MILKWEED , plant of the Euphorbiaceae family. Many genera comprising scores of species are found in Israel. Attempts have been made to identify them with plants mentioned in the Bible, but such attempts are without foundation. One plant mentioned in the Mishnah belongs to the Asclepiadaceae family: the Calotropis procera, the mishnaic Petilat ha-Midbar ("desert wick," Shab. 2:1). It is a shrub growing in the salt Jordan valley and the Arabah. It has large leaves and its fruit is like a big lemon, but instead of juice it contains many seeds enveloped in shining silky fibers. These are used for making cushions, and wicks too can be prepared from them, but since the oil does not rise well in the fiber its use for the Sabbath lamp is forbidden (Shab. ibid.). The popular name of the fruit is "Sodom apple," which has no connection with "the vine of Sodom" (Deut. 32:32). Milkweed is mentioned by Josephus (Wars, 4:484) who points out that this fruit of Sodom appears edible but on being opened turns to dust. The reference is to the seeds, which have hairy adhesions by which they are broadcast.
Loew, Flora, 1 (1928), 282f.; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aẓ ha-Mikra'i (19683), 82. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Tzome'aḥ, 131.
milk·weed / ˈmilkˌwēd/ • n. 1. a herbaceous American plant (genus Asclepias, family Asclepiadaceae) with milky sap. Some kinds attract butterflies, some yield a variety of useful products, and some are grown as ornamentals. 2. (also milkweed butterfly) another term for monarch (sense 2).