Our beloved mango tree has some not-so-nice relatives.

The luscious mango is one of our most celebrated and sought after tropical fruits. It may come as a shock to many but its botanical plant family, the Anarcadiaceae, includes some of the most toxic plants we know; poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak. Because of this botanical kinship, many people are exceedingly sensitive to them, often finding out the hard way.

When the fruits are cut from the stem they exude a milky sap that becomes pale-yellow and translucent when dried.  The sap, like the sap of the trunk and branches and the skin of the unripe fruit, is a potent skin irritant and capable of blistering the skin of the average person. As with poison ivy, there is typically a delayed reaction. Hypersensitive persons may react with considerable swelling of the eyelids, the face and other parts of the body. They may not be able to handle, peel, or eat mangos or any food containing mango flesh or juice. A good precaution is to use one knife to peel the mango and a clean knife to slice the flesh to avoid contaminating the flesh with any of the resin in the peel.

Additionally, when mango trees are in bloom it is not uncommon for people to suffer from itching around the eyes, facial swelling and respiratory difficulty. Interestingly, the pollen grains are not air-borne: they are large and tend to stick to each other. The irritant comes from the vaporized essential oils of the flowers. And to complicate matters even more, mango wood should never be used in fireplaces, bonfires or as cooking fuel as its smoke is highly irritating as well.

 

About The Author

Scott Appell
writer • horticulture

Scott D. Appell, the Green Man, originally from NYC, is a garden writer, horticultural taxonomist and ethnobotanist. He writes, gardens, and teaches horticulture. He happens to be a professional baker as well.

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