Who would have thought that an endangered tree is also capable of endangering lives? Nicknamed as the ‘little apple of death’, the Manchineel is one of the most dangerous trees in the world. This rare tropical plant has a tempting looking fruit, but the plant and the fruit lure unsuspecting innocent creatures to imminent death.
The Manchineel holds the record of being the most poisonous tree. Found in the sandy soils or the mangroves of South Florida, Central America, the Caribbean and the northern region of South America. Each of these plants is accompanied by handwritten signs highlighting the dangers of the tree.
The Spanish Conquistadors who came across this tree and its deceptive fruit named it manzanita de la muerte, which roughly translates to ‘little apple of death.’ The fruit looks plump and juicy, it even smells sugary sweet. A single bit of this fruit can lead to hours of suffering followed by an agonizing death.
The sweet taste of the fruit is usually followed by a peculiar peppery feeling that transitions to burning and subsequently tightening of the throat. In fact, apart from the fruit, other parts of the tree are also toxic. Not only the bark and leaves are dangerous, but also the milky sap of the tree has taken many victims. The caustic liquid is capable of burning people and even objects.
THE EFFECTS OF THE MANCHINEEL
The Manchineel can have mild effects like rashes to severe breathing problems and temporary blindness that is painful. Portions of the tree are also carcinogenic. Although, recorded instances of death due to the Manchineel are low, but the agonising effects cannot be discounted.
THE FRUIT OF THE MANCHINEEL
This seemingly dangerous tree also has a few good uses. Skilled carpenters neutralise the poison and use the timber for producing furniture. Native locals use the gum of the tree to cure oedema and dried fruits act as a diuretic.
It also has positive impacts on the environment since certain fauna is resistant to the poisonous effects of the Manchineel. The tree also prevents soil erosion at the beach and acts as a windbreak for instances when the Atlantic storms hit the coastline.