Kenneth Setzer

Seeking: Killer Trees and Forbidden Fruit

There are poisonous trees in the world, but one is so poisonous, it’s said if you fall asleep under it, you will sleep forever. It’s called the Manchineel tree, Hippomane mancinella, and I just HAVE TO see one in person. I mean, who isn’t at least a little interested in extremely poisonous things?

Manchineel — and the species name mancinella — are derived from the Spanish diminutive for apple, because the tree’s fruit resembles a small, green apple. Supposedly, all parts of the tree are poisonous to some degree: its bark, wood, leaves, fruit, sap, etc. Even rainwater splashed from its leaves are said to be able to give one blisters. Burning its wood is equally dangerous, with the smoke able to irritate lungs.

While apparently common in the Caribbean, where warning signs are posted for the benefit of ignorant tourists, I can’t seem to find any in my area of South Florida. Now admittedly I’ve only looked in one place, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, where I am told a couple reside. My wife and I went searching for them yesterday, in 90°+ weather. We gave up without finding it. I was afraid to ask any employees, fearing they’d say something like “You can’t see that tree! Get outta here, NOW!”

I hope to look for it again this Saturday, and if I find it, I’ll post photos here. Truly, the Manchineel’s fruit is the forbidden apple.

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2011 by in imaging and tagged , , , , , .

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