Saturday, 1 February 2014

god didn't make the little green apples

Who knew that trees could be so apparently anti-social? One of the most poisonous trees in the world—I am not sure what others are in this category—is native to Florida and the Bahamas and Caribbean and are called Manchineel—from the epithet that early Spanish explorers gave to their poison fruit manzanita de le muerte, little apples of death.

Lots of berries and such are toxic to humans and the apples are bad but not the worst in this tree's arsenal. Groves of trees have warning signs admonishing the curious to stay far away, as the sap is also extremely caustic (even indirectly) and can cause burns to the skin with exposure and smoke from burning the tree can lead to permanent blindness. Other accounts of explorers said that the sap from the Manchineel was the source for poison blow-darts and the like. These trees, however, serve an important ecological role, as their sturdy and mostly undisturbed system of roots helps prevent beach erosion.