Hello everyone and happy Monday! So I’ve spent quite a bit of time out at Annaberg lately while conducting my News of St. John Tours, and each time I head out there, I always stop at one particular tree – the Manchineel tree. Have you ever noticed it? It’s a poisonous tree with a pretty serious warning. Here’s what its sign says:
The leaves, bark and fruits of these trees contain a caustic sap which may be injurious if touched. Columbus described the small, green fruits as “death apples.” The trees are common along the Caribbean shores. Avoid contact with any part of this tree!
There are at least two such trees on island – the one pictured above that’s near Annaberg and there’s at least one more out at Haulover (pictured below).
The botanical name for the Manchineel tree is Hippomane mancinella. Hippomane is actually derived from two Greek words: Hippo for horse and mane, which is a derivative of the word mania. The way the story goes is that a Greek philosopher gave the name Hippomane to a plant after realizing that horses became crazy after eating it. The word Manchineel, on the other hand, was derived from the Spanish word manzanilla, which means little apples. (The manchineel tree bears small fruits that resemble small apples.) So in a roundabout way, Hippomane mancinella is an easier way to say little apples that make horses go crazy. And that my friends, is how the manchineel tree got its name. (Ok, we kind of embellished that last part!)
But seriously, the manchineel tree is not something you want to mess around with. The manchineel tree produces a form of sap that can ooze out of its bark, branches, leaves and fruit. This sap is especially dangerous as it can cause serious, burn-like blisters when it touches the skin. Ingesting any part of the tree, including its fruit, can cause serious inflammation. Every single bit of this tree is poisonous. If you touch or ingest any part of it, the results could be fatal.
Random fact: I see lizards on it all the time, so clearly they’re immune in some way.
The manchineel tree is native to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central American and parts of southern Florida. It typically grows along the coastline and among mangroves. When mature, the manchineel tree can grow up to 50 feet high.
Bottom line: Stay as far away from this tree as possible. And if you’d like to take a pic, do it from afar.
News you can use today, folks! Have a great one! 🙂