The manchineel tree, which ranges from South Florida to northern South America, is an endangered species. It's also a very dangerous species, dubbed 'little apple of death' by Spanish conquistadors.
Manchineels are notorious in their native habitats, the sandy soils and mangroves of South Florida, the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America. Many are labeled with warning signs like the one pictured below. But aside from poisoning the occasional conquistador, tourist and literary character, manchineel is relatively obscure considering it holds the world record for most dangerous tree.
The fruits are the most obvious threat, earning manchineel the name manzanita de la muerte, or "little apple of death," from Spanish conquistadors. Resembling a small green crabapple about 1 to 2 inches wide, the sweet-smelling fruits can cause hours of agony — and potentially death — with a single bite.
"I rashly took a bite from this fruit and found it pleasantly sweet," radiologist Nicola Strickland wrote in a 2000 British Medical Journal article about eating manchineel with a friend. "Moments later we noticed a strange peppery feeling in our mouths, which gradually progressed to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat. The symptoms worsened over a couple of hours until we could barely swallow solid food because of the excruciating pain and the feeling of a huge obstructing pharyngeal lump."