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A genus of two species, the one not treated here – P. protopunica – a native of the island of Sokotra in the Gulf of Aden; for the remaining distribution see below. Punica was once placed in the Lythraceae (Loosestrife family), which is mainly herbaceous and temperate, but contains a few woody genera of the tropics and subtropics, such as Lagerstroemia. It is certainly allied to this family and also to the tropical Sonneratiaceae, but it now usually placed in a separate family, of which it is the only member.
The generic name derives from the Roman Pomum (or Malum) punicum, the Carthage apple, probably from the fact that the finest fruits came from there, while the specific epithet for the common pomegranate – granatum – derives from another name used by the Romans; this was Malum (or Pomum) granatum – the apple with the grain-like seeds.