Notes Giant Milkweed

For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter.

Deuteronomy 32:32 (KJV)

For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomor'rah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters are bitter.

Deuteronomy 32:32 (RSV)

For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, and from the terraces of Gomor'rah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters are bitter.

Deuteronomy 32:32 (NWT)

Only Zohary, among the biblical scholars I have read, suggests this species as a biblical species, noting, as I have noted, that it is very common in the Holy Land; wherever it is found, it is called by its Arabic name osher. The apple of Sodom, he continues, is more a symbol than a botanical, gently criticising other writers, like perhaps even me, who have equated the Apple of Sodom with such species as Citrullus colocynthis, Solanum incanum, or Solanum sodomaeum, "unjustifiably" see the latter species). Symbolizing the evil Gomorrah and Sodom, its cursed fruit is devoid of flesh and full of hairs (the silk). The juice is poisonous. Sodom was once happy, famed for its fruits and wealth. It was burned by lightning but there are still remainders of that divine fire, and traces of the five cities are still there. The Calotropis fruits may look fit to eat, but when picked they dissolve into smoke and ashes. That certainly could apply to our local milkweed fruits and could apply equally well to the ripe fruits of the giant milkweed, better than those of Citrullus or Solanum. This is how Jose-phus interpreted the Apple of Sodom. Zohary accepts Josephus's interpretation. Having seen giant milkweed in Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, and wherever I go in the arid tropics, I am inclined to agree.

C. gigantea and C. procera are confused, with good reason, in the field and in the herbarium. They have very similar activities and indications (WO2). My Haitian source (AVP) includes Asclepias gigantea as a synonym for Calotropis procera, implying to me that AVP was not distinguishing the species. Vice versa for EFS. I have consequently entered all their common names below. Both are called giant milkweed by the USDA, but that common name is preferred for the namesake C. gigantea. AH2 further confounded the issue by giving them both the same standardized name, mudar, but

FIGURE 1.17 Giant Milkweed (Calotropis procera).

some different and some shared common names for the two species. Here I reluctantly accede to the Herbal PDR (Edition 2), which treats the species separately. KAB keys the species as follows:

• Corolla lobes narrow, shorter than the staminal column with 2 obtuse auricles just below the entire apex: C. gigantea

• Corolla lobes broader, as long as or longer than the staminal column without auricles below the 2-cleft apex: C. procera

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