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Manchineel Apple Trees Poison
Consumer Awareness Beware Of The Poison Apple Tree

Caribbean Cruise Beach Manchineel Apple Trees Toxic Poisons


Some might call it the Sleeping Beauty Apple Tree, but there is nothing fairy tale about this deadly poisonous fruit tree. The tree is so deadly, it's been been named the world's most dangerous tree by the Guinness World Records. Yet, it is listed as an endangered species in Florida.

Manchineel or Hippomane mancinella, commonly known as ""beach apple", is reported to have derived the name from the Spanish word 'manzanella' whose translation means 'little apple'.

Manchineel grows wild in Florida, the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico, Central America and South America. It grows in sandy soil, thriving along ocean shores where it protects against beach soil erosion.

Manchineel has a white sap which contains phorbol, a natural, plant-derived organic compound. It is very soluble in water and is a strong skin irriatant. It's so strong, standing beneath the tree with sap falling the the tree or while it rains causea blistering dermatitis or skin blisters. Burning the tree to get rid of it, creates a toxic smoke which is caustic to the eyes.

The Caribbean Indians used Manchineel sap to poison their arrows. They would also tie enemies to the tree, ensuring a slow, painful death or use the leaves to poison the water supply of enemy communities.

Manchineel toxicity has been known since the early sixteenth century. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was hit by an arrow head laced with poisoned Manchineel sap during a battle with Indians in Florida, which ultimately lead to his death..

Chemically, the tree contains 12-deoxy-5-hydroxyphorbol-6-gamma-7-alpha-oxide, hippomanins, mancinellin, and sapogenin, phloracetophenone-2,4-dimethylether is present in the leaves, while the fruits possess physostigmine..

Physostigmine is most commonly used today for its medicinal value but has a history of being used as a poison. An overdose can cause cholinergic syndrome and may cause blockage of the central cholinergic neurotransmission.

Other side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, dizziness, headache, stomach pain, sweating, dyspepsia, salivation and seizures. Death can result from failure of the respiratory system and paralysis of the heart.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine has posted an article on the Manchineel Tree. The article of advice on August 12, 2000 was written by NH Strickland, which originated from the British Medical Journal.

In part, the articles says, "Last year I went on holiday with a non-medical friend to the Caribbean island of Tobago. On the first morning we found one of those idyllic deserted beaches, exactly as described in the brochure: white sand, swaying palms, turquoise sea. While searching for exotic shells and coral fragments, I saw some green fruits among the scattered coconuts and mangoes lying on the beach. They were round, the size of a tangerine, and had apparently fallen from a large tree with a silvery bole and oblique based leaves.

I rashly took a bite from this fruit and found it pleasantly sweet. My friend also partook (at my suggestion). Moments later we noticed a strange peppery feeling in our mouths, which gradually progressed to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat. The symptoms worsened over a couple of hours until we could barely swallow solid food because of the excruciating pain and the feeling of a huge obstructing pharyngeal lump. Sadly, the pain was exacerbated by most alcoholic beverages, although mildly appeased by pina coladas, but more so by milk alone.

Over the next eight hours our oral symptoms slowly began to subside, but our cervical lymph nodes became very tender and easily palpable. Recounting our experience to the locals elicited frank horror and incredulity, such was the fruit's poisonous reputation.".

In summary the article warns, "We found our experience frightening, and with the increasing availability of package Caribbean holidays we think that attention should be drawn to the potentially serious hazard of this fruit. Perhaps few adults (especially a medically qualified one) would be foolish enough to try eating an unknown fruit found on a foreign beach, but children would be highly likely to do so, especially when they find it to smell and taste sweet, resembling a ripe plum.".