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Suicide tree

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  • Botanical: Cerbera odollam
  • Family: Apocynaceae
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Suicide tree

Botanical

Cerbera odollam

Family

Apocynaceae

Known as

Pong-pong, Othalanga, Zerberusbaum, Selbstmordbaum, See-Mango

Parts Used

leaves, seed

Description

Cerbera odollam is a large shrub or small tree reaching approximately 10 meters in height. Like its relative Cerbera manghas, it has alternate glossy shiny green leaves and fragrant white flowers, however the flowers have a yellow throat instead of red.

The fruits are green when young and turn bright red at maturity. The dried fruits (drupes) are 5-10 cm in length. When they fall from the branches, the papery, outer layer falls off exposing a thick fibrous husk. Because of this fibrous layer, the fruits are very light and buoyant, being easily dispersed by ocean currents. The fruits separate into two halves, each containing one very poisonous seed.

Properties & Uses

The fruits are used for manufacturing bioinsecticides and deodorants.

Investigations have also been made into the feasibility of converting the seeds into biodiesel.

Cautions

The seeds contain a heart toxin called “cerberin”, similar in structure to “digoxin”, found in foxglove plants. Digoxin kills by blocking calcium ion channels in heart muscles, which disrupts the heartbeat, causing death. The toxic seeds are used as rat poison, insect repellent or burned for light.

Distribution

Cerbera odollam is native to muddy river deltas of Southeast Asia and tropical Pacific Islands as far east as French Polynesia. The tree grows along the sandy coasts, riverbanks and near mangrove swamps. It has been planted in Hawaii and elsewhere as an ornamental.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.