For centuries, humans have used trees to build structures, to fill our stomachs, and to treat ailments. In fact, the list of how we use trees over the years is almost endless. While many trees are vital to our communities, some are threats to our health. Some trees are so poisonous that breathing in their vicinity will cause severe health issues.
Why do we let such threatening trees grow around us? To start, just because they are threats to us does not mean they are threats to animals. Furthermore, many of these trees thrive in hard conditions and help support the ecosystem so life can flourish.
That being said, we need to be aware of the nature of a tree before we try to consume or use it. Some trees on this list will cause serious damage by simply touching it. Below, we will highlight the five most poisonous trees, how to identify them, where they grow, and what makes them so dangerous.
Top 5 Most Poisonous Trees
- The Manchineel Tree (Hippomane mancinella)
- The Suicide Tree (Cerbera odollam)
- The European Yew Tree (Taxus baccata)
- The Sandbox Tree (Hura crepitans)
- The Milky Mangrove (Excoecaria agallocha)
1. The Manchineel Tree
What makes the Manchineel Tree so dangerous?
The slightly sweet fruit of the manchineel tree is incredibly dangerous. It is so dangerous because at first it tastes delicious. However, simply touching your mouth will cause boils through your mouth. Furthermore, swallowing it will probably lead to death. Be wary of the fruit because it looks so much like an apple.
Warnings are placed around these trees by officials to ward off any would-be victim. The manchineel tree produces sap that will cause blindness when you touch your eyes. Additionally, if you touch your skin, blisters will occur.
Standing beneath the tree while it is raining will also cause blistering. Moreover, any interaction and contact with the smoke of burning manchineel wood will cause blindness.
What does the Manchineel Tree look like?
This tall tree will easily reach 50 feet in height. The leaves are 3 inches long and are finely toothed. All in all, the bark is grayish brown and deeply cracked. Though small green flowers grow, you will usually not notice them. The fruit produced looks similar to an apple, but is incredibly dangerous.
Where do Manchineel Trees grow?
The manchineel tree grows in the tropical areas of the Southern Americas and the Caribbean. Native to the Keys, southern Florida, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, this tree is in danger from going extinct in Florida.
Swamps and coastlines are where these trees grow. Sandy soil and full sun are ideal. You will usually find them growing amongst mangrove trees.
2. The Suicide Tree
What makes the Suicide Tree so dangerous?
With this kind of name, surely, this tree carries a severely negative connotation. In Southern Asia, many use the fruits of the suicide tree to do just that – commit suicide. The most common symptom after vomiting is a cardiac event. The toxins disrupt the heartbeat. Further experienced symptoms before heart failure are labored breathing, headache, and coma.
The berries hold a subtle taste. In India, the spices used in cooking are more than enough to cover up the poisonous berry. Furthermore, it is difficult to detect in an autopsy. It is an often-used tool for both suicides and homicides.
What does the Suicide Tree look like?
By and large, the suicide tree is a thinly branched tree. The large poisonous fruits produced are close to the size of a grapefruit. In fact, they are a dark red and look just like unripe mangoes. It is an evergreen, and many Thai gardeners plant this dangerous tree. The canopy it grows is large providing ample shade. Furthermore, it produces beautiful white flowers with an aromatic scent.
Just like many others on this list, the white sap is just as toxic as the seeds. Overall, the suicide tree grows to 50 feet in height. You must be wary of both contact poisoning and consumption.
Where do Suicide Trees grow?
Suicide trees grow through Southern Asia, primarily in India. Thai gardeners add them for their ornamental purposes. In its natural environment, it thrives near bodies of water with sandy soil. Additionally, you will find them in swampy areas near mangrove trees. It cannot survive any sort of frost and so the tropical locations are the best for this tree.
3. The European Yew Tree
What makes the European Yew Tree so dangerous?
All portions of the European Yew tree are poisonous if ingested. Furthermore, the poison carried by this tree is so potent that it may kill. Consuming a small amount of the foliage is enough to kill a person. When the term “all portions” is used, this refers to the leaves, seeds, and bark. However, the wood of the yew tree is not inherently dangerous. Small cases of rash are the only health issues noted from contact with the wood.
The poisons are so prevalent around the tree that skin contact and inflation are enough to cause medical issues. Symptoms from ingestion include weakness, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and heart failure.
What does the European Yew Tree look like?
The European Yew is an evergreen growing to 65 feet in height. The trunk reaches diameters of 6 to 7 feet. Overall, the bark is brown and scaly. It is not a thick bark which makes it so easy to consume. However, the bark still carries the toxins.
Narrow, dark green leaves grow along the branches. A fleshy and bright red berry grows on the European Yew. Though the seeds are poisonous inside, the red berry is not. Both birds and humans alike enjoy these arils (berries).
Where do European Yew Trees grow?
Understandably, the European Yew grows throughout Europe. Additionally, you will find it growing in Africa, Iran, and parts of Asia. This species of tree are growing strong. However, it has a sensitivity to frost and generally lives in the more temperate regions.
While not native, botanists planted European Yews in the United States. This tree prefers rocky slopes. The soil must be well drained. Overall, it tolerates most soil types, but struggles the most in acidic soils.
Because of the beauty of the European Yew and the colorful berries, many plant these trees for ornamental purposes. Many churches planted ancient yews in the churchyards and graveyards.
It poses a significant danger to livestock and so many farmers and landowners have decimated the population on their property.
4. The Sandbox Tree
What makes the Sandbox Tree so dangerous?
Not only are there pointed spikes along the trunk and branches dangerous, but the sap produced from this tree is poisonous. Additionally, when the fruits of this tree reach maturity, they fall and explode. The explosion is so strong that the seeds can travel up to 160 miles per hour, causing injury to anyone nearby.
Ultimately, the sandbox tree is dangerous to touch or even be near. The sap causes severe rashes. Oftentimes, fishers use the sap to poison fish and warriors use it to poison their arrows. The sap will blind you if it touches your eyes.
If you consume a small portion of the fruit growing on the sandbox tree, you will experience severe intestinal issues, including vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. However, consuming more than that has the potential to kill you, or at the very least, causing delirium and seizures.
What does the Sandbox Tree look like?
The sandbox tree grows to a height over 130 feet. The bark is gray and covered in large spikes. In fact, these spikes grow along the entire trunk and the branches.
The fruit produced by the sandbox tree looks reminiscent of a pumpkin, often tempting unknowing victims to try the fruit.
Where do Sandbox Trees grow?
Sandbox trees grow in the Americas, primarily South America. We find a very few sandbox trees in the tropical parts of North America. Finally, sandbox trees also call Tanzania home.
By all means, the sandbox tree prefers moist and sandy soil with full sun. It thrives in the damp climates of the Amazon Rainforest. It will die if ever exposed to frost, and so you will only find it in the frost-free areas of North America.
5. The Milky Mangrove Tree
What makes the Milky Mangrove Tree so dangerous?
The milky mangrove tree produces a creamy white sap. This white sap often makes it into the bodies of water that is grows near. When you come into contact with this sap or water tainted with the sap, significant irritation and blistering can occur. In fact, contact with the eyes will probably lead to temporary blindness. Both ailments come with extreme pain.
The poison is even present in the leaves. Notably, the poison lingers on dried leaves as well. For this reason, many cultures used the poison to help kill fish and as a weapon on a poisoned dart.
All in all, the timber itself is not poisonous. Applications include burning for incense and for building canoes.
What does the Milky Mangrove Tree look like?
Besides the milky sap that is often seen along the tree, the sap is also present if a branch or leaf is broken. Milky mangrove trees display pale green 4-inch oval-shaped leaves. Also, the leaves are typically finely toothed.
Overall, the milky mangrove tree grows up to 50 feet in height. The bark is a lighter brown color, almost appearing gray.
In late autumn, small flowers grow on the milky mangrove. Notably, the seeds produced by the milky mangrove are buoyant. This is a massive benefit because the milky mangrove prefers to grow near bodies of water. With this water passage, the milky mangrove can easily spread its seeds long distances.
Where do Milky Mangrove Trees grow?
The family of mangroves thrives in damp environments. In fact, milky mangroves sustain salty soil very well. Notably, the mangrove sustains 100 times more salinity than other plants. Most often, you will find them growing along bodies of water. In some instances, they will take root in swampy areas, using their roots to lift them into the oxygen. The milky mangrove grows in tropical climates in Asia and Australia. Some coastal portions of the Americas and Africa also play home to mangroves.