Only in Florida?
Snowbirds headed south for the winter months may want to be aware of the manchineel tree — a shrub so dangerous that even standing beneath its branches could be fatal.
The tree — sometimes referred to as the “beach apple” or the “poison guava” — is found in Florida, but sun-lovers should absolutely avoid seeking its shade.
The manchineel, which is also found in parts of Central America and the Caribbean, is listed by Guinness World Records as “the world’s most dangerous tree” because it excretes a toxic white sap.
The sap is found on the tree’s leaves and branches, as well as on the fruit it produces. The toxins, including phorbol, are known to severely irritate skin, causing blisters and possible closure of one’s airways due to swelling.
Unassuming visitors to Florida may think the manchineel’s fruit looks harmless, but just one bite could be fatal.
According to AccuWeather, the fruit looks and smells like a crabapple, “but if eaten the sweet taste quickly dissipates, turning peppery before the toxins close the throat.”
Even if an eater doesn’t suffer from asphyxiation, other side effects are likely to occur. They include “abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding and digestive tract damage,” according to TreeHugger.
Standing under a manchineel could also be disastrous. During a rainstorm, for instance, raindrops mix with the tree’s toxic sap, which could then drip on a person’s skin, causing burns.
And don’t dare go near a manchineel if it’s on fire. Smoke from the tree is so toxic that it can cause blindness, claims the Guinness World Records entry.
University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences goes as far as to say that “interaction with and ingestion of any part of the tree may be lethal.” The organization has erected giant signs in areas where manchineel trees are located.
However, the manchineel is not all bad. As the trees are located in coastal areas, they provide a windbreak against storms and help fight beach erosion.