As beautiful as trees can be, they can be ugly. Speaking of ugly, we mean deadly. Yikes! You could get some juicy fruits to munch on, some shade for relaxation, and why not take some selfies next to this tree? Warning: This article you’re about to read contains information about a tree that could kill you in an instant if you ever eat its fruits, use it, or even get close to it in any way. Dear friends, ever heard of the manchineel tree? Also known as the “tree of death,” gushing tropical storms from this tree are said to hurt passersby. Well…, you’re WARNED!
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Say “Hello” To The Manchineel!
The manchineel, botanically known as …, is considered as the most dangerous and poisonous tree in the world. Catch a glimpse of it and you’ll never know. Native to the Americas, especially Central America — the Caribbean, specifically the tropics, and northern parts of South America — it’s a tropical lush plant with shiny green apple-looking fruits. And like they say, not everything that glitters is gold. Of course, this tree is not eco-friendly as it looks. Never pick fruits, neither climb nor stand beneath it, than to even breathe next to it. Cause your life might be on the line.
“Warning: all parts of manchineel are extremely poisonous …,” as biologists Michael Andreu and Melissa Friedman of the University of Florida warned in a brief guide to the tree, “Interaction with and ingestion of any part of this tree may be lethal.”
The tree is best for causing pain. Nonetheless. No wonder it has earned the nicknames: “tree of death,” “poison guava,” “little apple of death,” “devil’s fruit” etc.
Everything I Am, Is Very Deadly
According to Andreu and Friedman, every part of the manchineel is basically a torture device. The tree secretes a thick, milky sap that oozes out of everything — its bark, leaves, and even the fruits. Come in contact with this sap, and welcome yourself into agony. It is made up of a toxin known as phorbol — a poisonous organic compound hellish enough to form blisters. It is also water-soluble, which means when it rains, it dissolves and continues its damage wherever it goes.
Let’s say you’re on a tropical vacation somewhere in the Bahamas with bae, and it’s about to pour down. So you, together with bae seek refuge under a tree (not knowing it’s the manchineel). Never mind! As the rains fall, it soaks and washes out the toxic phorbol down along the leaves upon you and bae as you enjoy a good time. Good time? It is going to be the worst day of your life, worst than if you had a broken heart.
Has There Been Any “Death” Case?
Unfortunately, there’s been real-life stories of the horrible effects of the manchineel on people. This was when a couple ate the “devil’s fruit.” And, boy o boy… Here’s the story: in 1999, radiologist Nicola Strickland experienced the most horrible lesson from the seemingly innocuous fruit of the manchineel. This was a vacation in the Caribbean islands somewhere in Tobago.
They had a good time at the beach, after which she and her cohort came across sweet-smelling enticing apples and decided to have some for dessert. Spoiler alert: it was the devil’s fruit. They had a bite and it didn’t take that long for them to realize an overwhelming burning sensation as they munch on it, their throats tightened as if it was about to rapture to the point that they could neither swallow nor throw up. Kinda! Say “hello” to the manchineel! Fortunately, they survived to tell the tale.
As Ella Davies writes for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC):
“The real death threat comes from eating its small round fruit. Ingesting the fruit can prove fatal when severe vomiting and diarrhea dehydrate the body to the point of no return.”
The Good Side Of Manchineel
The manchineel has some upsides, too. For centuries, carpenters in the Caribbean are said to use manchineel wood for furniture — a typical example is the cute patio chairs. The wood is carefully cut and laid out in the sun for the poisonous sap to evaporate. This leaves the wood tame and ready for carving. Another important thing to note is that coastal areas in Central America are protected by the heavily dense shrubby manchineel from erosion of the tropical beaches. The Big Bad fella isn’t bad, after all.
Have you ever encountered the manchineel tree?
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, May 08, 2022.