The Fungus Rock is a 60-meter high islet located beside the Azur Window, in about 60 meters away from the Gozo mainland. If you look from the sea, the limestone rock lies practically at the entrance to Dwejra black lagoon and right in the middle of the bay’s flanges. It has an inside aperture which creates amazing water reflections besides the islet. The Fungus name the rock received after the plant used as a medical cure at those times was found there.
Known in these territories as Gherq is-Sinjur, or Fungus Gaulitanus, the plant was found by the Maltese galleys’ commander. The treasure of those times medicine, having an unattractive appearance and unpleasant odour, was growing on the top of the rock. It was considered as a parasitic flowering plant, which was supposed to be a medical cure for dysentery, impotence, and bleeding. There were only several rocks where this rare kind of plant grew.
To keep fungus safe from any invasions the Knights of the St. John’s Order decided to defend the rock. Three years as oarsmen in the Knights' galleys or even a death penalty would wait for those who tried to steal the plant. Only the noblemen of Malta could collect the fungus. This plant was famous in Europe too so it needed reliable protection from the foreign invaders, who could come from the sea. To prevent any threats the island was also observed from the Dwejra Watch Tower.
Doctors of the Valletta hospital regularly used this medical cure to help their patients. The Fungus was dried and then used as a mixture to take as prescribed by the doctor or to dress wounds as a hemostatic substance. The hospital needed this medicine to be constantly available. To organize the permanent supply of the cure to the mainland a basket on the rope was invented. That was a forbear of a cable-car system. The basket was filled in with a plant on the island and mechanically moved to the mainland.
Nowadays pharmacologists explore real features and properties of the plant and it seems that all the efforts to protect the medicine were senseless. Nevertheless, the legend has its unique charm for the history of the place. In any way, the location is worth seeing. The tourists would be amazed with the vertical walls of the rock and its fissures. In 1992 the rock became a nature reserve.