Get to know the 'Death Apple'

Kei Quinal

Reading — Advanced Level
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Read the text and answer the questions

Whether you climb them, hug them or admire them, trees are one part of nature that are so easy to love, cleansing the air we breathe, offering shade from the sun and providing sweet, nutritious fruit. But love isn't exactly what you'll feel if you get too close to the manchineel tree. Known as the most dangerous tree in the world, it's found along the sandy beaches and mangroves in tropical climates stretching from Florida to the Caribbean, and down into parts of Central and South America. And this tree can cause a world of hurt.

The manchineel's small apple-like fruit definitely won't keep the doctor away — it packs such a poisonous punch that the Spanish conquistadors called it the 'la manzanilla de la muerte' or 'little apple of death.' The ominous name may sound extreme, but history shows that indigenous peoples used the sap to poison their arrows and contaminate the water supply of the invading Spaniards.

While there are no reported instances in modern botanical literature of anyone dying from ingesting the innocent looking fruit, if you were to bite into it, the sweet taste would quickly turn quite painful. And we're not talking about the uncomfortable burn of eating a super-hot pepper; the manchineel fruit will cause intense burning and severe swelling of your throat. The area around your mouth may get inflamed and blister, and potentially severe digestive problems can ensue.

But the tree isn't entirely evil. Their deep-growing roots help prevent soil erosion, and it provides a safe home and fully belly for one lucky reptile — the garrobo,or striped iguana of Central and South America. The only animal immune to its poison, the garrabo has the tree all to itself.

So, before you pick up what looks like a free afternoon snack or lean against a tree while exploring a tropical destination, stop and make sure it's not the manchineel. Sure, it helps clean the air, offers shade and produces fruit — but this tree is one you'll definitely want to love from afar.
  1. Which of the following is not true?

  2. The Manchineel Tree can be found in the mountainous areas of tropical countries.

  3. Why did the Conquistadors gave the name 'la manzanilla de la muerte' to the Manchineel fruit?

  4. After you taste its   , the fruit quickly turns to a world of pain.

  5. How is the Manchineel Tree helpful for the environment?


Practice your writing skills by discussing the questions below

  1. Have you ever encountered a poisonous plant, animal, or fruit? If so, what was it?

  2. What tropical plants (poisonous or not) are unique to your country?

  3. Do you think poisonous plants should be grown for medicinal or environmental purposes?

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