeds for economic, agricultural, medicinal, and culinary purposes.

So, to clear up the confusion, let’s learn more about this extinct plant and its seed from the article below.

Is Silphium Plant Still Alive?

Perhaps the closest living look-alike plant of Silphium is the Giant Fennel (Ferula species), as it has similar growth habits.

Hence, Botanists have taxonomically classified the Silphium Plant as the closest extinct relative to present-day Fennel and Carrot.

Image illustrates the comparison of Silphium plant and today's Giant Fennel
Silphium Plant had many characteristics resembling to today’s Giant Fennel.

But another plant, known as the Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), may be confusing as they bear the same names.

However, Perfoliatum is a living plant that falls in the Asteraceae family.

Despite all the hype, Silphium is an extinct plant that was thought to be a miracle healer.

From literations, the umbellic yellow flowers of Silphium proved its theory that the plant falls in the family Umbellifereae.

Furthermore, Ancient Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks used the plant parts, including its seeds, to treat a plethora of diseases more than 2000 years ago.

Not only that but people also used the plant seeds for agricultural and culinary purposes.

What Was Silphium Seed Like?

The seeds of Silphium probably looked like the seeds of Giant Fennel alive today.

Nevertheless, the Silphium seeds were present inside the heart-shaped brown pods and were large, about the size of a modern nickel.

Many believe that the heart-shaped Silphium Seeds may have inspired the connection between heart and love.

Due to its popularity in the ancient Mediterranean regions of the world, the seeds were also used instead of the coins.

What Was The Benefit Of Silphium Seed?

Silphium Seeds were highly valued during the ancient Roman rule in Greece and Egypt.

Besides, its uses encompassed the uses of the seeds of many living plants.

Let’s see some important uses of the Silphium Seeds in detail.

1. Medicinal Uses of Silphium Seed

Seeds of Silphium were used to treat a number of diseases.

  • People used the seeds of Silphium to treat sore throat and hernia.
  • Additionally, the Silphium Seeds were used to cure fever, aches, and pain.
  • Further, people also used the seeds to reduce body warts.
  • Resin from the seeds was also used as a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy and for abortion.
  • The seeds were also used for preparing aphrodisiacs and perfumes.

2. Agricultural & Culinary Uses of Silphium Seed

The potential application of Silphium Seeds was mainly noted for the following uses.

  • The Silphium Seeds may have been used as a forage for livestock.
  • It may have been used for the extraction of food-grade vegetable oil.
  • People used to feed the seeds to the sheep and goats for a more succulent meal.
Image illustrates the economic use of Silphium Seed and Plant
Ancient Romans stamped the Silphium Seeds in the silver currency to honor the economic importance of the plant.

3. Economic Uses of Silphium Seed

The economic uses of the Silphium Seeds were as follows.

  • The Silphium Seeds were so valuable that people often called it the “black gold” or “the gold of Cyrene.”
  • Further, the seeds and pods were also used as currency for paying taxes and debts.
  • Romans stamped the silver coins with heart-shaped Silphium seed pods to honor the plant’s money value.
  • The seeds were also traded in the weight of gold, and Julius Caesar stashed more than half tonnes of the seeds in his treasury as valuables.

From Editorial Team


Silphium plant became extinct during the second century B.C., and its disappearance has been linked to overharvesting.

Hence, the records of the use of the Silphium Seed have been in the shadows, and more research is needed.