Is tree sap edible?

Is Peach Sap Edible: Learn About Eating Gum From Peach Trees

Some toxic plants are poisonous from the roots to the tips of the leaves and others only have toxic berries or leaves. Take peaches, for instance. Many of us love the juicy, delicious fruit and probably never thought about eating any other part of the tree, and that’s a good thing. Peach trees are primarily toxic to humans, except for peach sap from trees. Undoubtedly, most of us never thought about eating gum from peach trees but, in fact, you can eat peach resin.

Can You Eat Peach Resin?

Is peach sap edible? Yes, peach sap is edible. In fact, it is commonly ingested in Chinese culture. The Chinese have been eating peach tree resin for thousands of years. It is used for both medicinal and culinary purposes.

Peach Sap from Trees

Usually, peach tree resin is purchased packaged. It looks like hardened amber. While the Chinese have been eating gum from peach trees for centuries, they don’t just harvest it off the tree and pop it in their mouths.

Prior to eating peach tree resin, it must be soaked overnight or up to 18 hours and then slowly brought to a boil and cooked down. It is then cooled and any impurities, such as dirt or bark, are picked from it.

Then, once the resin is clean, depending upon the use for the peach tree resin, additives are mixed in. Peach gum is commonly used in Chinese sweets, but it may also be used to nourish the body or as an emollient to rejuvenate the skin. It is said to create firmer skin with less wrinkles, and to cleanse the blood, build up the immune system, remove cholesterol and balance the bodies pH.

Seems that peach resin has quite the health benefits but, remember, it’s imperative that you are completely knowledgeable prior to eating any part of a plant and always consult with your doctor beforehand.

This Tree Is So Toxic, You Can’t Stand Under It When It Rains

In 1999, radiologist Nicola Strickland went on a holiday to the Caribbean island of Tobago, a tropical paradise complete with idyllic, deserted beaches.

On her first morning there, she went foraging for shells and corals in the white sand, when the holiday quickly took a turn for the worse.

Scattered amongst the coconuts and mangoes on the beach, Strickland and her friend found some sweet-smelling green fruit that looked much like small crabapples.

Both foolishly decided to take a bite, and within moments the pleasant, sweet taste was overwhelmed by a peppery, burning feeling and an excruciating tightness in the throat that gradually got so bad they could barely swallow.

The fruit in question belonged to the manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella), sometimes referred to as ‘beach apple’ or ‘poison guava’.

It’s native to the tropical parts of southern North America, as well as Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of northern South America.

The plant bears another name in Spanish, arbol de la muerte, which literally means “tree of death”. According to the Guinness World Records, the manchineel tree is in fact the most dangerous tree in the world.

As explained by the Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all parts of manchineel are extremely poisonous, and “interaction with and ingestion of any part of this tree may be lethal”.

Manchineel belongs to the large and diverse Euphorbia genus, which also contains the decorative Christmas poinsettia. The tree produces a thick, milky sap, which oozes out of everything – the bark, the leaves and even the fruit – and can cause severe, burn-like blisters if it comes into contact with the skin.

This sap contains a range of toxins, but it’s thought that the most serious reactions come from phorbol, an organic compound that belongs to the diterpene family of esters.

Because phorbol is highly water-soluble, you don’t even want to be standing under a manchineel when it’s raining – the raindrops carrying the diluted sap can still severely burn your skin.


Because of these horrifying properties, in some parts of the tree’s natural range they are painted with a red cross, a red ring of paint, or even paired with explicit warning signs.

We could just remove them, but they play a valuable role in the local ecosystems – as a large shrub, the manchineel grows into dense thickets that provide excellent windbreaking and a protection against coastal erosion on Central American beaches.

There have been reports of severe cases of eye inflammation and even temporary blindness causes by the smoke of burning manchineel wood – not to mention the effects of inhaling the stuff.

However, Caribbean carpenters have been using manchineel wood in furniture for centuries – after carefully cutting it and drying in the sun to neutralise the poisonous sap.

“The real death threat comes from eating its small round fruit,” Ella Davies writes for the BBC. “Ingesting the fruit can prove fatal when severe vomiting and diarrhoea dehydrate the body to the point of no return.”

Fortunately, Strickland and her friend lived to tell the tale, because they only ate a tiny amount of death apple. In 2000, Strickland published a letter in The British Medical Journal, describing her symptoms in detail.

It took over 8 hours for their pain to slowly subside, as they carefully sipped pina coladas and milk. The toxin went on to drain into the lymph nodes on their necks, providing further agony.

“Recounting our experience to the locals elicited frank horror and incredulity, such was the fruit’s poisonous reputation,” Strickland wrote. “We found our experience frightening.”

A version of this article was first published in January 2016.

Why you should drink water from trees

Posted: 17 February 2017 | Clara Vaisse (Sibberi) |

We wanted to bring to market something that was natural, hydrating and low in sugars and it seems trees might provide the answer…

We wanted to bring to market something that was natural, hydrating and low in sugars. Having been introduced to tree water by a friend in 2014, we decided that this was the ultimate solution and that we should launch it in the UK. We bypassed labs and factories, instead choosing to bottle water that came direct from nature’s source; from the forest itself.

Tree water is simply pure tree sap: undiluted and unaltered. People are often surprised at this, as they expect sap to be brown and sticky, but for certain trees it is clear as water. The most common sap to be bottled comes from the birch tree and is popular in Eastern Europe, mainly in Russia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Latvia where we first sourced our precious sap. The other common tree waters are maple sap and bamboo sap. Tree water is just as hydrating as coconut water, yet it has only a quarter of the amount of sugar. Proving to be no fleeting trend, the UK’s thirst for tree waters is growing and the popularity of birch water continues to rise.

Birch water has long been favoured across Nordic folk cultures as a spring tonic to cleanse the body after a long, harsh winter. Birch water tastes a little sweet – from naturally occurring xylitol – and beautifully crisp, with a delightful aftertaste of the forest. A rare and prized ingredient, birch sap can only be harvested during the first two weeks of April, at which time the nutrients stored in the roots travel through the thawing tree to swell the buds to bloom. The tree starts pumping the water from the ground when the snow melts away which is the natural signal for spring time!

Sibberi works with farmers to tap silver birch groves nestled deep in the wilds of Eastern Europe, where the soil and weather is just right to produce the delicious, naturally sweet, nutritionally-rich sap that goes into each bottle. Five litres of sap is collected drop by drop from each mature birch tree – a mere 1% of the total sap produced per tree – the tap is then plugged allowing the hole to seal itself for the following year. A longstanding Scandinavian beauty secret with its ever-expanding list of health and beauty benefits; Sibberi helps eradicate the uric acid that accumulates when dieting or eating excess sugar. As a natural diuretic, it supports kidney and liver functions and speeds up the process of cleansing.

Approximately one in five people have too high a level of uric acid in their blood, which can result in a buildup of crystals in the joints, causing joint pain or even a form of arthritis called gout (one in seven older men have gout in the UK). Too much uric acid can also result in the body’s elimination of the excess through the skin’s pores, resulting in a cloudy complexion.

Birch water is packed with electrolytes (potassium, calcium and manganese) and antioxidants in the form of flavonoids – all of which speed up the body’s cleansing process, preserves nutrients and supports weight loss. Containing naturally occurring xylitol, birch water is also known to help with preventing tooth decay. Nutritionist, Candice Van Eeden (DipCNM mBANT CNHC) comments: “Birch sap is a phototherapeutic clear water that is naturally filtered by the Birch tree. Birch Water is an effective diuretic supporting the liver to detoxify unwanted chemicals and the kidney to expel uric acid from the body. This is what gives Birch sap its anti-inflammatory property.”

Leveraging their expertise of tapping birch trees, Sibberi also harvests maple trees in Vermont and launched their Maple Water in 2016. A health tonic used for centuries by Native Americans, this hydrating elixir is simply maple sap tapped straight from a maple tree – not to be confused with maple syrup, which is concentrated maple water. Maple Water is packed full of manganese, which assists in maintaining healthy bones and tissues, as well as regulating thyroid function and blood sugar levels. One bottle of Sibberi Maple Water has the same amount of manganese as a cup of kale, making it an easy and palatable way to incorporate this important nutrient into your diet.

Sibberi was the first company to introduce the world to Bamboo Water in 2016. In the case of this highly sustainable plant, its water is directly extracted from the bamboo sticks. Bamboo is the highest natural source of silica and the best-kept secret for healthy skin, hair and nails. Being naturally present in the body, silica, however, fades with age, making Bamboo Water a simple and natural antiageing solution. Nutritionist, Candice Van Eeden (DipCNM mBANT CNHC) comments: “Each of the waters have their own unique healing properties. Maple contains mineral manganese1 that supports healthy bone structure and connective tissues; Bamboo boosts natural production of collagen, inhibiting the aging processes of the body’s tissues,; while Birch supports the body in detoxifying unwanted chemicals.”

However, irrespective of how nutritious they may be, they won’t be able to hydrate you if you can’t stand the taste. Each type of tree sap has a unique taste, resulting in a range of distinctly different tasting tree waters. This variation in taste makes it less likely that the consumer will tire of this hydration source, providing an option to suit everyone – including children. Birch water has a light, slightly sweet taste with a subtle hint of forest. For those with a sweet tooth, maple water provides a low sugar sweet hit with its hints of maple syrup. And if you aren’t a fan of sweet drinks, the bamboo water tastes similar to green tea. Dietitian Fiona Kinnear (BSc (Hons) Nutrition, R.D. (PgD)) comments:

“Overall, tree waters are a great alternative to other sugar laden choices – helping you to keep hydrated while also keeping your sugar intake within the new current recommendations for which your short and long term health will greatly benefit.”

In summary, each type of tree sap provides a unique taste and nutritional profile, meaning it can be enjoyed without requiring any sugar or added flavouring. We did consider adding juices to our water range to make it more accessible for people inclined to sweet things, however we realised this would defeat the purpose of being completely natural and would add unnecessary calories. We decided to keep it simple and leave the waters just as nature intended!

About the Author

Previously working in the fashion industry for Louis Vuitton in Paris, Clara Vaisse has applied her skills to the marketing of her own health drink brand, Sibberi. Since childhood, fitness guru Clara (she holds a black belt in Judo) has maintained a keen interest in healthy eating and natural medicine, believing that the food we eat can help heal the body. Inspired by tales of the health-giving properties of tree sap, Sibberi’s co-founders, Clara Vaisse and Mehdi Meghzifene, embarked on a quest that lead them to Eastern Europe and China to find the pure sap that is unavailable in the UK.

University of Maryland Medical Center (2013). Manganese. Available online here.


Issue 1 2017

Related topics

Health & Nutrition, Ingredients

Related organisations


Related regions

North America

Before eating many vegetables and fruits, some people peel them. If you also prefer eating fruits without skin, this article may be interesting for you.

In this article we will talk about peaches and their skin. Do you eat peaches with or without skin? Have you ever wondered whether peach skin is good to eat or it can be harmful? Read along and you will find out.

More about Peaches

Peaches are fruits of the peach decidious tree (Prunus persica) that is native to Northwest China. Peaches can be a great healthy snack, but you can also use them in a variety of dessert recipes. Peaches are rich in vitamins A and C and they are a good source of fiber.

Peaches are low in calories, so you don’t have to worry. You can eat peaches whenever you can, but it is important to wash them thoroughly. Peaches have the characteristic fuzz on its skin, so many people tend to peel them before eating. But, can we eat peach skin?

Can We Eat Peach Skin?

The answer to this question is yes. Generally, peach skin is edible and you can eat it. Most people don’t care for the fuzzy peach skin and they eat the whole fruit. For some people peach skin is a favorite part of this delicious fruit.

Furthermore, peach skin is very useful for humans health because it contains a lot of antioxidants. If you peel peach skin, it can make peaches less tasty and less nutritious. Peach skin is full of vitamins that are not contained in a peach flesh, so the skin can be very beneficial. But, it is important to wash peaches thoroughly before eating. This way you will remove the waxy layer which can hold pesticides.

Although peach skin is edible, some people prefer peaches peeled and sliced. Some people don’t like the flavor or texture of peach skin so they peel this fruit.

Also, some people may be allergic to the peach skin. Sometimes peach skin can also be too hairy, so it may irritate gastrointestinal tract and throat. Some experts say that a variety of peach is very important.

Some varieties have fuzzier and thicker skins than other varieties, so your digestive system may not be able to digest them well. In this case, it is best to peel a peach. But, if peach skin is soft, you can safely eat it, but don’t forget to wash it first!


We hope this article was useful and interesting for you. Now you may want to try eating peach skin.

Although peach skin is fuzzy, it can be very tasty and also beneficial for our health. You don’t have to peel your peaches and you should enjoy the whole fruit.

As you have seen, the only thing you should do before eating peaches is to wash them thoroughly. Regardless of whether you eat peaches with skin or you peel them, we know that you will enjoy this healthy and delicious fruit.

Can You Eat Peach Skin? Is It Safe And Healthy?

Peaches! They’re yummy, soft, healthy and versatile. You can eat them right away, as juicy as they are, make a pie out of them or squeeze the fruit to make a juice. Of course, we are talking about the inside here, but what about the skin? Is it as useful as the flesh? “Can you eat peach skin?”


What Is A Peach?

A “peach” is a round, juicy fruit that looks like the color of, well, a peach! At least you now know where we got the color peach from. If you were to describe it further and be more specific, it would be orange with a pinch of yellow and pink mixed together.

The fruit’s color is like apples, but its texture is way different. While the apple has a nice, smooth structure and skin, the peach has a soft, hairy skin type. It originated in China, where people called it a nectarine. A nectarine, however, is quite different since its skin does not have trichomes.

Is It Safe To Eat Peach Skin?

The answer is a big YES! Peach skin contains lots of vitamins that are good for the human body and it’s surprisingly delicious too. A lot of people who are used to eating peach skin do not mind the fuzzy skin.

  • Don’t be scared to eat the skin, as long as it is properly washed. Amongst all of the fruits sprayed that are chemicals, the peach is ranked as the best choice. You must be careful when washing them though – do not rub too hard or they will end up all mushy and broken inside and outside.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Peach Skin?

Did you ever think that eating peach skin was beneficial! Even the thought of eating the fuzzy texture seems to be impossible. Now we have discovered that it is totally edible and nutritious, let’s discover the benefits that we can all gain from it.

  • It is delicious – believe it or not, many people prefer the skin to the fruit itself, as it is their favorite part.
  • Peach skin is rich in antioxidants and contains more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals than the flesh. How is that?
  • They are rich in fiber, with the most fiber content is found in the peel.

Is Peach Skin Safe To Eat?

Yes, it is absolutely safe. Apart from the health benefits that we have mentioned, it is also yummy. However, it is hard to find a peach in the market that is purely organic. Most fruits are sprayed with harmful chemicals. You can eat peach skin when you are sure it is clean, as if it came from your own backyard. But do not eat the skin when it does not have the “organic” label on it, as it will not be safe.

  • Warning: Do not forget that peach pits contain a low level of cyanide. It won’t harm you if you eat a little of it but be careful, just in case.

What Are The Other Ways We Can Eat Peach Peel?

We already know that peach skin can be eaten fresh and it’s useful to our health, but what are its other uses, and have you ever thought about eating it in different ways that are not fresh? Let’s find out!

Peach Jelly

This recipe contains both peach peel and pits for jam. The peach pit and peels are boiled and as much juice as possible is extracted from it. The juice is then boiled again and mixed with pectin and sugar this time. What comes out? Peach jelly or jam and it tastes delicious!

Peach Peel Butter

Via Nourished Kitchen

Mix the peel with sugar, lemon juice and water and the results are magical. Simmer it until it has the consistency of butter. Make sure you stir all the time to prevent burning.

What Are The Different Types Of Peaches?

I know we are only focusing on peach peel here, but now that you’re trying out eating peach skin, you might as well know that peaches have different varieties. This means you can choose what kind of peach you want to eat in terms of its skin. There are peaches with super fuzzy skin and others with a few trichomes. I would certainly have a good look out for these!

Here is a video that educates us about the different types of peaches:

To wrap it all up, you have now learned that it’s safe to eat peach skin and it’s a good thing to eat the skins because it means there’s no waste! You can even enjoy making jam and butter out of the skins!

What do you think? Would you like me to teach you how to peel peaches? Maybe that’s something for next time, right here! Spread the news about eating peach skins and share your experience.

Before eating many fruits and some vegetables, some people — bad, or perhaps ignorant people — do something which renders the produce less tasty, less colorful, less texturally interesting, and much less nutritious. The worst of these offenses involves one of my favorite fruits: the kiwi.

California grows the vast majority of domestic kiwi, and California’s kiwi growing season starts in October, which is mere weeks away. This is exciting, because the kiwi is a spectacular fruit: its color is otherworldly; it leans wonderfully to the tart side of the sweet/tart scale; and it has more vitamin C than an orange. But an awful lot of people don’t buy them, because they are seen, incorrectly, as being in the grand tradition of difficult-to-eat tropical fruits.

Just as it takes practice to properly carve a mango (the first method here is the correct one, since you should never peel a mango before cutting it), or to remove the spiky, dangerous skin of a pineapple (like this), the kiwi has the reputation of a fruit that requires…work. Typical ways to eat it include skinning it with a vegetable peeler and slicing into rounds or cutting it in half and scooping out the insides with a spoon. These options require not one but TWO utensils. Jesus Christ.

I am about to blow your minds, friends. (Unless you already know this, in which case, cool, let’s make a salad together sometime.) The proper way to eat a kiwi is exactly the way you would eat a peach.

Which is to say, wash it lightly, and then bite right into it. The kiwi is better with its skin than without it. The skin isn’t just edible, it’s one of my favorite parts of any fruit. It’s similar to a peach skin, in that it is sort of fuzzy and that the flesh directly under the skin is a bit more tart than the deep insides, but the kiwi’s skin is even thicker and thus provides even more delightful textural contrast to the green flesh within.

But what about the fuzz, you ask? Surely it renders the kiwi unpleasant to eat! To that I ask this: how many people reading this post have a beard or enjoy kissing people with beards or both? I WOULD WAGER THERE ARE A LOT OF YOU.

Give the kiwi a rinse under cold water then scratch it lightly with your fingernails, rub it with a dish towel, or scrape it with a spoon to remove the excess fuzz. This takes about five seconds; the fuzz will come shed itself easily. In fact, the only parts of the kiwi that aren’t edible are the ends, where the fruit attaches to the vine (kiwis grow on vines, like grapes).

Kiwis aren’t the only fruits you shouldn’t be peeling; unless the skin is classified as inedible, like mango, passionfruit, pineapple, lychee, avocado, or dragonfruit, you should eat it. The skin is often the healthiest part of the entire fruit, since it’s packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, even when the inside of the item has little of nutritional value (cough, potatoes). As a general rule, the darker the item, the better it is for you, which is how you can tell spinach is healthier than iceberg lettuce (which is 96% water but would be better if it was 100% water and just a glass of water because iceberg is seriously the worst edible leaf on the planet). And it even applies to individual items: hence, the rich outside of an apple is healthier than its pale white insides (color is always better than white. That’s a cool edgy racial joke). There are about a billion scientific studies examining the health benefits of peels; here’s a good survey, which focuses on the antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties of fruit and vegetable skins. (Spoiler: They have a lot of them.) Also, peels are full of insoluble fiber, which sounds like a bad thing but is not because it helps you have good poops. Who doesn’t want good poop?

So: Never peel potatoes. Never peel sweet potatoes. Never peel eggplants or apples or cucumbers or, shockingly bananas. Mostly you can just leave the peel on and do whatever you planned on doing with the fruit or vegetable; roast, boil, puree, or eat raw. Banana peels are a weird one though, since they’re edible, and very healthy, but have sort of a shitty texture when raw. In India, they are sometimes deep-fried into chips, or turned into a sort of chutney with coconut. Apparently you can also bake them to remove moisture and then make tea; I haven’t tried this, but I will. Or you can be lazy and just toss them into a smoothie with the rest of the banana.

Lots of skins that are normally considered not edible secretly are, in some way. Citrus can be zested with a microplane or some other sharp tool; the outside of the citrus has some of the most oil and thus most flavor of the entire fruit. (It’s the pith, the white part just under the zest, that’s bitter and gross.) Zest is good both to build flavor from the beginning, or as a finisher, like parmesan cheese. If you can scrape the zest off in one piece, you can gnaw on it raw; it has a pretty intense citrus flavor, more intense than the pulp. But my favorite use is in vinaigrettes: Get some neutral oil (grapeseed is my favorite), some rice wine vinegar, honey, and a little chile paste, and then get out your microplane and grate in a shitload of orange zest and ginger, and whisk vigorously. Goes great on a spinach salad, if you must eat leaves. (Also, have you been throwing away the peels from your alliums? DON’T. Onion and garlic skins, the papery stuff, still has flavor in it; save it in a ziploc bag and toss into stocks.)

Watermelon rinds make for great pickles, with a texture not too far removed from cucumber (to which it is related). Remove the green outer layer, dice the white part into cubes, and par-boil for about five minutes, until it’s no longer tough, then strain and put in a glass container. Separately, bring a saucepan of apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, a couple sticks of cinnamon, some allspice berries, and maybe a star anise (what are the units of star anise, one star?) to a boil, then pour over the rinds. Let sit overnight. If you want, you can strain the liquid the next day, bring it back to a boil, and pour it over the rinds again, but I never do. Pickled watermelon rinds go especially well with barbecue or Mexican food.

Every parent that gives in and peels an apple for their child, every fast-food restaurant that removes potato peels before making fries, every fussy “Top Chef” judge who has a vendetta against the peels on peppers should be ashamed. You only have to look to the kiwi to see just how transformational the peel can be. Go ahead, buy a kiwi and just chomp right into it. It’ll totally change the way you see it: suddenly it’s portable, cheap, and delicious walk-around fruit, like an apple, but tropical. Eat kiwi. Eat skin.

Crop Chef is a new column about the correct ways to prepare and consume plant matter, by Dan Nosowitz, a freelance human who enjoys hot salads and lives in Brooklyn, naturally.

Photo by Live and Stereo

Stay in Touch!

Chechem and Chaka trees connected at the roots. (Photo: Leonora (Ellie) Enking/cropped from original/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Explorers take heed: The jungles of Southern Mexico and Central America are ruled by a tangled gang of trees and vines. The vegetation of this region grows thick and quickly, making it almost impossible to navigate without a machete and a compass. Even more surprising, perhaps, is that the greenery itself is a hazard: There are at least 11 species of plants and trees in Central America which are considered poisonous to the touch and can cause severe contact dermatitis, i.e., a horrible burning rash.

There is only one, though, where the poison and the antidote grow side by side.

The offending tree’s official name is metopium brownei, known locally as chechém or black-sap poisonwood and it’s highly unpleasant. The bark and leaves of metopium brownei contain a high dose of an oily substance called urushiol, the active chemical agent in poison ivy and many other similarly gifted plants.

Toxic sap from metopium brownei, or chechem. (Photo: Francisco J. Chan Caamal/C BY-SA 3.0)

When this chemical invades your skin it sets off an elaborate, internal alarm system. Langerhan cells, your body’s guard dogs, alert the immune system to the presence of intruders and summon T-cells to deal with the infection. They do this by calling for back-up, releasing signal proteins called cytokines and chemokines which order white blood cells called lymphocytes to assassinate the infected cells. Here’s the problem: The T-cells and lymphocytes also call for back-up creating a chain-reaction which leads to a vicious cycle of attack and alert. It would be like every soldier in the army calling in their very own airstrike, then the pilots calling in more troops who call in more airstrikes, and so on. The blistering rash that follows is a physical symptom of the human body’s natural reaction to this chemical assault. (For those who prefer cartoons to text-books, there is a lovely animated explanation of the body’s reaction here. )

Typical treatment of urushiol-based skin infection in North America is limited to a thorough scrubbing and topical application of calamine lotion. This doesn’t actually treat the painful chemical process taking place below the surface, though, so much as calm the redness and help stop its spread.

Fortunately, the remedy is close. A tree called Bursera simaruba, known by locals as chaka and sometimes called the Gumbo-Limbo tree is a bioactive species which, when processed correctly, acts as an antidote to chechém. The chemistry behind this relationship is complex, with several bioactive chemical compounds in the bark and leaves of bursera working together. Several studies identified chemical constituents including picropolygamain, amyrin and elemicine that are both individually beneficial to the human body and also combine to produce a powerful antioxidant. This is the key to shutting down your body’s reaction to the toxins in chechém. The antioxidants break that painful cycle of alert and attack raging below the skin, essentially calling a cease-fire and allowing the body’s reaction to stop. Active chemical agents also work to alleviate inflammation of the affected area, reducing swelling and itching.

Leaves of bursera simaruba, or chaka. (Photo: Kurt Stueber/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The combination of a tree poison, and antidote, sitting right next to each other is astounding. The trees even look alike! But although the jungle is ripe with bio-diversity, the close proximity of these two trees might not be total coincidence. One theory explaining why chechém and chaka grow close to one another comes from an oral tradition handed down through history by the Yucatec Maya. I first heard it years ago from an old man sitting at a bar in Tulum, Mexico.

He told me the story of two ancient brothers, Kinch and Tizic, young Mayan Lords who fell tragically in love with the same beautiful woman, Nicté-Ha. The brothers were polar opposites; one calm and thoughtful, the other reckless and evil. They fought a furious battle driven by passionate jealousy and in the end the brothers died in each other’s arms, neither attaining the love they so endlessly sought. Their final request of the Gods was to see their beloved Nicté-Ha again so the brothers were reincarnated as chechém and chaka—two trees that share one flower.

The legend is actually an obscure clue to the puzzle of the trees. The answer has to do with the flowers and fruit these trees both produce. It turns out that by “sharing the same flower” (and fruit) these trees end up also sharing various birds that typically eat from both trees. The seeds are then deposited in the same place and often take root less than a meter apart.

A rash from the chechem tree. (Photo: John Michael Peck)

Although the proximity of these bioactive trees remains unique, “sting and relief” relationships are actually quite common in nature. Indigenous people of the world have long stood as pioneers in the trial and error science of jungle-pharmacology. North America has its own remedy for urushiol infections usually caused by poison ivy, an herb called impatiens capensis or jewelweed. The infamous death-cap mushroom has a recently discovered natural antidote derived from silybum marianum, a flower common in the Mediterranean.

Some of the most interesting chemical relationships on Earth can be found on the African continent. For example, the Bassa tribe from central Cameroon uses a flowering tree called strophantus gratus to tip their poison arrows and alstonia boonei—another tree—as the antidote.

As for the jungles of Central America, they continue to be a source of rare biological discoveries. The old man from that bar in Tulum actually told me something else about chechém which I found quite interesting: He said that if I didn’t believe it could hurt me, it would not.

Blossoms on the bursera simaruba. (Photo: Bob Peterson/CC BY 2.0)

The idea certainly inspired confidence but unfortunately I proved him wrong a few days later, after slashing my way through a thicket of the stuff while running away from some drunken soldiers. .

If you ever have to learn this lesson the hard way, make sure that you can tell the difference between bursera simaruba (the antidote) and metopium brownei (the poison)—the leaves themselves look quite similar. The most reliable way to tell the difference is the bark as chechém has a grey trunk with black sap-streaks while chaka bark is reddish brown and flaky. To achieve the desired effect, boil a large handful of chaka leaves or crushed bark until the water is thick and crimson colored. Apply often until the rash begins to fade and whatever you do, don’t scratch.

The world’s most dangerous tree will harm you in many ways

Even though there’s no shortage of deadly flora and fauna in our own backyards, there’s one tree on our planet that’s just totally out of control.

This innocuous-looking fruit tree is found in the Caribbean, parts of Central and South America and Florida, and it is so toxic that it can seriously injure or even kill you – in more ways than one.

The manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella) is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s most dangerous tree”, and in Spanish it’s literally referred to as “the tree of death”.

So what makes it so horrible?

It will literally rain acid on you

If a storm’s coming, the manchineel tree is not a place you’d want to run to for shelter. Its branches, bark, leaves and fruit all contain a sticky white sap that leaves scalding blisters and burns, inflammation and an extreme rash when it comes in contact with skin. So, first step of caution – do not touch it.

When it rains though, the situation gets even worse. One of the most potent toxins contained in the sap is phorbol, a powerful water-soluble irritant that is picked up by the falling rain and scattered on anyone standing underneath (you’re better off just standing in the open and being rained on, seriously).

It gets worse if you’re unlucky enough to look up and get a drop of the diluted sap in your eye; this could actually cause blindness.

The #manchineel tree is so poisonous that even standing under it in the rain can cause severe skin damage ©rmtw

— IFLBiodiversity (@IFLBiodiversity) May 21, 2014

The fruit is definitely forbidden

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the apple-like fruit that grows on the manchineel’s branches has a very sweet smell, and looks harmless enough to the naked eye.

However, even a couple of bites immediately create an intense burning sensation in the mouth, as well as blisters and swelling in the throat. These effects can last for multiple hours and in some cases the consumption of the plum-sized fruit can also lead to death from severe vomiting and diarrhoea that fatally dehydrates the body.

FleurDuJour: manchineel tree blossom, “hypocrisy” #flowers #floweroftheday #manchineel

— Mary Brack (@MaryBrack1) October 13, 2015

Don’t burn it, either

When gathering firewood for your campsite, this tree’s bark and branches are definitely ones to avoid. Burning pieces of the manchineel lets off a toxic smoke that can lead to severe eye inflammation, temporary blindness, and significant breathing problems.

Not to mention that the tree squirts its horrible sap when you cut its branches, leaving you exposed to the toxic substance directly.

@ninakargar Campfire tea, toasting Marshmallows, discussing a range of topics, it sounds like a plan.

— Abbas (@B16LBW) June 13, 2016

It can make you sick just by being there

Speaking of camping, or picnicking for that matter, it isn’t wise to set up around manchineel trees – just being around them for prolonged periods of time can cause illness. In fact, some local native people used to tie enemies to the tree and leave them exposed as a form of torture.

Thankfully, these days in many places were the manchineel grows, they are marked by red crosses and warning plaques.

@reallesstroud @LaColombeCoffee @toddcarmichael Nice Manchineel tree.

— Ron Luikaart (@RonLuikaart) January 21, 2015

Read these next Tarantula venom could help develop new pain treatments New research shows how toxins from spider venom can help us to better understand the mechanics behind pain. Trees share vital goodies through a secret underground network For the first time we’ve seen mature wild trees sharing carbon via their roots, and it turns out they share a lot more than previously thought. What spying on trees can teach us about the climate An Aussie scientist is setting up an international network of surveillance cameras to spy on trees and help us understand climate change.

2 Trees You Should Avoid – Poisonwood And Machineel

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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *