Unbeknownst to many, there is one type of tree on the planet that can kill you instantly if you come into contact with it.
We all know that certain animals on this planet could kill you if you got in their way, but what about a dangerous tree? In Florida, sap from this apple-like tree could kill you if too much is ingested. The manchineel tree, native to Mexico, South Florida, and the Caribbean, has caused commotion online for its deceptive aesthetics and potent fruit.
The manchineel tree is the most dangerous tree discovered on the planet. Touching the tree’s sap can cause rashes, blisters, and swelling, while ingesting its fruit could leave you critically impaired or dead. The Guinness Book of World Records dubbed the tree the most dangerous plant on Earth in 2011 due to its hazardous produce, but scientists, locals, and even past colonialists have known about the tree’s power. According to one research, Christopher Columbus referred to the tree as “the little apple of death” because of its murderous capabilities.
The tree is no small brush, either. A manchineel tree can grow up to 50 feet high, with leaves growing up to 2 to 4 inches. The tree’s bark is a reddish-brown color and can also be poisonous to the touch. In fact, the tree is so deadly that standing under its branches during a rainstorm is ill-advised. Any part of the tree’s leaves, sap, or bark touching your skin could leave blisters or induce pain. If you find one on your property, burning it is also a hazardous feat. Fumes from the manchineel tree can release toxins that could cause blindness if too much is emitted.
According to the University of Florida findings, indigenous people of North and Central America would use the manchineel tree to their advantage. Records of arrowheads dipped in the tree’s sap have been found, which were used to maim the indigenous people’s enemies. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León got caught in the crossfire of a laced arrowhead and died from the manchineel’s poison. The tree’s lethality has been documented for decades, solidifying its title as the most dangerous tree in existence.
If you see a manchineel tree in the wild, you might notice that its fruit looks eerily similar to standard apples. The fruit is green, or a green-yellowish color when it’s ripe, which could trick people into thinking the tree’s produce is harmless. So, how can a person distinguish between apple trees and manchineel trees? The first way to differentiate the fruit is the climate; apple trees do not grow where manchineel trees are. Apple-bearing plants only grow in places with seasonal winters and are already primed to deal with cold temperatures. South Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean do not facilitate proper apple growth, so if you see an apple-like fruit in the area, it could easily be the poisonous alternative.
Though it may be nerve-wracking to know a tree exists with such unconscionable lethality, the best defense is to stay educated. If you live in subtropical climates, especially in Central America, you’re probably already aware of the manchineel tree and its poisonous nature. If you ever find fruit and can’t correctly identify it, it’s always best to err on the side of caution instead of making a rash decision.