Steer clear of this forbidden fruit
THE July-August vacation period is upon us and many will opt to vacation on the beautiful sister isle of Tobago. However, while enjoying the paradise of Tobago please beware of the "forbidden fruit found in Tobago".
When visiting Tobago beaches there is a tree known as the manchineel tree which bears a small green "fruit" that is commonly mistaken by most for another fruit commonly known as "dongs".
This manchineel tree and its fruit are very dangerous. They carry toxins and if touched or ingested will cause severe harm. The manchineel tree and the fruit produces a milky white sap which contains phorbol and other skin irritants which can cause strong allergic reactions such as blistering of the skin and blindness if the fruit is touched and subsequent contact is made with the eyes or face.
The fruit is said to be possibly fatal if eaten, ingestion may produce severe gastroenteritis with bleeding and the potential for airway compromise due to edema.
On some beaches in Tobago such as "Swallows" located just before Pigeon Point, signs are placed on the manchineel trees stating "Do not touch".
However, there are other beaches in Tobago such as Black Rock where there are no signs of warning on the tree and the fruit is exposed on the sand and also seen floating in the water. The manchineel tree can be found on most beaches in Tobago. It provides excellent natural windbreaks and its roots stabilise the sand, thus helping to prevent beach erosion.
My family recently visited Tobago and my parents ingested this fruit, mistaking it for "dongs". Special thanks to Rose Anthony and her son Marvin from Mt Irvine who informed us of the fruit's danger and told to go to the hospital immediately. I would also like to sincerely thank the nurses and Dr Chitehike Ejeagwu of Scarborough Hospital, who was on duty on June 30 for such wonderful and professional service. Treatment was given immediately to my parents and the nurses and Dr Ejeagwu was most friendly and accommodating.
I urge proper signage for manchineel trees located on public areas and beaches, marking them as dangerous and clearly stating "Do not touch" and/or restriction barriers placed around the trees if possible.
Additionally, it is recommended that an infomercial on the tree and the fruit be broadcast through the media and on the advertising video featuring Tobago which is shown on the ferry.