Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree

The Black Poisonwood tree (Metopium Brownie or Metopium Toxiferum of the family Anacardiaceae) is also known as Chechen, Chechem (Mayan name), Coral Sumac, Caribbean Rosewood, and Cedro Prieto. It is found throughout Central America, the Caribbean and the West Indies. This tree produces beautiful decorative wood used for carving, wood turning, furniture etc. But it has a very powerful defense mechanism against people!

This form of defense is a highly irritating sap, and when human skin comes in contact with it, the result can be quite an ordeal. It starts with a redness, (like a bad rash similar to poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak and the rest of them…) but often will develop into itchy and burning blisters, and is extremely painful. Depending on the amount of sap and how quickly you treat it, it can remain a rash and be gone in just a few days, or it can develop into a 1st to 2nd degree burn(s). Plus another interesting thing, in my husband’s case, nothing major happen for 3 days, but then on the fourth day he was covered! When you scratch (and you will) and then touch another part of your body (or someone else’s), the infection can easily spread. The picture below is of a hand (mine) and an infected arm (my husband’s) with blisters. The pictures are not that bad, but for the squeamish, you may not want to click it!

That was extremelly painful and lasted for a few weeks. To get it that bad is rather rare though. Usually you only touch the bark of the tree and hopefully treat it immediately. It is then a mild rash and in a very limited area. In that particular case, we did cut lots of trees, which means that the sap was also in the air, landing all over our clothes and body. It was also a very warm day and we were sweating a lot… perfect way to spread it all over your body!

Pictured on the left below is the bark of the Black Poisonwood tree. The black stuff (the sap comes out of the tree clear, but upon being introduced to oxygen it then turns black), which actually looks a lot like tar, is the poison. You do not want to touch this tree at all, but especially the black spots. The leaves of the tree can also be toxic. Now even after the tree is chopped down and dried… it still can be just as potent. In the saw mills when cutting the wood, the dust can have the same burning affect. Or even when you are just burning off a pile of old logs, the smoke can also spread the poison. Pictured on the right is the Gumbo Limbo tree (Bursera Simaruba of the family Burseraceae), which is the natural antidote of the Black Poisonwood. The tree sap relieves rashes, stings and burns. A medicinal tree, tea from its leaves is use to treat fever, low blood pressure.

~~~~~~~~Black Poisonwood ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gumbo Limbo ~~~~~~~~~~

Gumbo Limbo trees grow in the same area of the Black Poisonwood trees. If you have touched the Black Poisonwood, the first thing to do is to find a Gumbo Limbo tree. And as soon as possible you must wash the area very well with any oil dissolving substance as just water and regular soap will not remove all of it (I have also read somewhere that WD40 can be quite effective). You cut a piece of the Gumbo Limbo bark and wipe the inside on the affected area. Hang on to this bark and reapply several times early on. What you can also do is boil the bark, add powdered vitamin C to the boiled water to make a paste that you apply on the burn. But in an extreme case as in the picture of the hand and arm, it is way past the Gumbo Limbo power! You are now dealing with 1st or 2nd degree burns and believe me, it is atrocious. Medicated, anti-itch first aid cream helps relieve the burning and itching and also helps keeping the infection down. And in some cases, as in my husband’s, antibiotics and a steroid medication are in order! I myself used a Sunburn Relief Gel with lidocaine, tea tree oil and aloe vera and it was very soothing and cooling!

One more trick… if you are going to cut or handle Black Poisonwood, apply the Gumbo Limbo to your face, hands and arms before you start. This will provide a good protection as it prevents the sap to stick to your skin. Obviously, we learned that ‘after’ we had to deal with those trees! Not a lesson that we will soon forget!

The Black Poisonwood is hard, dense and very decorative. Here’s a Black Poisonwood Handcrafted drum by Greg Gaylord of Drum Solo


Photo credit Frankie Frost

And due to the high risk in harvesting this wood, it is pricey. Hey, maybe we are sitting on a gold mine here?

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
14 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle

The jungle provides different sources of water. Those sources are; rain, natural springs, wells, rivers and creeks. In the jungle, where water is usually plentiful, you most likely have access to more than one source. Your water supply will also vary with the seasons.

Rain water is one of the best. It is a much softer water than well or spring, which can have a high content of minerals. For us, being situated in the Mountain Pine Ridge area, minerals are in abundance. Rain water washes and rinses very nicely. The rain water is collected by simply having gutters run to a holding tank. By adding a very small amount of bleach (approximately 5 oz. bleach per 1,000 gallons of water), it is drinkable water. During rainy season, you are in heaven. But come dry season, you want (and need) a second source…

Most mountainous jungles have several natural springs, or it is usually not too deep to find a water source and dig a well. A good spring can provide water year round. Our spring fortunately does not dry out! The best thing to do is isolate your spring to prevent wild life from contaminating it and add some fish which will eat mosquitoes and their larva or bacteria in the water. If you are lucky enough to have a spring above your holding tank, than all you have to do is install a pvc line and gravity will take care of filling up your tank. If not, as in our case, you need to run a line from the spring to your tank and use a water pump. You can get an electric or gas water pump, depending on your situation (is there an available power supply near your spring?). Keep in mind that a gas water pump is much more versatile.

Well water is basically the same type as the spring. This water is usually good to drink. But due to the high content of minerals, we prefer consuming it in a limited quantity. For cooking (soup, pasta…) and for coffee it is perfect. When working outside and drinking 1 to 2 gallons a day, we prefer bottled water. One other disadvantage with high mineral content is a build up in your shower, sinks and toilet. If you don’t stay on top of it, it can become a real chore to remove. The only problem with a well if you don’t already have one is, to figure out where to dig! We were lucky as there was already an 18’ hand dug one on our land. If you don’t have one, hopefully there’s an old water witch or wizard with a magic stick in your neighborhood!

Creeks and rivers are an abundant source of water although some, especially creeks, can dry out during a very dry season. Being well aware of what is upstream on the creeks and rivers is very important. As they are widely used by people and animals, so there will be lots of foreign matters introduced to this body. When it rains, the run off from the hills and mountains make this water murky, caused by mud and along with that will be logs and/or fallen trees and anything else that is loose in the underbrush. It is basically, one of mother natures cleaning mechanisms. In our situation, with a creek that hasn’t dried out as far as anyone can remember, it is very good water (with basic filtration) for most everything, except for consumption.

A good idea is to install one of those basic ‘under the sink’ water filter somewhere along your supply line.

Having all 4 sources as we do, and being set up to pump from all of them, makes life much more pleasant. In conclusion; your best water is from the rain, then it’s a spring or well. And if all else fails… the creek or river!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living in Paradise! But… Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging!

First thing first… you have to be there. Attempting to build while out of the country is a BAD idea, unless you have a really good trustworthy manager on site.

Some decisions you will have to make before starting your homework are very important: will I build concrete or wood? What size and type of building do I want? The other million things I will need (hardware, furnishings, etc). Being off-grid, what type of commodities do I want (pressured water or gravity, hot water, electricity…)

Building contractors don’t always provide proper outsourcing for specifics like plumbing, electrical, painters/coaters, inside finishing such as kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Many do, but you have to be on top of everything, as anyone can call themselves plumber or electrician because no license is required in those fields. But did you know that to be a tour guide you must be licensed!!! There are good chances that you will end up having to find those labors yourself in the end.

We went for wood buildings on cement posts. I recommend cement over wood posts (sturdier and longer lasting). The hardwoods of Belize are amazing. I never thought I would need to pre-drill a hole to pound a nail… plus I have never gone through so many drill bits in my life! The entire 1,500 sq. ft. floor is thong & groove Cabbage Bark. The walls and ceiling are a mix of Santa Maria, Red Wood, Mahogany, Ceba, and many others.

The homework for this one is a bit tougher as communication can be an issue. Many contractors have ‘mini’ websites with some information. Email works well with many of them, but you have to be ready to get on the phone or better yet, go down for a visit!

You also have to build in the right season. During rainy season, construction often comes to a halt due to some serious downpours that can last a month. So obviously the dry season is the time to do it. That season is from November to May.

There a 2 ways to do the hot water; solar or butane. We have an on-demand butane water heater (very standard in Europe) and it works great. Those little heaters ignite when you turn on the tap by the pressure tripping the flint. All you need is a D battery for the igniter.

Do your homework on butane. For your own safety, you might want to do your butane line yourself. Once you know how to flange an end correctly, it is relatively simple. Butane is important as it will also fuel your stove, fridge, and a clothes dryer if you chose to have one. What we have found out is that those butane appliances are easy to install and they are reliable… the fridge can be a little finicky until you figure out how it reacts to the weather and temperature changes.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!

Life in the mountainous jungle can be very pleasant, but just like anything else, it’s not perfect. We succeeded in setting up a comfortable good size house with full solar electricity, satellite internet, hot water, A/C… yeah, comfort!

The climate certainly has great sides. Most people think that the down side comparing to the North American living is that you don’t have the four seasons. Although not as drastic as in North America, there are very distinct seasons throughout the year, which can be seen from changes in the surrounding wildlife, fruit trees which produce at different times, the considerable variation in vegetation, and of course the temperature. Also there is a “wet” and a “dry” season, the dry season lasting approximately from late November through May, and the “wet” pretty much parallels hurricane season, which is June through November.

While quite hot, low to mid 90ºs F (32º C) during summer afternoons, as soon as the sun sets behind the mountains it cools off beautifully. This sub-tropical climate is a dream for sleeping. Winter season, nights can get down to the mid 50ºs F (10º C) to mid 60ºs F (16º C). It can get cold enough that you will even close your windows! One thing I miss during that time is my big fleece bath robe which I never thought I would need!

Get awakened daily by birds and other creatures welcoming the sun! The temperature remaining cold (I personally use cats as heaters!) until the sun rises over the mountain tops, it is very easy to lounge in your comfy warm bed with a view of the jungle, the mountains and the creek. From the constant changes of the jungle sounds, you can also easily identify the changes in season.

The humidity can also be a factor. When transiting from 55º F (13º C) to 85º F (29º C) within a 4 hours range, things have a tendency to get damp! And the things prone to catch mold will! Some of those are leather, or wood not from the habitat. A picture frame made of soft Canadian pine doesn’t do well in this climate! But by afternoon everything is dry again.

The place I am talking about is Barton Creek in the Cayo District of Belize, Central America. Belize is tucked in between Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Caribbean Sea. With a total of 8,867 square miles (22,965 sq. km.), it is one of the smallest countries in Central America. With a population of approximately 300,000 there are a lot of open spaces. The population being spread out, there are not many highly populated areas. The main one being Belize City which is comprised of just over 1/4 of the population for this entire little country!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
2 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle Of Belize
3 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living In Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2