Sodom apple

Calotropis procera

عشار باسق

A shrub or tree of the Apocynaceae family that can grow to a height of 2-5 meters in the hot areas of the country. Its trunk and branches are white with a broken cork-like bark. The large round, entire, thick leaves are silver-green in color and appear to sit on the stem at their base, opposite one another. Their hairy coating diminishes with time. All parts of the plant exude a white latex when cut or broken, and they are toxic.

The numerous purple and white flowers are arranged in an umbellate arising from the nodes. The hermaphroditic flowers have organs in multiples of five. The five triangular petals are united at the base .At the center of each flower is a greenish pentagonal structure, composed of the two styles and five stamens of the flower. The pentagon protects the nectary in such a manner that enables large insects, (especially wood bees, Xylocopa) with a long proboscis only, to partake of the nectar. It is pollinated by insects such as the monarch butterfly and birds. 

Flowering period: It flowers all summer, from May to November. The peach-like fruit (ten centimeters in diameter) which is inflated with air, encloses two rows of seeds, each with a tuft of silky white hairs, 2-5 cm in length. Seeds are dispersed by wind and animals.

Ecology: It is found in warm climates in comparatively humid locations in deserts and extreme deserts and in salt marshs.

Common and medicinal uses: The latex fibers and wood derived from this plant have a variety of uses. Among the myriad of medicinal uses for various components of the plant: the milky sap is used externally for skin growths and varicose veins; a compound, glucoside, derived from this plant has emeto-carthartic and digitalic properties; other compounds have bactericidal and vermicidal properties; and an infusion of bark powder is used to treat leprosy and elephantiasis. Certain insects, such as Poekilocerus bufonius, are known to consume the leaves in order to acquire toxicity as a defensive mechanism.

During bird migration warblers of the genus Sylvia uses the nectar in the flowers as migration fuel. It is often that one can see a warbler with a purple face, full of the tree's pollen. These birds migrate with the pollen on their faces large distances to other Sodom apple trees, enriching the genetic diversity of the species.

 Distribution in Palestine: It is found in the Jordan River valley and the Dead Sea valley as well as the eastern slopes deserts of Judea and Samaria.