Stinging creatures of nature have a legendary affinity for me. Oh, I can swap war stories about jellyfish and stonefish and even sea wasps and not meet my match, but I have yet to meet anyone who can come close to the story of The Tree. After a pleasant tour of the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Island, we returned to our hotel to discover that I had a not so pleasant, slightly bubbly looking rash on my leg underneath my pants. So foreign and frightening was this rash that I swallowed my pride and showed it to the hotel owner. She only gave it a cursory glance, and knowingly asked if I had been sitting under any trees during our exploration. It was clear that I had violated some unspoken island tree rule and the nasty rash was badge of dishonor. The hotel owner offered me only two more words of warning: Manchineel Tree.
The manchineel tree is located along the shoreline of many Caribbean Islands with a lovely yellow fruit and welcoming shady branches. Do not be fooled! Every part of this tree is poisonous. Contact with the sap can cause temporary blindness and eating the fruit is fatal. Native peoples even used the sap to poison the tips of their arrows. So, caustic is the sap of this tree that even if a rain drips from the tree and onto your clothing you will experience a reaction. Kinda makes you think differently about a picnic at the beach.