Manchoneel – The Little Apple of Death
The conquistadors called this tree “the little apple of death” (manzanilla de la muerte). This tree is pat of the spurge (Euphorbiaceae) family. Its fruit resembles very small apples, hence the name “manchoneel” or “manzanilla”, both meaning “apple”.
It grows in the United States in the warmer states, primarily in Florida, as well as the northern South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Bahamas. The tree can grow up as tall as 44 feet (15 m), has a grey bark and shiny, round leaves.
DO NOT TOUCH OR GET NEAR THE TREE, DO NOT CONSUME ITS FRUITS
Ignore this warning at your peril. The entire tree contains toxins, some of which remain unknown. Treat the entire tree as deadly.
The tree kills the birds that are foolish enough to nest in its branches.
Standing under the tree in the rain is dangerous, as even a small drop of water that contains the sap will cause painful blistering.
Touching the bark or leaves and then touching your eyes will blind you.
The fruits are mostly fatal, if they are not, you’ll get gastroenteritis with bleeding, shock, bacterial superinfection, and airway compromise due to edema.
Burning the tree is dangerous, as the smoke will blind you and irritate your entire respiratory track
This tree was used to torture victims of a certain tribe, who’d tie people to the trunk of it and watch them die slowly. They’d also use the sap of this tree to poison their arrows.
Symptoms of tactile exposure:
Rash, then blistering
Blindness (may not be permanent)
Symptoms of exposure to smoke:
Severe respiratory problems
Symptoms after consumption of the fruit:
Burning pain (may be delayed for a few hours)
Salivation (may be delayed for a few hours)
Swelling of the lips, tongue and gums (may be delayed for a few hours)
Bleeding of the digestive tract
Wash exposed skin with soap and water, multiple times to get as much of the sap off as possible.
Some poison oak/ivy medicine may help when applied to exposed skin.
Do not induce vomiting unless the patient is not able to reach medical help in a reasonable time.
The root of Jatropha gossypiifolia may be used to treat skin symptoms (folk medicine)
Bees that tend to the trees flowers are not affected. The honey they produce from the flowers is not toxic.
Land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumii) in the Caribbean eat the fruit and leaves and retain toxin in their bodies. Eating those crabs may have detrimental effects. Those crabs are a delicacy in the Caribbean – be cautious.
Southeastern United States
Îles des Saintes
Flora of Saint Vincent and
Trinidad and Tobago