manghas (Sea Mango) is a small evergreen
coastal tree growing up 12 m tall. The shiny dark-green leaves are
alternate, ovoid in shape. The flowers are fragrant, possessing a
white tubular 5 lobed corolla about 3 to 5 cm in diameter, with a
pink to red throat. They have 5 stamens and the ovary is positioned
above the other flower parts. The fruits are egg-shaped, 5 to 10 cm
long, and turn bright red at maturity.
Cerbera manghas is naturally distributed from the Seychelle Islands
in the Indian Ocean eastward to French Polynesia. It occupies
coastal habitats and is often associated with mangrove forests.
This tree has been introduced to Hawaii and other tropical locations
as an ornamental.
Poison The leaves and the fruits contain the potent cardiac
glycoside cerberin, which is extremely poisonous if ingested. People
in olden times used the sap of the tree as a poison for animal
hunting. The fruit was reportedly eaten to commit suicide in the
Mythology : Because of its deadly poisonous seeds, the genus name is
coming from Cerberus, the hell dog from the Greek mythology, hence
indicating the toxicity of the seeds. In Madagascar, the seeds were
used in sentence rituals to poison kings and queens.