A PLEASANT-LOOKING BEACHY TYPE OF TREE may be found all along the coasts of the Caribbean, Central America, the northern margins of South America, and even in South Florida. This tree is frequently covered with tiny, greenish-yellow fruits that resemble apples.
The fruit may persuade you to consume it. Don’t consume the fruit. You could wish to touch a limb or lay your hand on the tree’s trunk. Keep your hands off the tree’s trunk and any limbs. Never spend any time standing below or even close to the tree. Stay away from the tree when touching your eyes.
None of the sinisterly bright, tropic-green leaves should be picked up. No botanist who has examined this tree would argue with you if you decide to slowly but firmly back away from it.
After all, Juan Ponce de Leon, a famous explorer, is said to have perished there.
This is the manchineel, sometimes referred to as the beach apple, the manzanilla de la muerte (literally, “the little apple of death”), or the arbol de la muerte (literally, “tree of death”).
This is not being overstated. Despite being described as sweet and tasty, the fruits are incredibly toxic. Although deaths from eating the fruit of the manchineel are certainly possible, they are not mentioned in contemporary literature.
The sap, which is white and milky, is extremely poisonous; it blisters like burns when it comes in touch with skin, and if you’re unlucky enough to get it in your eyes, you run the risk of being temporarily blind. Don’t touch anything since this sap is present all throughout the tree, even in the bark and leaves.
The particular poisons included in both the fruits and this sap are still not fully understood. The tree was well-known to the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, who utilized it for a variety of things, including tipping arrows with its sap.
The spurges are a family of plants that includes manchineel. (The term is derived from the word “purge,” as some of these plants may be used as laxatives and some of these plants all contain poisonous sap.)
Spurges may be found all over the world in a variety of shapes and sizes, from little herb-like plants to big bushes and trees. Despite having a reputation for being dangerous, the manchineel is one of the biggest, growing up to 50 feet tall. However, the poinsettia, its cheerier cousin, is the most well-known.
It’s interesting to note that although the manchineel is the country’s deadliest tree, it’s not the deadliest plant.