apple of Sodom

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Ripe fruit of Solanum sodomeum
(= S. linnaeanum)
Fruit of Calotropis procera


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apple + of + Sodom. Compare the common assumption that the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden was an apple.


apple of Sodom ‎(plural apples of Sodom)

  1. (mediaeval mythology) A gigantic tree supposed to have grown on the site of the destroyed cities Sodom and Gomorrah, whose apples would turn to ash and smoke once picked.
    • 1824, Palestine Mission, The Latter Day Luminary, Volumes 5-6, page 141,
      We searched for the famous apple of Sodom, and found two kinds of fruit, either of which, with the help of a little poetic imagination, might pass for the fruit in question.
    • 1832, "Apples of Sodom", entry in Charles Taylor, Calmet's Dictionary of the Holy Bible, page 84,
      The late adventurous traveller, M. Seetzen, who went round the Red sea, notices the famous Apple of Sodom; which was said to have all the appearance of the most inviting apple, while it was filled with nauseous and bitter dust only.
    • 1834, The Influence of the Press [L'Autocratie de la Presse], Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 36, page 378,
      Men have tasted of the apples of Sodom, and they have found bitter ashes under an inviting and luscious surface.
  2. A flowering plant of northern Africa, Calotropis procera, which bears poisonous fruit.
  3. A nightshade native to southern Africa, Solanum linnaeanum (synonym Solanum sodomeum), that bears poisonous berries.
  4. Any of various other plants that bear poisonous fruit.
    • 1997, Richard McMahon, Camping Hawai'i: A Complete Guide, Revised Edition, page 14,
      A particularly dangerous plant, and one that may cause confusion, is the apple of Sodom, a low, prickly bush with a tomatolike fruit that is highly poisonous.

Usage notes[edit]

The mythological sense is often used figuratively, describing something that looks desirable but is worthless.