On the way to our first excursion while visiting Galapagos, we walked past a Poison Apple Tree (Manzanillo, Manchineel tree, Hippomane mancinella, manzanilla de la muerte – “little apple of death”). This is one of the most poisonous trees in the world.
The fruit look like small crab apples and are greenish yellow. The leaves are green and shiny, and the bark is grayish brown.
Our Naturalist Guide pointed it out and started explaining the dangers to us. The fruit can be fatal if eaten, and the leaves contain a white milky substance which causes burning and blistering when contacting the skin. She broke open a leaf and showed us the white milky sap, it looked a lot like dandelion milk.
I found it a little surprising to find out that even standing under this tree in the rain would be dangerous. Just one drop of the sap mixed with rain would cause itching, blistering and burning. Also, if a tree were to be burned the smoke might even cause blindness if it reached the eyes.
Don’t worry about being poisoned because the trees are often marked, and the guides point them out whenever one is near. When we arrived we were told that, visitors are not allowed to touch the plants and animals on the Galapagos Islands, so if everyone holds to this rule, there is nothing to fear from the poison apple tree.
Interestingly the giant tortoise has been reported to be able to eat the fruit with no problems. But then again, maybe that is why their skin is so rough and wrinkled.