Calotropis procera, commonly known as the Crown Flower or Giant Milkweed, is a shrub or small tree belonging to the Apocynaceae family. This plant is native to arid and semi-arid regions of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Here are some key characteristics and information about Calotropis procera:
Appearance: Calotropis procera is a robust, woody plant that can reach heights of up to 16 feet (5 meters). It features large, lance-shaped leaves that are covered in fine, woolly hairs. The leaves are typically dark green and can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length.
Flowers: The plant produces showy, fragrant flowers that are clustered in terminal inflorescences. The flowers are typically white or lavender and have a unique, star-like shape. They are rich in nectar and attract various pollinators, including butterflies and bees.
Fruit: The fruit of Calotropis procera is a follicle that resembles a large, inflated pod. When mature, these pods split open to release numerous seeds attached to silky fibers, allowing them to be dispersed by the wind.
Toxicity: Calotropis procera is known for its toxic properties. Many parts of the plant, including the latex sap, leaves, and roots, contain toxic compounds called cardiac glycosides. These compounds can be harmful or lethal if ingested and can also cause skin irritation upon contact.
Traditional Uses: Despite its toxicity, Calotropis procera has been used in traditional medicine in some regions. Extracts from various parts of the plant have been employed for their potential medicinal properties, such as treating skin conditions, fevers, and gastrointestinal disorders. However, it's essential to exercise caution when using any part of this plant for medicinal purposes due to its toxicity.
The seeds of Calotropis procera have a hard seed coat, which can make germination difficult. To enhance germination rates, you can try scarifying the seeds by gently rubbing them with sandpaper or nicking the seed coat with a knife. This mimics the natural wear and tear that seeds might experience in the wild.
Plant the prepared seeds in a well-draining soil mix. Use individual pots or seed trays, as Calotropis procera does not transplant well due to its deep taproot. Plant the seeds at a depth of about 1/4 inch (6 mm).
Soil and Water:
Calotropis procera prefers well-draining soil with good aeration. Water the seeds and soil moderately, keeping it consistently moist but not waterlogged.
Germination of Calotropis procera seeds can be slow and irregular, often taking several weeks to several months. Keep the pots or trays in a warm, sunny location, as this plant thrives in full sunlight.
Once the seedlings have grown to a sufficient size and have developed a few sets of true leaves, they can be carefully transplanted into their permanent outdoor location. Choose a spot with well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight.
Calotropis procera is drought-tolerant once established and does not require frequent watering. However, it's essential to provide regular water to young plants to help them establish strong root systems.
Protect the plants from pests and monitor for any signs of disease.
Keep in mind that Calotropis procera is toxic to humans and animals, so handle it with care. Avoid contact with the milky latex sap and wash your hands thoroughly after handling the plant.