Poison Points

Poison Points: The “Little Apple of Death”, the Manchineel.


Ah, the manchineel. It offers deceptively sweet fruit, but these are known in their native habitat as the manzanilla de la muerta, the “little apples of death”. The fruits have been reported to taste pleasantly sweet, before causing hours of agony(and sometimes death) after one bite…one  feels a strange peppery feeling in the mouth, which gradually progresses to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat, until breathing and swallowing becomes almost impossible. Consumption of the apples also causes abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding and digestive tract damage.

This species of tree is endangered, but so is anyone who messes with it, because it is one of the most poisonous trees on earth. The entire manchineel  tree–bark, leaves and the milky sap–is toxic, according to the Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Interaction with and ingestion of any part of this tree may be lethal.The sap scorches the skin; even runoff from the rain can cause burns.


Poison Points: The Gila Monster!

The Gila (pronounced “HEE-lah”) Monster  is a species of venomous lizard native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexican state of Sonora. It was once plentiful in the Gila River Basin of New Mexico and Arizona, hence the name.
It is a chunky,slow-moving lizard, and its sluggish nature means it poses very little threat to humans.The Gila monster’s bite is not fatal to healthy adult humans. However, it is sometimes killed despite being protected by state law in Arizona, due to,as usual, ignorance and superstition.

Among Native American tribes, the Gila monster had a mixed standing. The Apache believed Gila monster breath could kill a man, and the Tohono O’Odham and the Pima said the lizard possessed a sickness-causing spiritual power. In contrast, the Seri and the Yaqui believed the Gila monster’s hide had healing properties.

The Gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States and one of only two known species of venomous lizards in North America, the other being its close relative, the Mexican beaded lizard.

I had the privilege of taking care of one of these fascinating reptiles when I worked at a small zoo, and I can personally vouch for its lack of interest in attacking humans. Although I still handled him with gloves, our Gila monster never got out of joint and cooperated very well when I had to move him to his rear holding enclosure to clean his cage.

Poison Points: Granular Poison Frog!

Granular Poison Frog,© 2015 Liz Vitale

Granular Poison Frog,© 2015 Liz Vitale

As beautiful and adorable as they look, make no mistake; these are badass little froggies–males will not hesitate to fight to keep other males away from their territory. As ruthless as these combat scenes probably seem to the frogs, I bet from a human point of view they’re pretty cute.

Poison Points: Puffer Fish!

Puffer, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Puffer, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Pufferfish is considered an Asian delicacy, served in some types of sushi and sashimi. Unless the chef is specially trained to cut the meat a certain way, however, the dish may contain a large amount of the toxin.Symptoms generally occur 10-45 minutes after consumption and begin with numbness and tingling around the mouth, salivation, nausea, and vomiting. and may progress to paralysis, loss of consciousness,respiratory failure, and death.