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Pon farr was the Vulcan time of mating, and was thus, a major part of the reproductive cycle. The pon farr occured approximately once every seven years during adulthood for both sexes. During pon farr, a Vulcan loses all emotional control and must either mate or die. (TOS episode & novelization: Amok Time; TOS movie, novelization & comic adaptation: The Search for Spock)
During the onset of the pon farr, the Vulcan underwent a neurochemical imbalance which took the form of madness, which later developed into plak tow. Unless the pon farr was satisfied, the Vulcan would die within eight days of the process beginning. (TOS episode: "Amok Time"; VOY episode: "Blood Fever")
In the days before Vulcans embraced Surak's teachings of peace and logic, Vulcans undergoing the pon farr would often kill in order to win a mate. After the Time of Awakening however, the koon-ut-kal-if-fee was adopted, and Vulcans became telepathically bonded when they were young. (TOS episode: "Amok Time")
Due to the very private nature of the pon farr within Vulcan society, outsiders were not told of it, and Starfleet doctors only began to find out in the 23rd century. Even by the 2370s, medical knowledge about the pon farr was scarce. (VOY episode: "Blood Fever")