Danger: Don’t eat the sea mangoes

  • Specie: Sea Mango/Cerbera
  • Location: Cotton Tree Drive, outside Central Fire Station

Small green fruits hang from this lovely looking tree with slender green leaves and deep brown rugged trunks at the beginning of Cotton Tree drive, just outside the Central Fire Station. The fruits look like small mangoes and for good reason because this is a Cerbera, or Sea Mango tree (cerbera manghas).

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But unlike their benign and delicious cousin, don’t eat the fruits of this tree, or even the leaves, because they are extremely poisonous, containing the potent cardiac glycoside cerberin compound that attack functions of the heart. According to Wikipedia, the poison is potent enough to be used for hunting animals in the distant past, while the fruits have been associated with a method to do oneself in in the Marquesas Islands and Hawaii, where it is sometimes called ‘suicide apple.’

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Those of you that understand some Latin would surely have gotten the hint from the name of the tree, which is derived from Cerberus, the multi (often 3)-headed hellhound that guards the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology. Surely, nothing good for you is named after a mythical monster!

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The Cerbera is named after Cerberus, the mythical 3-headed hellhound that guards the gates of the underworld

Now that you are warned, there is no harm in looking. This particular Sea Mango tree is not particular tall, but there is plenty of character in the organic form of its limbs, and the dense foliage.

You will have to make an effort to get close however since the location is kind of in the middle of nowhere, on a section of the road that is hard to get to but leads to little else besides a Fire Station. Then again, how often can you come face to face with the arboreal version of the guardian of the underworld.

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Categories:Cerbera/Sea Mango, treelover, urbantrees, Urbantrees of Hong KongTags: , , , ,

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