Silent but Deadly…
Hippomane mancinella
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Warning: Don't Be Fooled by this Tree's Juicy Apple-Like Fruit,All Parts of this Tree is Poisonous!


Botanical Information:


Hippomane mancinella is more commonly known as the Manchineel Tree or referred to by its nickname, the "Little Apple of Death", because of its deadly fruits. This tree is one of the most poisonous in the world. The name “manchineel” is derived from the Spanish word manzanilla, meaning “little apple” because of its resemblance to the fruit and leaves of the standard Apple Tree. The Manchineel Tree is a vascular (Subkingdom, Tracheobionta), seeding (Superdivision, Spermatophyta), and flowering (Division, Magnoliophyta) plant. To see the full classification of this species click here. The Hippomane mancinella grows to be 20 meters in height, with a trunk that grows as wide as 50 cm in diameter. The leaves are arranged alternately, and grow to 12 cm in length. The leaves contain one main vein that runs down the center. The flowers are arranged in groups of 8-15, each containing 2 stamens and no carpels. The fruit produced is a berry containing a flattened seed. When ripe, the fruits are a pale green or greenish-yellow color. The fruit grows to be 1-2 inches in diameter, and contains a larger pithy pulp and a wood like seed in the center. The scent given off smells exactly like a regular apple, causing people to often confuse the two.


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Flattened Seeds

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Flower of the Hippomane mancinella

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Hippomane mancinella's rounded leaves
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Apple-like Fruits


Relatives:

The Hippomane mancinella belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family, commonly known as the Spurge family. The Spurge family consists of 7,500 species, most of them being herbs, but many of them also being shrubs or trees. All Spurges are found in tropical climates. Like the Manchineel, all Spurge's leaves all alternate and simple and the flowers are all unisex. In the subfamilies, Euphorbiodeae and Crotonoideae, a milky sap is a characteristic of the this family. The sap in the Euphorbiodeae subfamily is poisonous while in the Crotonoideae it is not. Nontoxic plants of the Spurge family are economically important, they include the Hevea, the Rubber Tree, and Ricinus communis, the Castor-Oil Plant.



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Sap from Hevea to make rubber
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Hevea leaves
Similar to Manchineel's leaves






Domestication Information:

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Large branches, thick trunks, and
heavy foliage act as a natural
windbreaker to help prevent beach erosion.


Hippomane mancinella is primarily found along coastal shores. In the United states it is native to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the American Virgin Islands (as seen in the map above). Besides the United States, this tree can also be found in the Bahamas, islands in the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Despite its high toxicity, the Manchineel Tree is beneficial to its environment. The tree acts as a natural windbreak and its roots stabilize the sand, helping to prevent beach erosion. Native tribes living on these beaches use the poisonous sap on their arrow heads to hunt with. The wood of the tree can also be used to make furniture, only after being dried out for several weeks to ensure that it is no longer toxic.

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Hippomane mancinella lining the coast of
the island of Barbados in the Caribbean.






Toxicity:

All parts of the Hippomane mancinella are extremely poisonous, making it one of the most dangerous species of plants in the world. The tree's resemblance to an apple tree disguises its toxicity. The white milky sap of the Manchineel tree is poisonous as it contains phorbol, a natural plant derived organic compound, that causes extreme burning when in contact with skin. Even standing under the tree during a rainstorm puts you at risk; the sap is still toxic even after being duluted with rain water. The smallest drop of sap on the skin causes blistering. Burning the wood of the Manchineel can even be harmful; the smoke from the wood is still filled with toxins and can cause blindness. The fruit of this tree is even more poisonous than its sap, as it can cause death if ingested. Reports of death are very uncommon from these fruits, as many countries put warning signs or a big red X on the trunk to warn both locals and tourists.

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Warning Sign for Hippomane mancinella






Current Events (Wild Card):

Ingestion of the poisionous apple is rare, due to the warnings that are posted on the trees. Recently, there has been a case of Manchineel fruit ingestion, not just of one person but of a whole family. In July 2012, on the island of Tobago, one of the two islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad, a family had eaten the fruits and were taken to the hospital with sever swelling of the throat and mouth and stomach pain. After the incident, Tobago's Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Gary Melville, came foward to make a statement about the incident. Melville admits that he was not informed of the situation until days later, and he agrees that something needs to be done to prevent it from happening again. Although he talks of creating an educational program, he does make the point that we need to preserve our coastal shorelines. The Manchineel Tree is listed as endangered by the state of Florida.


















References:
Works Cited
"Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing & the Environment - Continued.." Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing & the Environment - Continued.. N.p., 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.tha.gov.tt/divisions/agriculture-marine-affairs-marketing-a-the-environment?start=1>.

"Euphorbiaceae (plant Family)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/195414/Euphorbiaceae>.

"Manchineel (plant)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/361404/manchineel>.

"Manchineel." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchineel>.

"Plant Information." Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve Content. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.levypreserve.org/Plant-Listings/Manchineel>.

TC5Tube. "Division Can Do More to Sensitize on Manchineel Trees." YouTube. YouTube, 18 July 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L1cR9mH7Ms>.

"Welcome to the PLANTS Database | USDA PLANTS." Welcome to the PLANTS Database | USDA PLANTS. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://plants.usda.gov/java/>.