Alternative common names:
Apple of sodom,Sodom apple.
Giant milkweed is a spreading shrub or small tree. Milky sap oozes from any part of the plant which is cut or broken. This sap is toxic to humans and animals.Stems are smooth and pale greyish green. Mature stems have a characteristic beige corrugated bark, cork-like in appearance and texture.
Where does this species come from?North Africa, tropical Africa, Western Asia, South Asia, and Indochina.
What is its invasive status in South Africa?NEMBA 2020 1b
Where in South Africa is it a problem?Far northern Limpopo Province.
How does it spread?Seeds are dispersed by birds.
Why is it a problem?
The milky sap is toxic to humans and livestock. It invades agricultural land reducing crop production and also impacts negatively on livestock.
What does it look like?
Leaves: Leaves have a waxy appearance and contain a milky white sap (latex). Branching occurs from the base of the plant upwards.
Flowers: The flowers have five spreading petals (7-10mm long and 6-10mm wide) that are white or pinkish in colour, with much darker purple or purplish-brown tips, and a crown-like centre (corona) that is also purplish in colour.
Fruit/seeds: Fruit have thick and spongy skins which split open at maturity. Each fruit contains numerous brown, flattened seeds (about 6mm long and 4mm wide) that are topped with a tuft of long, white, silky hairs (35-50mm long).
Does the plant have any uses?
A poultice of the leaves is applied to treat rheumatism, filariasis, wounds, glandular swellings, eczema, pigmentation and other skin inflammations.