The World’s Most Dangerous Tree-and How to Keep Your Yard Safe
Trees are some of the most important organisms on the earth. They absorb air pollution and toxic carbon dioxide to transform it into oxygen. They block the sun and lower the temperature directly around their leaves. They reduce wind speed, keep dust out of the air, prevent soil from eroding, and provide habitats and food for hundreds of thousands of species-including humans.
But even though most trees benefit humans and animals, a few prove pretty harmful. In fact, one of the world’s most dangerous trees-the manchineel-lives right here in Florida. Although you’re not likely to encounter it in your own yard, you might want to be on the lookout for this deadly tree the next time you visit the Everglades or hike anywhere in southern Florida.
Throughout the rest of our blog, we’ll tell you more about the world’s deadliest tree. Plus, even though your yard likely doesn’t contain any poisonous trees, we’ll give you some pointers on how to ensure your trees turn your yard into a safe haven for all of your family members and friends.
What Is a Manchineel?
Manchineel trees are also known as Florida poisonwoods, though the Spanish conquistadors first referred to them as “the apple of death.” You’ll find manchineel trees through Florida, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Manchineel trees are usually clearly labeled in popular tourist destinations like parts of the Cayman Islands or Florida’s mangrove forests.
From a distance, the trees look beautiful. They have bright green arrowhead-shaped leaves and greenishyellow blossoms. The bark usually looks red and weathered, and the trees produce a green, crabapple-shaped fruit that, by all accounts, tastes deliciously of plum.
But you shouldn’t go out and try a manchineel fruit-instead, you should stay as far away from the trees and their fruit as possible. Every part of the manchineel tree is toxic to humans, from the sap to the leaves to the fruit to the air directly around the tree. In fact, the tree sap is so harsh that it’s been known to strip paint from cars it drips on. You certainly wouldn’t want such a substance on your skin.
Poison oak, ivy, and sumac all contain a compound called urushiol, which most people are allergic to. If you’ve ever brushed against one of these pesky plants, you’re familiar with urushiol’s effects. However, manchineel trees contain around a thousand times more urushiol than poison ivy, so the trees provoke a painfully intense allergic reaction.
Ingesting manchineel trees’ fruit doesn’t usually lead to death, though it does cause abdominal cramps, pain, and vomiting. However, brushing up against the tree’s bark or leaves can cause temporary blindness, burning, and lung problems. Breathing the air near the tree for a prolonged time or ingesting some of its sap can cause death.
What Should You Do If You Encounter a Manchineel Tree?
Hopefully, you won’t see a manchineel tree very often. Like we said, most areas with manchineel trees in Florida are clearly marked. If you head into the wilderness, pay close attention to these signs and stay far away from any tree resembling the description given above. Stay on the beaten path and pay close attention to your surroundings.
Because manchineel trees are so toxic, you shouldn’t encounter any in urban spaces. However, if you recently moved into a new home, especially one in a rural area of southern Florida and can’t identify one of the trees in your backyard, get in touch with a professional.
For obvious reasons, you shouldn’t try to remove a manchineel tree yourself. Plus, like all other parts of the tree, the smoke from burning wood and leaves is toxic as well, so you can’t dispose of the tree without help.
Wondering why we haven’t completely eradicated manchineel trees from Florida? These trees still exist largely because they play a key role in mangrove forest and beach ecosystems. Some lizards aren’t allergic to the manchineel tree at all and thrive off its fruit.
Because of the problems it causes for humans, though, the manchineel is endangered. This endangered status is another good reason to contact a professional about a tree in your yard instead of removing it yourself. Experts in the area might be intrigued to know about the location of one of these endangered trees.
How Can You Keep Your Yard Safe?
For the most part, Florida’s dangerous tree isn’t much more than an interesting fact. You probably won’t encounter these trees in Florida unless you’re an avid camper and backpacker, and few property owners should find manchineel trees on their property.
However, even though it probably doesn’t harbor any deadly trees, your yard can harbor trees that pose threats of their own to you and your property. Fortunately, a little TLC can ensure your yard stays safe for your visitors and family members alike:
Trim your trees as needed. Contact a professional about removing branches that grow over your property or hang out into the street. These branches can fall and cause damage in hurricanes. Plus, overgrown trees detract from your property’s value and curb appeal.
Remove any diseased or dead trees, for similar reasons.
Be on the lookout for annoying plants and shrubs that could spread into your yard, including poison oak, ivy, and sumac.
Treat any pest infestations as soon as you notice them.
When you take good care of your trees, they’ll take good care of you. Your pest-free, properly trimmed trees will protect you from the sun, beautify your property, and make your yard a wonderful place to relax in.
Interested in learning more about Florida’s trees? Browse through the rest of our blog and get in touch with one of our professional arborists. We’re here to help you learn more about our unique environment and keep your trees happy and healthy.