In the Bible, Eve offered Adam forbidden fruit. He accepted and they both partook, and they (and us along with them) were cast out of the Garden of Eden.
In the Americas today, there’s another kind of fruit that should be avoided. It grows on a tree commonly found in Central and South America. It is also indigenous to Florida.
The manchineel is one of the most toxic trees on Earth, according to the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information. In 2011, it received Guinness World Records’ nod for “the world’s most dangerous tree.”
Christopher Columbus dubbed the tree “manzanilla de la muerte,” translated as “little apple of death,” according to the NCBI.
These are all sure signs we are no longer in the Garden of Eden.
The tree produces a toxic white sap, according to WTVT-TV in Tampa, Florida. Anyone who touches its leaves, even its bark, risks severely irritating his or skin to the point of blistering.
Inhaling smoke from a burning manchineel can restrict the airwaves of those unlucky souls who happen to breathe it in.
The dangers don’t end there.
Smoke from a burning manchineel has also been known to cause temporary blindness, according to WTVT. The sap can do the same thing if it happens to get into your eyes.
Even standing under a manchineel during a rainstorm is ill-advised. Sap-tainted raindrops will burn those seeking shelter from the storm.
It seems that the only safe thing to do with a manchineel is to look at it from a safe distance.
In the Bible, Adam and Eve defied God by eating the fruit. In the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Snow White had to eat the poisoned half of an apple to fall into a coma.
What happens if someone eats the manchineel fruit, called a “beach apple”? According to the NCBI, radiologist Nicola Strickland accidentally ingested some of the fruit. Her “unpleasant” symptoms subsided after about eight hours. She said the taste of the apple is sweet but the poison soon kicks in.
Here’s a video of a man who ate this forbidden fruit. You wouldn’t want it to happen to you.
It might even kill you.
According to legend, Ponce de Leon, the Spanish conquistador who made the first official expedition to Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth, was shot by an arrow dipped in beach apple sap. It killed him.
Florida might not be paradise, but for many, it’s about as close as one can get in our fallen world. The manchineel isn’t the biblical tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but it is instructive to remember what happened to Adam and Eve when they ate forbidden fruit.
Don’t do it. Keep your distance.
You’ve been warned.