Ok I know I promised a story about Ella Bay’s beautiful Cassowary plum Cerbera floribunda in my last post but instead I want to introduce you to Cerbera manghas a closely related and very poisonous species. It has a few common names including beach mango, rubber tree, native frangipani, fish poison tree and dog bane. I will use the common name native frangipani in this story and when you see the flowers you will know why!
I decided to introduce this tree to you after reading the following article in the Cairns Post weekender on 17/10/2009.
Click on image for larger view.
The warning given in the article is spot on and before I go on I will give a bit of a warning myself…don’t mess with this tree don’t eat any part of it, sniff the dried leaves, or burn its timber (smoke is toxic) just enjoy its flowers and beaut foliage, here endeth the warning.
When you have a bit of a look around Ella Bay you will no doubt bump into the magnificent native frangipani Cerbera manghas. It is capable of growing into quite a large tree (up to 12 metres tall) however the trees I have seen at Ella Bay are generally much smaller due to the harsh coastal habitat they live in. Here’s a tree growing metres from the ocean at Ella Bay. The tree itself is fairly handsome and as you can see its growth habit is very similar to the true frangipani.Here’s a smaller tree growing in a more sheltered location on the beach.The tree is handsome alright but the flowers are something else all together…check them out!
Told you they were a bit of alright! As a bonus they are fragrant as well! The neat thing about the native frangipani is it seems to have no real set flowering season and you can find flowers on them at any time of the year. These flowers are 20 to 35mm in diameter, a little smaller than a true frangipani but no less beautiful.
I suppose I had best show you the fruit as well.
Don’t worry I didn’t go licking my fingers after handling the fruit that’s for sure. The immature fruit are green with a reddish blush much like a mango so you can see where the common name sea mango originated though I don’t like that name as it infers some degree of edibility which is certainly not the case!Now for the poison!
Well the toxin contained within the plant and fruit is called Cerberin and it is a cardiac glycoside. Basically it blocks electrical impulses within your body if consumed which certainly doesn’t help your heart function properly and can have a nasty side effect of killing you stone dead.
As you probably know Cerberus was the 3 headed hell hound who guarded the gates of Hades. Looking at the native frangipani’s scientific name Cerbera manghas, Cerbera acknowledges the toxicity of plants within this genus and the species name manghas refers to its superficial similarity to a mango.
Toxicity aside it is a beautiful tree with magnificent perfumed flowers.
My next story will be about the Cassowary plum Cerbera floribunda but then again there’s those neat poisonous stinging Portuguese man o war jellyfish I found in their dozens on the beach last visit!!!Or maybe the slide marks where a deadly saltwater crocodile was sunbaking on the beach at Ella Bay a week ago!!