Even though there's no shortage of deadly flora and fauna in our own backyards, there's one tree on our planet that's just totally out of control.
This innocuous-looking fruit tree is found in the Caribbean, parts of Central and South America and Florida, and it is so toxic that it can seriously injure or even kill you - in more ways than one.
The manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella) is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s most dangerous tree”, and in Spanish it's literally referred to as "the tree of death".
If a storm's coming, the manchineel tree is not a place you'd want to run to for shelter.So, first step of caution - do not touch it.When it rains though, the situation gets even worse.
One of the most potent toxins contained in the sap is phorbol, a powerful water-soluble irritant that is picked up by the falling rain and scattered on anyone standing underneath (you're better off just standing in the open and being rained on, seriously).
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the apple-like fruit that grows on the manchineel's branches has a very sweet smell, and looks harmless enough to the naked eye.
However, even a couple of bites immediately create an intense burning sensation in the mouth, as well as blisters and swelling in the throat. These effects can last for multiple hours and in some cases the consumption of the plum-sized fruit can also lead to death from severe vomiting and diarrhoea that fatally dehydrates the body.
When gathering firewood for your campsite, this tree’s bark and branches are definitely ones to avoid. Burning pieces of the manchineel lets off a toxic smoke that can lead to severe eye inflammation, temporary blindness, and significant breathing problems.
Not to mention that the tree squirts its horrible sap when you cut its branches, leaving you exposed to the toxic substance directly.
Speaking of camping, or picnicking for that matter, it isn’t wise to set up around manchineel trees - just being around them for prolonged periods of time can cause illness. In fact, some local native people used to tie enemies to the tree and leave them exposed as a form of torture.
Thankfully, these days in many places were the manchineel grows, they are marked by red crosses and warning plaques.
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