Hippomane mancinella, common name Machineel is a speciesof flowering plant in the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family. Machineel is consider of the most dangerous plants because of its toxicity. In fact in present day Spanish name of this plant is manzanilla de la muerte, “little apple of death”.
Machineel is native to the Carribean, the U.S. state of Florida, The Bahamas, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. The machineel tree can be found on coastal beaches and in brackish swamps where it grow among mangroves. It provides excellent natural windbreaks and its roots stabilize the sand, thus preventing beach erosion.
All parts of the tree contains strong toxins, some of which have yet to be identified. The milky white sap of the tree contains skin irritants such as phorbol, which produce strong allergic dermatitis (rash). The fruit of the tree can be fatal if eaten. Ingestion of the fruit can produce severe grastroenteritis with bleeding, shock, bacterial superinfection, and the potential for airway comprise due to edema. When ingested the fruit is reportedly “pleasantly sweet” at first, which is followed by a “strange peppery feeling” gradually progressing into “buring, tearing sensastion and tightness of the throat.” Symptoms continue to worsen until the patient cannot swallow due to agonizing pain due to “the feeling of huge obstructing pharyngeal lump.”