One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Any of various trees yielding a milky sap, in some cases drinkable; especially (a) = milk-bush; (b) any of several tropical South American trees which produce a drinkable latex resembling cow's milk, especially the cow tree, Brosimum utile (family Moraceae), and the hya-hya, Tabernaemontana utile (family Apocynaceae); (c) NZ any of several small trees of the genus Streblus (family Moraceae); (d) the tree Cerbera (Tanghinia) venenifera (family Apocynaceae), native to Madagascar, whose poisonous seed was formerly employed in trials by ordeal.
Late 17th century; earliest use found in John Fryer (d. 1733), traveller and writer. From milk + tree.
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