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'Exploder' alter ego: Sandbox Tree

The dark pointed spines protruding from the smooth brown bark of the sandbox tree give the plant an ominous look to begin with, but should you wander by one laden with pumpkin-shaped fruit, you'd be wise to take cover.

That's because the tangerine-sized seedpods of the sandbox tree can literally explode with a gunshot-like bang when the time is ripe, flinging flat seeds up to 300 feet at more than 150 miles per hour. Eat one of these previously projectile seeds, and you'll double over with intestinal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, not to mention a rapid heartbeat and impaired vision. Eat two or more, and you can add delirium, convulsions, and even death, to the list.


The translucent yellow sap of the tree isn't very friendly, either. Both caustic and poisonous, the sap causes inflammation and sores when it comes into contact with the skin and induces irritation, even temporary blindness, when rubbed in the eyes. However, indigenous tribes (the plant is native to tropical areas of the Americas) were able to put the repugnant effects of the sandbox tree sap to good use ... fancy some arrow poison?

(For more on the sandbox tree and other poisonous plants, take a look at David W. Nellis' Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean.)

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