Sodom’s apple milkweed (Calotropis procera)

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Calotropis procera flowering
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Sodom’s apple milkweed fact file

Sodom’s apple milkweed description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderGentianales
FamilyAsclepiadaceae
GenusCalotropis (1)

Growing as a spreading shrub or a small tree, Sodom's apple milkweed (Calotropis procera) has simple stems with only a few branches, which are light grey-green in colour and covered in a fissured, corky bark (3) (4) (5) (6) (7). The fairly large, grey-green leaves grow in opposite pairs along the stems and are smooth, with a pointed tip and heart-shaped base (2) (3) (4) (6) (7). The large, waxy, white flowers have deep purple spots or blotches at the base of each of the five petals, and are grouped in clusters, known as umbels (3) (4) (6) (7). Sodom's apple milkweed produces a simple, fleshy fruit in a grey-green inflated pod, containing numerous flat, brown seeds with tufts of long, white silky hair (‘pappus’) at one end. Sodom's apple milkweed exudes a milky white sap (latex) when the plant is cut or broken, which although toxic is widely used in many traditional medicines (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7).

Also known as
apple of Sodom, ashkhar, desert apple, giant milkweed, rubber bush, Sodom apple, Sodom's milkweed.
Size
Height: 2.5 – 6 m (2)
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Sodom’s apple milkweed biology

Sodom's apple milkweed is a perennial species (5) and flowering and fruiting occurs throughout the year, with each plant producing hundreds to thousands of seeds which are dispersed by the wind. After rainy periods, Sodom's apple milkweed seedlings will emerge in large numbers, although very few will grow to reach maturity (6). Cross-pollination occurs by insects, particularly by species such as the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), which uses Sodom's apple milkweed as a host plant for various stages of its life cycle (2). The latex produced by Sodom's apple milkweed is toxic when ingested by mammals, affecting the heart, as well as causing nausea and vomiting (7).

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Sodom’s apple milkweed range

Sodom's apple milkweed is native to much of Africa (excluding south and central Africa), the Arabian Peninsula and southern Asia. Sodom's apple milkweed has also been introduced, and is now naturalised, in Australia, many Pacific islands, Central and South America, South Africa and the Caribbean Islands (2) (3) (4) (6) (7) (8).

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Sodom’s apple milkweed habitat

A drought-resistant, salt-tolerant species, Sodom's apple milkweed grows in open habitats and is particularly common in overgrazed pastures and on poor soils where there is little competition from grasses. Sodom's apple milkweed is also found along roadsides, watercourses, river flats and coastal dunes, and is often prevalent in disturbed areas (2) (3) (5) (6).  

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Sodom’s apple milkweed status

Sodom's apple milkweed has yet to be classified by the IUCN.

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Sodom’s apple milkweed threats

There are no known threats to Sodom's apple milkweed.

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Sodom’s apple milkweed conservation

There are no known conservation measures in place for Sodom's apple milkweed.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
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Find out more

To find out more about Sodom's apple milkweed, see:

To find out more about conservation in the Emirates region, see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Cross-pollination
The transfer of pollen between flowers on different plants.
Naturalised
Term used to describe a species that was originally introduced from another country, but becomes established, maintains itself and invades native populations.
Perennial
A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
Umbel
In plants, a usually umbrella-shaped flower cluster in which the individual flower stalks originate at roughly the same point.
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References

  1. UNEP-WCMC (November, 2010)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/
  2. Orwa, C., Mutua, A., Kindt, R., Jamnadass, R. and Simons, A. (2009) Calotropis procera. Agroforestree Database: A Tree Reference and Selection Guide. World Agroforestry Centre, Kenya.
  3. Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project (HEAR) (November, 2010)
    http://www.hear.org/pier/species/calotropis_procera.htm
  4. Brandes, D. (2005) Calotropis procera on Fuerteventura. Working Group for Vegetation Ecology, Institute of Plant Biology, TechnicalUniversity Braunschweig, Germany. Available at:
    http://www.biblio.tu-bs.de/geobot/fuerte.html
  5. Ecocrop (November, 2010)
    http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/cropView?id=4079
  6. Francis, J.K. (2003) Calotropis procera. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Puerto Rico.
  7. Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. (2001) Noxious Weeds of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Australia.
  8. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) (November, 2010)
    http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?8653
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Image credit

Calotropis procera flowering  
Calotropis procera flowering

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