Monday, March 10, 2008
Mata-calada (Ryania speciosa)
As an afterthought, Dr. Valdely wrote me from Manaus to say that he had spotted the deadly poisonous tree, mata-calada, at our Bosque Santa Lúcia. He gave me some very detailed instructions as to where it was located and sure enough, there it was real close to the reception center. I've heard of mata-calada for years, but I never knew of anyone capable of identifying it. The translation into English means "silent killer", or a literal translation, "kills silently", referring to the fact that the poison kills a person so fast, he doesn't even have time to cry out for help. The legendary scenario is that of using the branches of the tree to make spites for barbecuing meat over a campfire. There are several confirmed cases of people having died from eating barbecued meat in this fashion. It seems that Merck patented this poison many years ago, but hasn't renewed the concession. I look forward to researching this topic in greater detail.