Sweet Ferula assa-foetida is an important medicinal plant in Iran with various therapeutic properties. This study aims to identify the ecological and phenological characteristics and chemical compounds of sweet Ferula assa-foetida in three natural habitats of Kerman province, including Ravar, Kerman, and Kuhbanan.
Three 500 m long transects were established in each sampling area, and ten 2×2 m plots were randomly selected at 50 m intervals in each transect. Density and percentage of canopy cover were measured. Phenological characteristics were studied for 10 shrubs randomly selected and marked in each habitat. Germination time, leaf emergence time, blooming time, seeding, and drying time were recorded every 15-10 days. Soil samples were collected from 0 to 30 cm depth to study soil properties, and sweet Ferula assa-foetida latex was prepared by water distillation. Chemical compounds of the essential oil were identified using gas chromatography with a mass spectrometer. Data were analyzed using SPSS 11.5 software.
Altitude range of sweet Ferula assa-foetida varied between 1750-2100 m above sea level, and rainfall varied between 100-130 mm in the studied habitats. Soil analysis indicated that this plant is not dependent on specific elements for growth and development. Soil had a sandy loam to clay loam texture, and soil acidity ranged from 7.8 to 7.5. Electrical conductivity (EC) showed a significant difference and was varied from 0.7 in Kuhbanan pastureland to 2.30 in Ravar range pastureland. Soil organic matter was low, ranging from 0.3-0.14%. The average day and night temperature decreased with increasing altitude, and the temperature required for each stage of vegetative growth was delayed. The longest and shortest interval from emergence to autumn were in Kuhbanan habitat (2075 m) and in Ravar habitat (1750 m), respectively. Cooling and washing the seeds increased seed germination by 95.3% compared to control treatment. A total of 70 chemical compounds were identified in the essential oils of sweet Ferula assa-foetida in the habitats.
The quality of chemical compounds in sweet Ferula assa-foetida can be affected by genetic or non-genetic changes in response to ecological differences of habitats. Various climatic, edaphic, and physiographic conditions of habitats affect the metabolic pathways and biosynthesis of active substances, resulting in various secondary metabolites being synthesized under different environmental conditions.
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