The manchineel tree, declared to be the most dangerous plant in the world by Guinness World Records, is a plant that is native to northern South America and tropical southern South America. The name of the tree has its roots in Spanish as manzanilla means “small apple.” The name has been chosen since the fruit and leaves of the manchineel tree superficially resemble an apple tree. However, unlike apple trees that produce delicious, rich fruit, the manchineel tree produces deadly poisons that can cause great suffering.
Where did the Manchineel tree grow?
Manchineel trees are found in Florida, USA, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. Within its range, the tree grows on beaches and between mangroves in brackish swamps.
Manchineel trees, a species that is always green, reaches a height of about 49 feet. The flowers are small and greenish yellow while the leaves are shiny green, and the skin is reddish-grey. Green or greenish yellow fruits have a similar appearance to apples.
Why are these plants so deadly?
All parts of the manchineel tree are very poisonous. The toxic composition of this tree has not been fully explained. The sap of the tree contains phorbol and many other irritants of the skin which cause a significant allergic reaction. Should a person stand beneath a tree during rain, the sap that has been washed will cause their skin to blister. Even car paint is damaged by the sap of this tree. If the tree catches fire, toxic fumes can cause eye injury.
Can this be worse? Yes, if anyone eats the fruit of the manchineel tree, it will kill them! Although reports of death do not exist in modern literature, there are several reports that describe the extreme suffering felt by people who ate the fruit.
To warn people about the possibility of contact with a manchineel tree, the government in some places where this tree grows ensures that the trees carry warning signs. Thankfully, nothing this toxic is lurking in our gardens. Should you need help with any tree-related issues, however, contact a Poole Tree Surgeon like kieranboylandtreeservices.com
Because of its extreme toxicity, manchineel trees are often mentioned in thrillers and criminal novels.
Although most birds and animals avoid trees completely because they are vulnerable to the dangers offered by trees, there is one creature that can live in the tree. The black prickly iguana actually lives among the tree branches and also eats its fruit!
“Good Side” of the Manchineel tree
Apart from the dangers associated with manchineel trees, these trees play a vital role in the ecosystem. The tree is one of the best natural windbreaks that protect coastal areas from storms. Tree roots help stabilize the soil and prevent coastal erosion.
Humans have also succeeded in exploiting the tree for commercial purposes. The tree is carefully cut and left to dry in the sun to remove the toxic sap. Then, the wood is used to make furniture. The gum is sometimes used for medicinal purposes and the dried fruits are used as diuretics.