It’s often said the clue is in the name, you might not think that about the manchineel (Hippomane mancinella) until you hear what the locals call it. The “arbol de la muerte” or the tree of death, is a fruiting tree found along the coast of the Caribbean, the West Indies and Central America. And it has earned its name as the sap the tree produces is extremely toxic and can ooze from every part.
If that sap comes into contact with the skin it can cause burn-like blisters. However, if the sap comes into contact with an open wound it can enter your bloodstream and likely cause your death. The manchineel’s small fruits aren’t any better as they look deceptively appealing. Similar looking to a small apple, once you take a bite you will enjoy a sweet pleasant taste, followed by a not so pleasant swelling and closing of your throat and sometimes death.
You might think it is pointless to have such a dangerous tree in your midsts, but the natives have used the sap from the tree to coat their arrows for generation. Even if you wanted to destroy them, burning is not a good idea as the toxins from the tree are released into the air causing extreme eye irritation and in some cases, blindness.