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Scott Hughes via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The 'Tree of Death' Lives Up to Its Name

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Scott Hughes via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

At first glance, there’s nothing particularly menacing about the manchineel tree. Until you touch its bark or taste its fruit—which could leave you ill, injured, or even worse—you'd never know how it got its nickname: The Tree of Death.

IFLScience recently took a closer look at Hippomane mancinella, which was first dubbed arbor de la muerte, or “tree of death," by Spanish conquistadors. The tree is native to northern South America, the Galápagos, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and even Florida, and it’s common to find signs posted on the trees warning passersby against touching it—which can leave chemical burns on your skin—or ingesting its fruit, which is toxic. Of all the toxins in the tree, its most notorious component is the organic compound phorbol, which can be found everywhere from its bark to its sap.

Barry Stock via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The tree's small, sweet-smelling green fruits, nicknamed “death apples,” are known to strike whomever eats them with diarrhea, seizures, and severe vomiting. At the turn of the 2000s, consultant radiologist Nicola Strickland wrote about her experience mistaking one of these fruits for a crab apple while on vacation in Tobago. After she and her friend each took a small bite, their mouths started to burn and their throats began to swell shut. They also developed a serious pain in their necks as their lymph nodes were infiltrated by the toxins. They survived—but only because they took such tiny bites.

[h/t IFLScience]

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iStock
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infographics
All the Plastic Ever Produced, Visualized
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iStock

Humanity has a plastic problem. The cheap, durable material has become a vital part of our vehicles, food packaging, and even the inner structures of our homes. We’ve already produced 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff, and most of it is sitting in landfills where it could take centuries to break down.

In early 2017, a study published in the journal Science Advances highlighted the literal weight of this growing issue. Researchers calculated that the bulk of all the plastic that’s been made by humans is equivalent to that of 25,000 Empire State Buildings or 80 million blue whales. Of that, only 9 percent has been recycled. The amount of plastic waste currently trashing our planet adds up to 6.3 billion metric tons, and the researchers don’t see our plastic addiction getting any less severe in the near future. By 2050, the plastic in our landfills is expected to hit 12 billion metric tons. You can see more alarming statistics from the study in the infographic below.

Infographic showing plastic production statistics.
University of Georgia, Janet A Beckley

Of all the trash we produce, plastic is some of the toughest to get rid of [PDF]. Scientists are looking into solutions, such as plastic-chomping caterpillars and germs, but for now consumers can do the planet a favor by investing in more reusable goods.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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