For the most part, trees are considered to have very positive traits. Their ability to produce oxygen, cleanse the air, prevent soil erosion as well as providing a source of wood and fibre to name a few. However, not all trees come with such beneficial attributes. There are a great many trees in the tropics and sub-tropics that are well known to locals as too dangerous to even be in close proximity to.
The first tree that calls the tropics home is Poisonwood or Metopiumtoxiferuma member of the Sumac family; the species name is a dead giveaway!
This extremely unpopular tree produces a sap that when it comes in contact with skin can cause painful blisters almost immediately. Standing under this otherwise harmless appearing tree during a rain storm would not be a good thing.
It’s gummy sap is very difficult to remove from the skin as it’s not completely water soluble and is spread easily when scratched causing even more irritation. Locals in the Caribbean suggest a “squirt” of WD40 helps to dissolve the stubborn sap however with some complications. On a positive note, the Poisonwood tree provides a food source for some birds.
Oddly enough the yellow fruit is seemingly non-toxic to many species of pigeons and doves. The Poisonwood tree is easily recognisable as it boasts glossy green leaves and distinctive reddish bark with black spots, beware!
Perhaps the most toxic, naturally occurring species of tree in the tropics and sub-tropics is Manchineel, Hippomanemacinella.
In similar fashion to Poisonwood, the Machineel has a caustic sap-like substance that is excreted through a gland near the base of the leaves. It is a very attractive tree with shiny foliage and delightful apple-like yellow fruit, however all parts of this tree are deadly poisonous to humans.
In similar fashion to Poisonwood, a light rain will cause the caustic sap to fall and damage anyone or thing that is under the tree. There is an exception however, landcrabs go about their business unaffected and some species of birds eat the bright yellow fruit with great passion. We wouldn’t recommend trying it!