Pomegranate (Lat. pomum, a fruit, and gra-natum, grained or many-seeded), a fruit-bearing tree botanically known as Punica granatam (Lat. Punicus, of Carthage). It was known from the earliest times, as frequent reference is made to it in the Mosaic writings, and sculptured representations of the fruit are found on the ancient monuments of Egypt and in the ■ Assyrian ruins. It is found in a truly wild state only,.in northern India. The shrub, or small tree, rarely exceeds 15 or 20 ft. in height, with very numerous, slender, twig-like branches; the leaves are oblong or obovate, opposite or scattered, and often clustered on the branch-lets; the flowers are terminal, usually solitary, with a leathery calyx, colored like the petals, its tube coherent with the ovary, and its limb five- to seven-lobed, bearing on its throat five to seven petals and numerous stamens; the ovary has two sets of cells, one above the other; the lower portion has three cells and the upper five to seven, each with many ovules; the fruit is a large berry, crowned with the calyx lobes, having a very leathery rind, and containing numerous seeds; each seed is enclosed in a sac or pellucid vesicle, which contains a thin, acid, usually crimson pulp; these sacs are about half an inch long and somewhat angular by mutual compression; the interior of the fruit has the same number of divisions as there are cells in the ovary.
The unusual structure in the ovary and fruit has made the pomegranate rather difficult to classify; it has many points of relationship with the myrtle family, and is by some botanists placed there; others follow Endlicher in giving it an order to itself, the granatece, while Hooker and Bentham class it as an anomalous genus in the loosestrife family (lythracece). There is but one species, with several marked varieties, one of which, a dwarf, has been called Punica nana; the flowers are generally scarlet, but there are yellow and white-flowered as well as double-flowered varieties, and a form with variegated foliage. The fruit varies much in size and somewhat in color, usually being orange-yellow with a crimson cheek; sour-fruited, sub-acid, and sweet-fruited varieties are recognized; though the sour variety has the largest and handsomest fruit, it is too acid to be pleasant. The edible portion of the fruit is the pulp surrounding the seeds, in eating which the seeds themselves are swallowed; the fruit is highly ornamental upon the table, and when carefully divided in halves presents a singularly beautiful appearance, the shining bags of pulp looking like amethysts; a popular way of serving the fruit in warm countries is to remove the grains carefully, sprinkle them with sugar, and add wine enough to moisten them.
The pomegranate is hardy and bears fruit as far north as the Ohio river and Maryland, but it attains much greater perfection further south, as it requires a long season for ripening; the neighborhood of Augusta, Ga., is celebrated for the excellence of its fruit; even in the climate of New York city, if trained upon a wall or trellis in a sheltered place and covered during the winter, it will bear, and some seasons ripen its fruit. It grows in great perfection in northern Mexico, where it was early introduced by the Jesuit missionaries; the vicinity of Magdalena, in the state of So-nora, is celebrated for the abundance and fine quality of the fruit; the writer, having purchased two dozen pomegranates at Magdalena for a real (12 1/2 cts.), found that several specimens measured 16 in. in circumference, with the grains correspondingly large and delicious; a large share of the crop is used in distilling aguardiente, a most fiery spirit. The double varieties do not produce fruit, and are more tender than the single; they are grown as greenhouse plants, or in tubs set out in summer and housed in the cellar during winter.
The plant is used in the south of Europe to make ornamental hedges. - The pomegranate contains a great deal of tannin, which is especially abundant in the rind of the fruit, the bark of the root, and to a less degree in the flowers, and these parts were used medicinally by the ancients. So astringent is the rind that in eating the pulp it is necessary to avoid those portions of it which extend into the interior as partition walls and placentae; it is used in tanning morocco leather, and to some extent for making ink; it was formerly much used in medicine as an astringent, but is now little employed in this country; the flowers, called balaustines, are used in some countries for a similar purpose. The bark of the root has been long known as a vermifuge, and is especially efficacious against the tsenia. It may be given as a powder, though a decoction or extract is preferable. A moderate dose is liable to produce nausea and sometimes vomiting, colic, or diarrhoea; a larger one headache, vertigo, and even gastro-intestinal inflammation. An acrid substance called punicine, resembling an oleo-resin, has been extracted from it. The dose of the bark in powder is 20 to 30 grains, but a decoction of 2 oz. to a pint may be taken in three doses.
The fresh bark is the most effectual.
Double-flowered Pomegranate, and Fruit of Single-flowered.