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Valentine.gr  

October 2017

Did you know that the plant Cerbera odollam is commonly known as the suicide tree because it yields a potent poison that has been used for suicide and murder?

Suicide Tree (Cerbera odollam). Flowers, fruits.

Suicide Tree - Cerbera odollam

Cerbera odollam is a dicotyledonous angiosperm, a plant species in the Family Apocynaceae and commonly known as the suicide tree, pong-pong, and othalanga. It is a species native to India and other parts of southern Asia, growing preferentially in coastal salt swamps and in marshy areas but also grown as a hedge plant between home compounds. It yields a potent poison that has been used for suicide and murder.

The genus is named after Cerberus because all its parts are poisonous. Cerbera odollam is known by a number of vernacular names depending on the region. These include othalanga maram in the Malayalam language used in Kerala, India; kattu arali in the adjacent state of Tamil Nadu; famentana, kisopo, samanta or tangena in Madagascar; and pong-pong, buta-buta, bintaro or nyan in Southeast Asia. In Sri Lanka, it is known as "gon kaduru" in Sinhala.

Cerbera odollam bears a close resemblance to oleander, another highly toxic plant from the same family. It is a medium sized tree with smooth grey bark that grows approximately 10 meters tall. Its branchlets are whorled about the trunk, and its leaves are terminally crowded, with tapering bases, acuminate apices, and entire margins. The plant as a whole yields a milky, white latex.

Its fruits are green at first and turn bright red at maturity. Its fruits, when still green, looks like a small mango, with a green fibrous shell enclosing an ovoid kernel measuring approximately 2 cm X 1.5 cm and consisting of two cross-matching white fleshy halves. The dried fruits 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.  On exposure to air, the white kernel turns violet, then dark grey, and ultimately brown, or black. The fruits separate into two halves, each containing one seed. Which is why two separate stalks usually come out of this “seed” simultaneously.

C. odollam is native to India and other parts of southern Asia, growing preferentially in coastal salt mangrove swamps and in marshy areas where the seeds are often washed up, but also being grown as a hedge plant between home compounds. Specifically, it grows wild along the coast in many parts of Kerala, India. It has been planted in Hawaii, and in other countries where it is not endemic, as an ornamental.

The fruits are used for manufacturing bioinsecticides and deodorants.Investigations have also been made into the feasibility of using the seeds as a feedstock in the production of biodiesel.

The kernels of C. odollam contain cerberin, a digoxin-type cardenolide and cardiac glycoside toxin that blocks the calcium ion channels in heart muscle, causing disruption of the heart beat, most often fatally. The most common symptom of toxicity in humans was noted to be vomiting. Electrocardiographic abnormalities were noted to be common, the most common being sinus bradycardia. Around half of the patients develops thrombocytopenia. Temporary cardiac pacing has been used in the management, apart from other supportive measures. A fatal dose of the poison is contained in one kernel, leading to death within 1–2 days.

The difficulty in detecting cerberin in autopsies and the ability of strong spices to mask its taste makes it an agent of homicide and suicide in India. In 2004, a team led by scientist Yvan Gaillard documented over five hundred different cases of fatal Cerbera poisoning in the late 20th century in the southwest Indian state of Kerala alone (over a span of only ten years between 1989 and 1999).

So why is this toxin said to be almost undetectable ? The difficulty in detecting cerberin in autopsies is simply because a fatal heart attack is usually assumed and that unless samples are tested by liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry no-one will ever suspect poisoning, especially in people prone to heart-attacks. At least this is what I read. I’m confused to how hours of vomiting and other awesome symptoms can be linked to a severe heart attack.


Source:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerbera_odollam
http://www.culture-acre.com/surprising-tropical-plant-cerbera-odollam-suicide-tree/

 

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Champak - Magnolia champaca
Hooker’s lips - Psychotria elata
Suicide Tree - Cerbera odollam
Konjac - Amorphophallus konjac
Madagascar ocotillo - Alluaudia procera
Water Banana - Typhonodorum lindleyanum
Salak - Salacca zalacca
Natal Plum - Carissa macrocarpa
Ashanti blood - Mussaenda erythrophylla
Duranta - Duranta erecta
Maqui - Aristotelia chilensis
Manuka - New Zealand Tea Tree - Leptospermum scoparium
Suriname cherry - Eugenia uniflora
Australian Finger Lime - Citrus australasica
Sacred Flower of the Incas - Cantua buxifolia
Job's tears - Coix Lacryma-jobi
Velvet Bean - Mucuna pruriens
Java Apple - Syzygium samarangense
Screwpine - Pandanus utilis
Marimo - Aegagropila linnaei
Achocha/Caigua - Inca cucumber - Cyclanthera pedata
Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis
Sugar cane - Saccharum officinarum
Sacha inchi - Plukenetia volubilis
Coffea - Coffee Tree - Coffea arabica
Liquorice - Licorice - Glycyrrhiza glabra
Mullein -Verbascum thapsus
Iceplant - Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Chayote - Sechium edule
Roselle - Hibiscus sabdariffa
Black Goji - Lycium ruthenicum Murray
Rose Cactus - Pereskia grandifolia
Durian - Durio zibethinus
Jackfruit tree - Artocarpus heterophyllus
Cassabanana - Sicana odorifera
Chilean myrtle - Arrayan - Luma apiculata
Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus
Rice-paper Plant -Tetrapanax papyrifer
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Harlequin Glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum
Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica
Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
Butterfly Pea - Clitoria ternatea
Honey Flower - Melianthus major
Ombu - Phytolacca dioica
Lion's Ear - Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonurus
Moringa - Miracle Tree - Moringa oleifera
Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
Spear Lily - Gymea - Doryanthes
Camphor tree - Cinnamomum camphora
Waterwheel - Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Flowering rush - Butomus umbellatus
Four o'clock - Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa
Dead Man’s Fingers - Decaisnea
Bitter Melon - Momordica charantia
Shoapnuts Tree - Shoapberry - Sapindus
Acerola - Malpighia
Monkey Ladder - Sea Heart - Entada gigas
Cherimoya - Annona cherimola
Caper - Capparis spinosa
Lithops - Living Stones
Chaste Tree - Vitex agnus-castus
Chilean Lantern Tree - Crinodendron hookerianum
Parrot's Beak - Lotus berthelotii
Water Hyacinth - Eichhornia crassipes
Guaiac Tree - Guaiacum officinale - Lignum-vitae
Mickey Mouse bush - Ochna serrulata
Cow's Udder - Solanum mammosum
Miracle fruit - Synsepalum dulcificum
Akebia - Akebia quinata
Chilean Firebush - Embothrium coccineum
Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
Monarda - Bee balm - Bergamot
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Neomarica - Walking Iris
Red hot poker - Kniphofia - Tritoma
Sikkim rhubarb - Rheum nobile
Reseda - Mignonette
Paulownia - Paulownia tomentosa
Belamcanda chinensis - Leopard lily
Blue Poppy - Meconopsis
Cannonball Tree - Couroupita guianensis
Tamarillo - Cyphomandra betacea
Goji - Wolfberry - Lycium barbarum
Vanilla - Vanilla Planifolia
Stevia - Stevia rebaudiana
Pachypodium
Physalis
Ceropegia
Sturt pea - Swainsona formosa
Clematis
Grevillea
Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys
Sansevieria - Snake Plant
Trochetia
Yareta - Azorella compacta
African tulip tree - Spathodea campanulata
Angel's Trumpets - Brugmansia
Achiote - Annato - Bixa orellana
Sausage Tree - Kigelia pinnata
Castor Oil Plant - Ricinus communis
Firewheel Tree - Stenocarpus sinuatus
Bat Flower - Tacca
Snake gourd - Trichosanthes cucumerina
Sedum
Hydnora - Hydnora africana
Pickerel Weed - Pontederia
Argan - Argania spinosa
Astilbe - False Goats Beard
Feijoa - Pineapple Guava - Acca sellowiana
Aquilegia - Columbine
Cassiope
Sweet Box - Sarcococca
Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera
Foxtail Lily - Eremurus
Rue - Ruta graveolens
Pittosporum
Ylang-Ylang - Cananga odorata
Rose of Jericho - Anastatica hierochuntica
Gunnera
Waterlily - Nymphaea
Calico Flower - Aristolochia
Daylily - Hemerocallis
Contorted hazel - Corylus avellana Contorta
Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
Mistletoe - Viscum album
Devil´s claw - Harpagophytum procumbens
Teasel - Dipsacus
Pampas grass - Gynerium argenteum - Cortaderia Selloanna
Purple coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Coral Tree - Erythrina crista-galli
Portulaca
Lobelia
Field Poppy - Papaver Rhoeas
Narcissus - Daffodil
Mimosa pudica - Sensitive Plant
Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens
Firethorn - Pyracantha
Star of Bethlehem - Ornithogalum
Cosmos
Muscari - Grape Hyacinth
Papyrus - Cyperus papyrus
Zinnia
Honeysuckle - Lonicera
Passiflora - Passion Flower
Calendula - Marigold
Lupine - Lupinus
Canna - Indian Shot
Witch Hazel - Hamamelis
Oak - Quercus
Brunsvigia - Candelabra Flower
Tree peony - Paeonia suffruticosa
Olive - Olea europaea
Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus
Desert rose - Adenium obesum
Oleander - Nerium Oleander
Abutilon
Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus
Chaenomeles - Flowering Quince
Forsythia
Amaryllis - Hippeastrum
Butchers broom - Ruscus aculeatus
Bay Laurel - Laurus nobilis
Gloriosa
Bamboo
Gladiolus
Artichoke - Cynara scolymus
Clivia - Clivia Miniata
Dipladenia - Dipladenia sanderii
Date palm - Phoenix dactylifera
Peach - Prunus persica
Almond - Prunus amygdalus
Willow - Salix
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Protea cynaroides
Colchicum autumnale
Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia reginae
Cardon - Pachycereus pringlei
Wolffia arrhiza
Puya raimondii
Fuchsia
Asphodelus - Asphodel
Primula - Primerose
Dicentra spectabilis - Bleeding Heart
Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Zantedeschia - Calla Lily
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown imperial
Aster
Heliconia
Common Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
Bee Orchid - Orphys apifera
Convalaria majalis - Lily of the Valley - Muguet
Syringa Vurgaris - Lilac
Viola
Impantiens
Snowdrop - Galanthus
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima
Dionaea muscipula
Banksia
Sea anemone
Amorrhophallus titanum
Rafflesia arnoldi

 

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