Hippomane dioica Rottb.
Mancinella venenata Tussac
Common Name: Mancenillier
Tree growing in the Galapagos
Photograph by: David Stang
Mancenillier is a glabrous, deciduous or evergreen tree with spreading branches and a rounded crown[
]. It can grow up to 18 metres tall with a bole up to 90cm in diameter, but is usually smaller[
Although very poisonous, the tree is occasionally used medicinally and is valued for its timber.
The attractive fruits are toxic and can cause serious illness or even death if ingested[
The milky sap is poisonous if taken internally, and upon contact with the skin causes severe inflammation in some persons[
]. Others are apparently immune to the external effects of the juice[
]. It is reported that the latex was used by the Caribs for poisoning arrows[
Smoke from the burning wood is dangerous to the eyes[
The early Spaniards had such unfortunate experiences with the tree that they gave it a dark reputation indeed, claiming that a person who even sat beneath a tree would be blinded or would die, statements long ago proved false. It is possible, however, that people resting or passing beneath the trees during rain might be harmed[
Northern S. America - Venezuela through Central America to Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean.
Frequent on sandy beaches, growing only at the inner edge of the beaches, and found nowhere else[
]. Thickets on limestone and at the edges of salt marshes, never far from the sea in Jamaica[
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A tree of lowland tropical areas.
Although poisonous, an extract of the fruit is employed to treat elephantiasis[
Antidotes to the poisonous latex in an accidentally eaten fruit include: a leaf infusion of Jatropha multifida; a leaf-and-flower infusion of Tabebuia serratifolia; and a seed decoction of Fevillea cordifolia[
The heartwood is dark brown with markings of brown and black; the sapwood is light brown or yellowish. The texture is fine and uniform; the wood is fairly hard; strong; of medium weight; lustrous; highly durable, though very susceptible to attack by drywood termites. It is easy to work; finishes smoothly; takes a good polish. It has long been used in some parts of tropical America, mostly in the West Indies, for making good furniture, cabinet work and interior finish[
]. The wood must be handled with great care, even when dry[
Although the poisonous sap adds difficulties to logging and handling lumber, the trees can be girdled in advance or the bark can be burned off or charred before felling[
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