Fungus Rock (Il-Gebla tal-General)

Often referred to as Mushroom Rock,

and among Maltese it is called Il-Gebla tal-General, meaning “The Generals Rock”.

Fungus Rock in present-day life is a nature reserve, its shoreline is accessible to divers, snorkelers and bathers alike.

Its presence takes the form of a huge, massive lump of limestone rock. It stands proud and forms a small islet at the mouth of the black lagoon in Dwejra. Fungus Rock stands 60 metres high, found on the West side of Gozo, under the jurisdiction of San Lawrenz and has a protected status to this day.

Knights Hospitaller:

Fungus Rock has a long history, dating back to the Knights Hospitaller in the 1700s. As history tells us, the Knights Hospitaller discovered a fungus growing on the flat top of the rock. This fungus is known today as Malta Fungus. It is not actually a fungus, but a parasitic flowering plant with a repulsive and very distinct smell. During this time, the Knights and Doctors believed the fungus possessed medicinal properties. It was used to cure dysentery and as a styptic dressing for open wounds and sores. 

The Maltese Fungus became so sort after, the Grand Master Pinto declared the Rock out of bounds in 1746. The fungus was given as gifts to Nobleman of high distinction, and visitors coming to the Maltese Islands.

Grand Master Pinto:

A decree to put Fungus Rock out of bounds to the general public was enforced. Grand Master Pinto ordered a basket construction to scale the Fungus Rock. This construction operated in the form of a cable car, bringing the Maltese Fungus from the rock to the mainland. The hand-made precarious construction travelled a total distance of 50m and hand-operated with ropes. The construction of the baskets did not allow for handholds, all sides smooth and clean removing any possibility of holding on to the basket. Thieves suffered severe punishment.

Punishment:

Fungus Rock, in 1746, following the decrements of no access received a permanent guard. The appointed guard’s position is to watch over the rock, day and night in case of thieves.  On orders from Grand Master Pinto, anyone caught trespassing on Fungus Rock risked being punished and sent for a three-year stint in the Knights galleys, as oarsmen…this fate was a mean task!

Today:

The Maltese Fungus, known today as “Fucus coccineus melitensis” is being studied by pharmacologists.  The Maltese Fungus has found a wide variety of uses in Chinese, European and Arabic medicine.

Photo Fungus Rock was taken by Janet Bulmer, DiveSMART Gozo

Divesite: Fungus Rock dive site is accessible by boat only.