Never Munch a Manchineel Fruit

Down Florida way, the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, you will likely see mangroves. Those shrubs may be the only friends the much taller manchineel tree has. Some people have toxic personalities, but this bad boy is literally toxic in practically every way.

While its distant relative the poinsettia (poin-SET-tee-uh, with four syllables) has an unjustified reputation of being poisonous, the fruit of the manchineel is sometimes called the death apple. This tree looks like so many others that bear fruit — which makes things worse.

A tree that is poison to eat from or touch in anyway. Yet the manicheel has medicinal uses benefits, and raises questions for creationists.
Credit: Flickr / Anne and David (given to public domain)

It is dangerous to eat the fruit, touch the tree, burn it, breathe the smoke when it burns — about the only safe thing to do with the manicheel is to just look at it. So, what good is it?

Like other organisms that have poison, humans are able to use the toxic parts of the tree for helpful purposes. Also, when it is cut down and the wood is dried, it makes good furniture. The very existence of the manicheel prompts questions to and speculations from creationists, since everything was created very good in the beginning.

Environmentalists are sometimes disparagingly called ‘tree-huggers’, but that would be a bad idea in the case of the Manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella L., family Euphorbiaceae). In fact, any form of contact with any part of this tree is extremely dangerous due to the potent toxin in the wood, bark, leaves, and fruit.

The tree is up to 15m (50 feet) tall, with lush leaves. Its fruit looks like and tastes like apples, but the sweet flavour quickly gives way to an intensifying burning feeling that will make swallowing almost impossible. One article warned that eating enough of the fruit would cause one to “suffer about the same fate as someone exposed to nerve gas. … This tree can, and has, killed people.” One woman who, along with her friend, ate some of the benign-looking fruit they found on a Caribbean beach described it:

To read the rest, see "The ridiculously poisonous Manchineel".

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