Trees and plants are essential for our survival. But there are some trees that can actually rob us of our lives if we are not careful enough. In this article titled, 20 interesting Cerbera Odollam facts, we are going to explore one such tree which, though gives us the life-supporting oxygen, all nurtures a deadly poison which can kill us within minutes. Of course you know the name by now – Cerbera Odollam! So, let us find out some interesting Cerbera Odollam facts and understand what makes it a deadly tree.
Interesting Cerbera Odollam Facts: 1-10
1. Cerbera Odollam belongs to the Apocynaceae family. It is the same family from which another highly toxic plant – the oleander comes from.
2. This tree is a dicot angiosperm. Angiosperms are flowering plants and dicot angiosperms are nothing but flowering plants whose seeds have two embryonic leaves.
3. The Cerbera Odollam is a native tree of India. However, it is also a native tree of many other parts of Southeast Asia.
4. Apart from India, the tree is also found in Singapore, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Northern Marina Islands, Guam, Vietnam, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
5. Cerbera Odollam is known by various names which are listed in the table below:
6. This tree also goes by the name Sea Apple and is actually a hardwood tree that grows up to 10 feet in height.
7. The branchlets of the tree are all whorled around the tree’s trunk while the leaves are found to be the crowded terminally.
8. The whole tree is known for yielding white milky latex.
9. The poisonous part of the tree is hidden inside its fruit. The unripe fruit looks like a small mango (some say it looks like an apple). Inside the fruit is a ovoid kernel which is enclosed inside a fibrous green shell.
10. The ovoid kernel is pretty small and grows to a size of approximately 2 cm x 1.5 cm. The kernel has two white fleshy halves that are cross-matching.
Interesting Cerbera Odollam Facts: 11-20
11. Once the kernel of the fruit is exposed to open air, it changes its color. First the white turns to violet and then it dark grey and finally it becomes either black or brown.
12. Cerbera Odollam usually grows in marshy areas and salt swamps along the coasts but it can also grow in home compounds as hedge plant.
13. The flower of the tree is white with a yellow center and the flower has 5 petals.
14. Now the question is, “where is the poison in this tree?” The poison is hidden in the kernel of the fruit.
15. The kernel consists of cerberin – a cardiac glycoside toxin. What makes this toxin so dangerous is that it can be fatal even at very low dosage.
16. This is one reason why the kernel of Cerbera Odollam is often used as a murder weapon or as a means of suicide.
17. The kernel is terribly bitter in taste but when a curry is made out of the kernel using a load of spices, the bitter taste can be disguised. The problem is that even when cooked, cerberin isn’t destroyed.
18. Once cerberin is consumed, it effectively blocks the heart muscles’ calcium ion channels, causing arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), which often ends up to be fatal.
19. Two or three seeds are enough to deliver a fatal blow within minutes or within hours. During this period, arrhythmia is normal and a person can experience cramping stomach pains, diarrhea, vomiting and there may be a splitting headache.
20. The problem is that cerberin is not easy to detect in an autopsy and hence, Cerbera Odollam seeds are often used as murder weapon and suicide weapon as the cause of death looks like a normal heart attack. There have been over 500 cases of cerberin poisoning in Kerala, India from 1989 to 1999. No wonder, Cerbera Odollam is often called Murder Plant or Suicide Plant.