The “tree of death” that burns your skin if you touch it or take refuge under it

Not knowing well the details of what nature offers us can trigger a fatal outcome, for example, eating a fruit because we are attracted by its pleasant smell.

On August 12, 2000, radiologist Nicola Strickland published a letter in The British Medical Journal to describe her experience of consuming a “beach apple” from manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella), which is extremely poisonous in all its parts and even its substances burn the skin of whoever is below taking cover from a rain.

According to the Guinness World Records this tree is the most dangerous in the world. “Also, a single bite of your small green fruit apple-like causes ulcers and edema in the oral and esophageal cavity, and can be fatal. And if one of these deadly trees is burned, the resulting smoke can cause blindness if it reaches a person’s eyes ”, it is described on its website.

Contact with its sap causes blisters, burns and ulceration on the skin. This is due to organic compounds such as phorbol, which is soluble in water, which explains the serious effects of the rain that passes through the leaves of this tree.

Nicola Strickland recounted that she went on vacation to the Caribbean island of Tobago in 1999. She and her friend spent their time searching for exotic shells and coral fragments when she saw green fruits among the coconuts and mangoes on the beach.

Moments after consuming the fruit, they began to experience burning, tearing, and tightness in the throat. They could not eat solid food because of the pain and, in the same way, they had the sensation of having a lump stuck in the pharynx until they drank milk alone.

“Over the next eight hours, our oral symptoms began to slowly subside, but our cervical lymph nodes became very tender and easily palpable. Relating our experience to the locals provoked frank horror and disbelief, such was the poisonous reputation of the fruit, “said Strickland.

In the end, in the words of the specialist, she warned that children should stay away from this fruit, even if it seems “silly” to risk eating something unknown. “In our case, swallowing only a small amount of the fruit juice clearly resulted in oral and esophageal ulceration and severe edema,” he continued.

However, remove these manchineel trees it would damage the ecosystem because they serve as a barrier against the wind. Caribbean carpenters also benefit from them: they cut the wood, dry it in the sun to neutralize the poisonous sap, and make furniture.