The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Apples of Sodom
APPLES OF SODOM, a fruit supposed to grow near the Dead sea, fair to the sight, but when plucked dissolving into smoke and ashes. A general opinion, supported by Hasselquist, is that the “apples of Sodom” are to be found in the fruit of the solanum melongena (nightshade), which he describes as filled with dust or ashes; or at least, when punctured by a certain insect, as it frequently is, the whole interior of the fruit is converted into a fine dust, leaving the rind entire in form and color. Robinson, in his “Biblical Researches,” identifies the apple of Sodom with the asclepias gigantea vel procera. The Arabs call it osher. It is found on the shores of the Dead sea, and Robinson says that seeing the two (the osher and the nightshade) growing side by side, the former struck him at once from its agreement with the ancient story, while the latter did not. He describes the osher as from 10 to 15 feet high, having a grayish cork-like bark, oval leaves, flowers similar to the silkweed of the northern United States, and as discharging like that plant a milky fluid when broken. The fruit resembles an orange in size and color, but, when even very carefully touched, explodes like a bladder or puff-ball, leaving in the hands only a rind and a few filaments by which the interior was traversed.