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Granatum (Pomegranate)

Botanical name:

(A larger monograph by Lloyd can be found at: http://www.swsbm.com/ManualsOther/Punica_granatum-Lloyd.PDF)

Punica granatum has been in cultivation from the earliest historical times. It is now found in all warm countries of the world, and frequently as an ornamental plant in this country and abroad, where it requires protection during the winter season, as it will not endure the cold. It is recorded, e. g., that in 1838 the pomegranate trees in the neighborhood of London were killed by the frost. The form generally grown as ornament is the double variety, and consequently barren. The fruit of the pomegranate has been esteemed a delicacy from the most ancient time, and we often see it offered for sale at our fruit stands. In the West Indies, where the plant would thrive naturally, it is not extensively cultivated, and the writer of this botanical history (C. G. Lloyd), who has visited all these islands, does not remember to have seen it or its fruit there. Like all cultivated plants, it is liable to variation, and several of its forms have been considered distinct species and named by several authors; however, they are all now considered forms of one species.

The pomegranate shrub, according to De Candolle (122), is originally a native of Persia and adjacent countries, but has been cultivated and naturalized in the Mediterranean countries at such an early date that it has even been considered indigenous to these countries.

Pomegranate was included among the vegetables that were held sacred by the Assyrians (86) and the Egyptians (688); the latter nation made it a custom to place in the graves of the dead fruits of the field and garden, among them pomegranates, specimens of which are preserved to the present day (239). The pomegranate had undoubtedly an occult significance with the ancient nations. It was frequently used as a mystical emblem in adorning the capitals of Assyrian (86, 374) and Egyptian (688) columns, and the Bible (1st Book of Kings vii, 18, 20) tells us that in the building of Solomon's temple the capitals of the columns were decorated with a "network of pomegranates." Also (Exodus xxviii, 33, 34) the hem of the high priest's robe was adorned with imitations of pomegranates in blue, purple, and scarlet, alternating with bells of gold. The pomegranate was one of the three fruits brought to Moses by the men that he sent to spy out the land of promise (302). Many other passages scattered throughout the Bible refer to our plant (483), and testify to the esteem in which the tree and the fruit (then called rimmon) were held in ancient times. The fruit and seed of the pomegranate are often mentioned in the "Arabian Nights."

Pomegranates were represented on Carthaginian and Phenician medals (422) and on the reverse of the coins of the Island of Rhodes (688). In Greek mythology the pomegranate is very conspicuous (307, 191, 241), and symbolizes fecundity and abundance. The fruit was dedicated to Juno, a deity always represented in sculptures as holding a pomegranate (191).

The Greek authors, e. g., Theophrastus (633), describe the pomegranate under the names of "roa" and "roa side;" also Dioscorides (194), who quite explicitly sets forth the medicinal properties of the different parts of the plant. Among Roman authors who describe the pomegranate and its uses are Cato Censorius (132), Pliny (514), Celsus (136), and others. Subsequent writers, for example the Arabians, in the ninth century, also refer to the pomegranate, but seem to have mainly reiterated the substance of the writings of their Greek and Roman predecessors (422). The "Arabian Nights" (88) speaks of the use of the seed cooked as follows: "Every day I cook five dishes for dinner, and the like for supper; and yesterday they sought of me a sixth dish, yellow rice, and a seventh, a mess of cooked pomegranate seed." (Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo, Vol. vii, p. 185.) Of the writers of the Middle Ages may be mentioned Tragus (650) and J. Bauhinus (47), the latter giving a most detailed compilation of that which was known before his time on the subject of the pomegranate, including the myths with which it is connected. It was not until the present century, however, that the literature of the pomegranate was enriched by the study of its chemical aspects.


The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.



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