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The Knights of St. John and endangered species safety

“Fungus coccineus Melitensis Typhoides”,
from Paolo Boccone, Icones & Descriptiones rariarum plantarum Siciliae, Melitae, Galliae, & Italiae (1674)

A current journey to Malta took me to the Dwejra on the attractive island of Gozo, off the coast of which lies the small islet of Fungus Rock. The island is called after the uncommon “Malta Fungus” (really a flowering plant) that grows on the highest of this rock and was as soon as thought to own medicinal properties. The Knights Hospitallers exhibit at the previous Sacra Infermeria in Valletta explains that the Knights (also called the Knights of St. John), who dominated Malta from 1530 to 1798, so prized the plant that they usually gave presents of it to kings, noblemen, and distinguished guests.

Assortment was solely allowed 15 days after the feast of St. John in Might, this allowed the plant to flower and propagate. The growing demand on this restricted plant led to concern on its doable extinction. Grand Grasp Pinto decreed the Rock out of bounds in 1746; trespassers risked a three-year spell as oarsmen on the Knights’ galleys. He posted a everlasting guard there and even constructed a precarious cable-car basket from the rock to the mainland and in addition ordered the edges smoothed to take away handholds. These days, Fungus Rock is a nature reserve and the uncommon plant remains to be protected by Maltese legislation.

Fungus Rock at Dwejra, Gozo (G. Mannaerts)

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