Manchineel tree
Hippomane mancinella
fruit and foliage
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Subfamily: Euphorbioideae
Tribe: Hippomaneae
Subtribe: Hippomaninae
Genus: Hippomane
Species: H. mancinella
Binomial name
Hippomane mancinella

and see text

The Manchineel tree, Hippomane mancinella, is a species of flowering plant in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), native to Florida in the United States, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America.[1] The name "manchineel" (sometimes written "manchioneel") as well as the specific epithet mancinella is from Spanish manzanilla ("little apple"), from the superficial resemblance of its fruit and leaves to those of an apple tree. A present-day Spanish name is in fact manzanilla de la muerte, "little apple of death". This refers to the fact that manchineel is one of the most poisonous trees in the world.



Manchineel is a tree reaching up to 15 meters high with a greyish bark, shiny green leaves and spikes of small greenish flowers. Its fruits, which are similar in appearance to an apple, are green or greenish-yellow when ripe.

The manchineel tree can be found near to (and on) coastal beaches. It provides excellent natural windbreaks and its roots stabilize the sand, thus helping to prevent beach erosion.


Though numerous species have been named in the genus Hippomane, they are nowadays usually considered to be junior synonyms of a single polymorphic species. Synonyms include:

  • Hippomane aucuparia
  • Hippomane biglandulosa
  • Hippomane cerifera
  • Hippomane dioica
  • Hippomane fruticosa
  • Hippomane glandulosa
  • Hippomane horrida
  • Hippomane ilicifolia
  • Hippomane mancanilla
  • Hippomane spinosa
  • Hippomane zeocca


The tree and its parts contain strong toxins, some unidentified. Its milky white sap contains phorbol and other skin irritants, producing strong allergic dermatitis.[2] Standing beneath the tree during rain will cause blistering of the skin from mere contact with this liquid (even a small drop of rain with the milky substance in it will cause the skin to blister). Burning the tree may cause blindness if the smoke reaches the eyes. The fruit can also be fatal if eaten. Many trees carry a warning sign, while others are marked with a red "X" on the trunk to indicate danger. In the French Antilles the trees are often marked with a painted red band a few feet above the ground.[3]

The tree contains 12-deoxy-5-hydroxyphorbol-6gamma, 7alpha-oxide, hippomanins, mancinellin, and sapogenin, phloracetophenone-2,4-dimethylether is present in the leaves, while the fruits possess physostigmine.[4]

The Caribs used the sap of this tree to poison their arrows and would tie captives to the trunk of the tree, ensuring a slow and painful death. A poultice of arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) was used by the Arawaks and Taíno as an antidote against such arrow poisons.[5] The Caribs were known to poison the water supply of their enemies with the leaves.[citation needed] Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was struck by an arrow that had been poisoned with Manchineel sap during battle with the Calusa in Florida, dying shortly thereafter.[6]

To Europeans, the manchineel quickly became notorious. The heroine of Giacomo Meyerbeer's 1865 opera L'Africaine commits suicide by lying under a manchineel tree and inhaling the plant's vapours. In the 1956 film Wind Across The Everglades, a notorious poacher named Cottonmouth (played by Burl Ives) ties a victim to the trunk of a manchineel tree.


The Manchineel tree is listed as an endangered species in Florida.[7]

Literary and artistic references

Nicholas Cresswell, in his journal entry for Friday, September 16th, 1774, mentions,

"The Mangeneel Apple has the smell and appearance of an English Apple, but small, grows on large trees, generally along the Seashore. They are rank poison. I am told that one apple is sufficient to kill 20 people. This poison is of such a malignant nature that a single drop of rain or dew that falls from the tree upon your skin will immediately raise a blister. Neither Fruit or Wood is of any use, that I can learn."

John Esquemeling, author of the book The Buccaneers of America writes of his experience with the "tree called mancanilla, or dwarf-apple-tree" when in Hispianola (modern day Haiti/Dominican Republic).

One day being hugely tormented with mosquitoes or gnats, and as yet unacquainted with the nature of this tree, I cut a branch thereof, to serve me instead of a fan, but all my face swelled the next day and filled with blisters, as if it were burnt to such a degree that I was blind for three days.[8]

Francis Barrett in The Magus (1801) writes "Hippomanes excites lust by the bare touch, or being suspended on the party."

Rafael Sabatini in The Chronicles of Captain Blood describes poisoning by manchineel fruit juice:

"Manzanilla!" Then he swung round, and, uttering horrible, blood-curdling blasphemies, he hurled the jack and the remainder of its contents at the dead man on the floor.[9]

In Clive Cussler's 1988-published novel Treasure, manchineel (in the inflight meal) is used to poison the crew and passengers of a special plane carrying UN Secretary General Hala Kamil to New York--part of a two-pronged assault (the other part is done by a fake pilot who causes the aircraft to take a course to crash just below Vatnajokull--but the plane flies over Iceland to a location in Greenland near to where Dirk Pitt is working on a project).

In Kate Brian's 2010-published novel Suspicion, Manchineel is used both by the protagonist in self defence as well as by the villain in attempted murder

See also

  • Bahamian dry forests


  1. ^ "Hippomane mancinella". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  2. ^ Poisonous plants and animals of Florida and the Caribbean By David W. Nellis
  3. ^ fr:Hippomane mancinella
  4. ^ "Hippomane mancinella". Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  5. ^ Jones, David E (2007). Poison Arrows: North American Indian Hunting and Warfare. University of Texas Press. p. 29. ISBN 9780292714281. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  6. ^ Grunwald, Michael (2007). "Chapter 2: The Intruders". The Swamp. Simon & Schuster. p. 25. ISBN 9780743251075. 
  7. ^ "Hippomane mancinella". Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  8. ^ The Buccaneers of America; Part I, Chapter IV
  9. ^ The Chronicles of Captain Blood, Chapter V - Blood Money

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Manchineel — Man chi*neel , n. [Sp. manzanillo, fr. manzana an apple, fr. L. malum Matianum a kind of apple. So called from its apple like fruit.] (Bot.) A euphorbiaceous tree ({Hippomane Mancinella}) of tropical America, having a poisonous and blistering… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • manchineel — [man΄chə nēl′] n. [Fr mancenille < Sp manzanilla, dim. of manzana, apple < L matianum (pomum), (apple), of Matius, Roman author of a cookery manual] 1. a tropical American tree (Hippomane mancinella) of the spurge family, with a milky,… …   English World dictionary

  • manchineel — /man cheuh neel /, n. a tropical American tree or shrub, Hippomane mancinella, of the spurge family, having a milky, highly caustic, poisonous sap. [1620 30; earlier mancinell, mançanilla < F mancenille and its source, Sp manzanilla, dim. of… …   Universalium

  • manchineel — nuodingasis arkliasiūtis statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Karpažolinių šeimos vaistinis nuodingas augalas (Hippomane mancinella), paplitęs Šiaurės ir Pietų Amerikoje. atitikmenys: lot. Hippomane mancinella angl. manchineel pranc. arbre de… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • manchineel — noun Etymology: French mancenille, from Spanish manzanilla, from diminutive of manzana apple Date: 1630 a poisonous tropical American tree (Hippomane mancinella) of the spurge family having a blistering milky juice and apple shaped fruit …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • manchineel — noun A tropical American tree, Hippomane mancinella, having apple like, poisonous fruit, and a sap that causes blisters on contact with the skin …   Wiktionary

  • manchineel — man·chi·neel (man″kĭ nēlґ) Hippomane mancinella, a tree of tropical America that has a caustic poisonous sap …   Medical dictionary

  • Manchineel — Hippomane (E,P) …   EthnoBotanical Dictionary

  • manchineel — n. tropical American tree with poisonous apple shaped fruit …   English contemporary dictionary

  • manchineel — [ˌman(t)ʃɪ ni:l] noun a Caribbean tree which has acrid apple like fruit and poisonous milky sap which can cause temporary blindness. [Hippomane mancinella.] Origin C17: from Fr. mancenille, from Sp. manzanilla, dimin. of manzana apple …   English new terms dictionary