One of the endangered species of Florida and the world’s most dangerous tree is Manchineel tree. It is native to southern Florida, Central America and Gulf of Mexico. These trees are also quite common along the Caribbean islands. It is a tall shrub with a shiny green, oval leaves that can reach heights of up to 50 feet. Interaction with and ingestion of any part of this tree may cause death.
The fruits of Manchineel are referred to as ‘little apple’ comparing the parts of the tree with that of apple tree. The leaves bark and fruits contain a caustic sap. The Manchineel’s bark produces a thick, milky sap which causes the skin to blister and can even blind a person if it gets into the eyes. The fruit of the tree called beach apple when eaten can cause the ulceration of mouth and esophagus. Its consumption could prove fatal and hence called as ‘death apples’ sometimes. Smoke from burning of tree or its parts can cause various health problems like coughing, bronchitis and laryngitis. Treatment consists of cleansing the skin with soap and water to remove the plant latex, being careful to avoid further exposure and using antihistamines to minimize the immune response and the edema.
In most of the regions where these trees are widely found, warning signs are often put up near the trees. It is not safe even to park a car under the tree. Dripping of the sap can seriously damage the paint. The harmful effects of the tree are due to the toxin hippomane A and B present in every part of the tree.