The world’s most dangerous tree

Published on September 4th, 2012
The world’s most dangerous tree

There’s nothing more peaceful than resting under a tree on a hot summer’s day, right? Not if it’s a manchineel tree…

It may look just like any old tree, but take our word for it: this is one plant you don’t want to mess with:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s called the manchineel tree (official name Hippomane mancinella), from the Spanish word “manzanilla, meaning “little apple”, because that’s what the fruit looks like. But don’t be fooled by the friendly looking fruit: this tree is also known as “manzanilla de la muerte”, or “little apple of death”, so beware!

Little apple of death?!? But why?
There are many reasons why the manchineel tree has been named the most dangerous tree in the world by Guinness World Records.

First, there’s the sap, which is so toxic and acidic that if you touch it, you’ll break out in nasty, red blisters. And you don’t even have to touch the tree to get nailed by its terrible toxic sap. If it happens to be raining and you’re unlucky (or silly) enough to pick a manchineel tree for shelter, the water will mix with the sap and cause blisters when it falls onto your skin. And if it gets into your eyes, it can even cause blindness.

And then there’s the fruit, which may look pretty harmless and apparently tastes very sweet (although we’re not sure if we believe someone crazy enough to bite into any part of this tree), but a single mouthful can cause blistering, severe pain and possibly even death!

And just in case you think you can fight back by setting a manchineel tree alight, don’t even think about it – the smoke can cause blindness if it gets into your eyes, so it’s best to just leave this tree alone. Which, thankfully, that shouldn’t be too hard, because they’re only found in the Caribbean and the tropical Americas. Phew!

But it’s not all bad…
The manchineel tree is often found on and near the beach, where its roots help prevent erosion by holding the sand together. These trees also provides a natural windbreak, so you can enjoy a nice day at the beach – as long as you don’t go too close to the foliage.

The native tribes of the area also found the manchineel tree particularly useful in battle – they’d use the sap to poison their arrows and the leaves to poison their enemies’ water supply. But we think that’s just mean…

Credit: images from Wikimedia Commons