UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — In 1999, radiologist Nicole Strickland went on vacation to the Caribbean island of Tobago, a true tropical paradise with picturesque deserted beaches. On the first day on the island, she walked with her friend and found some sweet-smelling green fruits that resemble apples.
Both women foolishly decided to try the fruits, and after a few moments they felt a burning sensation and a painful sore throat.
The fruit he caught was the fruit of the mancinella tree ( Hippomane mancinella ), which grows in the tropical regions of southern North America, as well as Central America, the Caribbean, and some parts of northern South America.
The Spanish name for the tree is arbol de la muerte, which translates as “death tree”. Mancinella is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most dangerous tree in the world. According to the Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, interaction with any part of this plant can be fatal.
Mancinella belongs to a large and diverse family of euphorbiaceae. A distinctive feature of euphorbiaceae is the viscous and white juice that stands out from them. In Hippomane mancinella, it is found in the bark, and in the leaves, and in the fruits. Mancinella juice contains a number of toxins. It is believed that the most serious reactions come from phorbol, a toxic organic compound.
Since phorbol is highly soluble in water, one cannot even hide under a tree during rain. When it comes into contact with the skin, marcinelle juice causes blisters. In some places of their natural range, these trees are marked with red paint or provided with information signs. There are reports of serious cases of eye inflammation and even blindness caused by smoke from the burning wood of this tree.
“The real threat of death comes from eating marcinelle. Vomiting and diarrhea caused by it dehydrate the body to the point of no return,” says biologist Ella Davis.
Fortunately, Strickland and her friend survived because they tried very small pieces of the fruit. Later, Strickland even became the author of an article with a detailed description of the symptoms caused, published in the British Medical Journal.
One would think that these trees can simply be cut down, but this cannot be done, since mancinella trees play a valuable role in local ecosystems. Their dense crown provides excellent protection against wind and coastal erosion.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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