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Do not Eat, Touch, or even Breathe Around the Manchineel Tree

Throughout the coasts of the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and even in south Florida, there can be found a pleasant-looking beachy sort of tree, often laden with small greenish-yellow fruits that look like apples.

You might be tempted to eat the fruit. Do not eat the fruit. You might want to rest your hand on the trunk, or touch a branch. Do not touch the tree trunk or any branches. Do not stand under or even near the tree for any length of time whatsoever. Do not touch your eyes while near the tree. Do not pick up any of the ominously shiny, tropic-green leaves.

The aboriginal peoples of the Caribbean were familiar with the tree and the sap was used to tip arrows. It is believed that the Calusa people of Florida used it in that manner to kill Juan Ponce de Leon on his second trip to Florida in 1521.

This is the manchineel, known in Spanish-speaking countries as “la manzanilla de la muerte,” which translates to “the little apple of death,” or as “arbol de la muerte,” “tree of death.” The fruit, though described as sweet and tasty, is extraordinarily toxic.

Nicola Strickland, who unwisely chomped down on a manchineel fruit on the Caribbean Island of Tobago, describes what it was like:

I rashly took a bite from this fruit and found it pleasantly sweet. My friend also partook (at my suggestion). Moments later we noticed a strange peppery feeling in our mouths, which gradually progressed to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat. The symptoms worsened over a couple of hours until we could barely swallow solid food because of the excruciating pain.

Over the next eight hours our oral symptoms slowly began to subside. Recounting our experience to the locals elicited frank horror and incredulity, such was the fruit’s poisonous reputation.

Possible Preaching Angle:

God also warned Adam and Eve about the far deadlier physical and spiritual consequences which would come from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Sadly, just as in this story, Eve not only ate but shared the fruit with Adam.

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