The manchineel tree, which ranges from South Florida to northern South America, is the most dangerous tree in the world. The Spanish call it the Arbol de la Muerte, or “tree of death.”
This tree is native to the Western Hemisphere and is usually found near beaches. This beautiful, yet deadly tree has leaves that are simple and glossy with pointed tips, and it bears golden fruits that smell like apples.
The poisonous manchineel tree is endangered, but so is someone who messes with it.
Each and every part of the tree is poisonous: the leaves, its fruit, and the milky substance that oozes out of its bark. In case this white sap comes into contact with the skin, it causes severe, burn-like blisters. Even standing under this tree during a rain storm may result in blistering of the skin.
Burning the tree wood may cause eye inflammation and temporary blindness if the smoke gets in your eyes. Eating its small round fruit can be fatal.
The Carib Indians used to poison their blowgun darts with the sap of this tree and used the leaves to poison their enemy’s water supplies. They even tied their victims to this deadly tree to torture them.
In 1999, radiologist Nicola Strickland went on a holiday with her friend to the Caribbean island of Tobago. They unknowingly ate the sweet smelling fruit of manchineel tree. They felt a burning sensation and excruciating tightness in the throat that took over eight hours to subside.
Fortunately, Strickland and her friend lived to tell the tale, because they only ate a small bite of this dangerous fruit. In 2000, Strickland published a letter in The British Medical Journal, sharing her experience and describing her symptoms in detail.