Friday, December 7, 2012

Damn Nature! - Manchineel Tree

Nature... is scary.

To help add a little more structure, and keep me coming back to the blog to post on a more regular basis, I've decided to start posting a weird, terrifying, or dangerous natural thing every Friday. It may be a plant. It may be an animal. Or it may be an invertebrate critter that eats the eyes of children. Regardless, the aim is for it to be something unsettlingly real that can be tweaked slightly and added to your game. Hell, I may even go with some natural events if I find a good one.

Today's post is about the Manchineel Tree.

Fruit and Leaves of the poisonous Manchineel tree - Wikipedia

The Manchineel Tree grows up to ~50 feet tall, has shiny green leaves, grows in coastal areas along the beach (Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean), bears fruit that resembles apples, and the whole damn thing is poisonous. It secretes a milky white sap that causes human flesh to blister on contact. Even if the sap is diluted in water, it still causes blistering.

Walking down the beach with your girlfriend? Sudden storm blows in? Run under a nearby tree to get out of the rain? Blisters. Burning Flesh. Agony. Thanks nature.

Get pissed off at a Manchineel Tree? Decide to chop it down and burn it? The smoke can cause blindness.

Manchnieel Tree Fruit on a beach - Seldo Voss
"Accidentally" ingest some of it? Your guts burn out. Or... your airway becomes blocked due to edema (swelling due to an accumulation of fluids) and then your guts burn out while you can't breathe.

This tree is delightful. The Caribs would use the sap from it to poison their arrows and, according to an uncited wikipedia rumor, use the leaves to poison water supplies. The tree has been featured in books, movies and even an opera as a relentless killing machine. Need to get rid of an enemy? Tie him to the trunk and walk away. Mama nature will take care of the rest.

A poultice of Arrowroot can be used to counteract the poison of the Manchineel.

Now just look at all those plot devices. Castle under siege? Poison the water supply using nothing more than tree leaves. Poison water didn't break the siege? Make giant smokebombs. Fill them with leaves and branches of this poison tree. Launch them at the castle with your catapults. The defenders will freak out about the fire, and then be permanently blinded by the smoke!

Need your players to find a "prop NPC" in the woods that's only there to deliver information and then die suddenly? Tie them to a Manchineel Tree, and ground your weak trope use squarely in reality.

So much possibility!


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