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Evil Tree Species- The Umdhlebi of Zululand

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posted on May, 16 2009 @ 05:08 PM
The Umdhlebi is a supposedly evil, cryptobotanical tree. It was first recorded, and last recorded, by Reverend G.W. Parker in the magazine Nature on November 2nd, 1882 in Zululand, South Africa.

Parker claimed that the Zulu tribes would sacrifice sheep and goats to the evil tree.
Here is some of the article that Parker had written for the magazine:

Parker, G. W.
Nature, Volume 27, Issue 679, pp. 7 (1882).
There are two species, in both the leaf is lanceolate, dark green, glossy, hard, and brittle, and from both a thick milky juice exudes, while the fruit is like a long black pod, red at the end. One species is a tree with large leaves, and peculiar looking stem, the bark hanging down in large flakes, showing a fresh growth of bark underneath: in the words of my informant, ``What a villainous-looking tree! nasty, rough, ugly!'' The other species is a shrub, with smaller leaves, and the bark not peeling off the stem. Both species are said to possess the power of poisoning any living creature which approaches it; the symptoms of poisoning by it being severe headache, blood-shot eyes, and delirium, ending in death. The person affected dies either in delirium, or instantaneously without any delirium. A superstition is connected with this plant. Only a few persons in Zululand are supposed to be able to collect the fruits of the Umdhlebi, and these dare nut approach the tree except from the windward side. They also sacrifice a goat or a sheep to the demon of the tree, tying the animal to, or near the tree. The fruit is collected for the purpose of being used as the antidote to the poisonous effects of the tree from which they fall-for only the fallen fruit may be collected. As regards habitat, these trees grow on all kinds of soil, not specially on that which exudes carbonic acid gas, but the tree-like species prefers barren and rocky ground. In consequence of this superstition, the country around one of these trees is always uninhabited, althongh often fertile.

No species similar to the Umdhlebi has ever been found. More information summarized from the original Nature article about the tree's powers:

Parker said the Umdhlebi poisoned animals that approached so that the natural process of decay would fertilize the soil in which it was growing. Symptoms of the tree's poison reportedly included headache and bloodshot eyes, followed by delirium and then death. Parker never identified the source or nature of its poison, but hypothesized that it secreted a poisonous gas from the soil around its roots.

Some more information from Nature:

THE following note (the original article, not included on link but included above) has been communicated to us by the Rev. Dr. Parker, a well-known missionary in Madagascar. The story reminds one of the old myth about the Upas in Java. No light can be thrown upon it at Kew, but perhaps in the pages of NATURE it might meet the eye of some person who could give some more information about it.

Some research on the Upas in Java:
Stories of Upas seemed to have started in 1780. More information at the following link.

Having hastily picked up some vague information concerning the Upas, he carried it to Europe, where his notes were arranged, doubtlessly by a different hand, in such a form as, by their plausibility and appearance of truth, to be generally credited.

But though the account just mentioned, in so far as relates to the situation of the Poison Tree, to its effects on the surrounding country, and to the application said to have been made of the Upas on criminals in different parts of the island, as well as the description of the poisonous substance itself, and its mode of collection, has been demonstrated to be an extravagant forgery, - the existence of a tree in Java, from whose sap a poison is prepared, equal in fatality, when thrown into the circulation, to the strongest animal poisons hitherto known, is a fact, which it is at present my object to establish and to illustrate.

The tree which produces this poison, is called Antshur, and grows in the eastern extremity of the island.

The upas is not a cryptobotanical tree. It is commonly used and seen today. The question is, how is it related to the cryptobotanical Umdhlebi tree? Is there such thing as the Umdhlebi?

[edit on 5/16/2009 by ravenshadow13]

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 05:52 PM
I find it strange that there is no more documentation of this.

However, if something like this existed, I believe someone would have taken it to use it for a weapon, therefore destroying the rest of the evidence.

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 05:54 PM
Upas Tree

Here's a page on the Upas tree. Below is an edited excerpt from the site.

'Upas is a sort of evergreen arbor and it can grow as high as 30 meters. The base of the trunk is thick, and the bark is gray.

The milk white liquid of upas contents toxic substances that kills people if it comes in contact through open wounds, and has been used with poison arrows, however clothing can be made from the sap.

The tree blooms in Spring and it mainly scatters in the tropical areas near the equator, and can be seen in Canton, Guangxi, Hainan and Yunnan etc. in China. It is now a species in danger and a Class III protection plant in China.'

It's possible the Umdhlebi tree was driven to extinction, just as the Dodo was.

Who knows, if there are any truly wild or sacred places in Zulu country, perhaps the legendary Umdhlebi tree still lives, and perhaps even deadly as it may have been, it could have had an hidden medical benefit, if only its lethality had been understood.

There's no such thing as a spiritually cursed plant.

[edit on 16-5-2009 by star in a jar]

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 05:56 PM
reply to post by breakingdradles

Probably. I thought it was weird, too. Nothing about similar species except that small snippet from 19th century Nature...

There are tons of trees that we know nothing about. We know what many plants are poisonous, but I've never heard of one being so "evil" that it can affect animals who just come close to it!

I don't know much about Zulu culture. I'm hoping someone will be able to provide some insight.

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 05:59 PM
reply to post by star in a jar

It probably could have been used for medicine or as a weapon. It looks like the Upas tree is not really a mystery. Perhaps the trees are related?

My thinking is that if the Zulu were afraid of it, or wanted to stop sacrificing to it, they could have destroyed the trees. If there was one tree, I believe there would have been more of the same species.

Apparently it was not a very widespread tree, though.

I don't believe in spiritually cursed plants are. I titled it "Evil" in the title, because that was the impression given by the original article on the Umdhlebi from Parker.

Um... let's think though.

Perhaps it smelled awful and drove animals away.

Perhaps it released an odor that was toxic to the nervous systems of various other organisms. It's possible...

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:07 PM
Well there have been alot of extinction in tree species, it's something we tend to overlook as a society.

We like to only see the life side of extinctions, wildlife and such. However, the issue of tree conservation and endangered species should but an issue that is upfront.

The pollution that we apparently throw up into the atmosphere is on the rise, that can be directly tied to the loss of the Rain Forests and other temperate and Boreal forests all over the world.

We must keep our trees.


posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:09 PM
I know 2 Zulu guys, i'll ask them. but can only do it next week.(When he's back at work. There is also the 7 hour time gap, so by the time i get hold of him, it'll be Tuesday. Then he'll reply Hopefully quickly.

[edit on 16-5-2009 by SharkBait]

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:12 PM
reply to post by tothetenthpower

Of course. But... I don't think South Africa is very prone to much pollution or deforestation, is it?

The two major types of pollution in South Africa are air and marine pollution. The industrial sector is the prime contributor to air pollution. More than 90% of South Africa's electricity is generated from the combustion of coal that contains approximately 1.2% sulfur and up to 45% ash. Coal combustion can lead to particulate matter in the air, as well as contribute to acid rain. While major cities in South Africa do not possess pollution levels comparable to many major cities in China, India or Mexico, pollutant levels are not insignificant. Nitrogen dioxide levels in Capetown, South Africa, for instance, were significantly higher than those measured in Calcutta, and surpassed the World Health Organization's annual mean guideline for air quality standard of 50 micrograms per cubic meter. In addition to industrial pollution, low-level atmospheric pollution often results from coal combustion in stoves, as well as coal-heated boilers that are found in hospitals and factories. Regulations apply to diesel-powered vehicles and are geared towards ensuring proper maintenance. Enforcement, however, is weak and sporadic.

7.6% —or about 9,203,000 hectares—of South Africa is forested.

Change in Forest Cover: Between 1990 and 2000, South Africa had no significant change or no reported in forest cover. Measuring the total rate of habitat conversion (defined as change in forest area plus change in woodland area minus net plantation expansion) for the 1990-2005 interval, South Africa lost 0.8% of its forest and woodland habitat.

Biodiversity and Protected Areas: South Africa has some 1632 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these, 13.4% are endemic, meaning they exist in no other country, and 6.5% are threatened. South Africa is home to at least 23420 species of vascular plants. 5.3% of South Africa is protected under IUCN categories I-V.

Oh wait. Okay. So maybe that is a problem since apparently not a lot of South Africa is forested. So it's not getting cut down, it's just not really.. there much.

5.3% protected is probably not enough.

[edit on 5/16/2009 by ravenshadow13]

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:12 PM
reply to post by SharkBait

Oh cool SharkBait!!! Thanks so much, that's a big help!

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:14 PM
I have sent the e-mail. The should get it Monday.

I'll let you know!

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:19 PM
reply to post by ravenshadow13

Well perhaps not directly the south of Africa, but if you look at places like Somalia where people have been dumping their waste for decades, that stuff usually trickles down.

But yes, there isn't very much forestation in that part, mainly because it's Africa and's Africa.

My point was mainly that we needed more research and more resources allocated to the preservation of our trees wherever they may be.


posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:22 PM
reply to post by tothetenthpower

Forests and oceans are awesome because we assume we know everything about our world, but we really don't know even half of it. Not even a tenth.

Hence why Ravenshadow13 is going into ecology, marine biology, zoology, and botany as a career.


posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:24 PM
I've not heard of the tree myself but the Zulu's are very involved in Witchcraft and witch Doctors.

(Happened in Zululand-Kwazulu Natal, South Africa)When i was young about (8) My Brother who is older by two years had a Black lab. dog. One night it went crazy attacking something behind the Outhouse(Granny Cottage) where the maid sleeps. Anyway the next day we got the full story from the Maid saying that a Witch doctor had Jumped over the fence and the dog Attacked Him, He managed to escape but she heard the Witch Doctor saying a Curse on the dog.

Less than a few weeks passed, we had forgotten about the incident, when i was playing with the dog i put a ball he was chasing in my mouth, The dog came to grab the ball and By accident Bit a Hole in my Gum. Anyway to cut a long story short. My step dad went and shot the dog because of it.(Stupid thing to do). Later that day the maid reminded us of the Curse of the Witch doctor.

There is many other Witch craft stories like this.

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:24 PM
reply to post by ravenshadow13

And I can't wait for you to get started so I at least know one brilliant mind that help lead a generation of reform and better practices towards our environment

And your right, we don't know the half of it. There are species of trees and plants out there that could hold the secret cures for thousands of different diseases and problems.

All we need to do is pay close attention.


posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:26 PM
reply to post by SharkBait

That's really interesting. Part of me wants to believe that it's just a tree, and the other part wants to believe there's some sort of thing behind it. With tribes like the Zulu it's hard to discern what are legends and what are facts, too.

It's just strange that it was apparently documented by a reputable scientific source once, and then nothing else.

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 06:27 PM
reply to post by SharkBait

Well, I would explain that by the taking of the dog's possession from him.

You see animals have very linear though patterns, dogs can learn tricks and know their masters and are generally quite well behaved.

But you removing the ball from his mouth and putting it into yours, could possibly constitute as male dominance to said dog, provoking a reaction.

I say this only because my child was bitten by a dog a few years back because he grabbed some food out of dog's bowl and wanted to feed him some. When the dog began to growl my son closed his hand and began to walk towards the bowl to put the food back in, the dog saw this as him stealing his food so he bit him.

We give dogs alot of credit for being smart, but they're just following the patterns they were taught.


Edit Spelling

[edit on 5/16/2009 by tothetenthpower]

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 07:09 PM

Originally posted by ravenshadow13
reply to post by star in a jar

It probably could have been used for medicine or as a weapon. It looks like the Upas tree is not really a mystery. Perhaps the trees are related?

I know you don't think there are such things as evil plants, but 'Evil' is indeed its unfortunate label.

I'm not knowledgeable enough to know if the two are related, since the descriptions of the Umdhlebi and the Upas (Antiaris toxicaria) seem to differ considerably.

Umdhlebi appears to be much shorter, one of the two types is supposedly a shrub, while Upas can get as big as 25-40 meters tall- they are also present in the Congo- and there are three variants that grow in Africa.

Eucalyptus Grandis (40-80 meters tall) does grow in Zulu country and somewhat resembles Upas but its only value is the wood.

There appears to be an account of an perhaps deadlier variant of Upas- One where the toxicity of the (Upas?) sap is actually carried by the air:

Here is another account: A Dutch physician, named Foersch, published in 1783 a narrative of his visit to the island, and amongst his wild statements we find that where the upas grows "not a tree or blade of grass is to be found in the valley or the surrounding mountains, not a bird, beast, reptile, or living thing lives in its neighbourhood."

So you have the possibility of toxic gases being released from the roots of the Umdhlebi, an now possibly extinct tree (I don't think it is a separate species), or likely the Umdhlebi is actually an more toxic variant of the Upas whose sap is so toxic that it is airborne and doesn't need to be in contact with broken skin to cause a fatality.

The fruits of Upas (Antiaris toxicaria) is however edible, and does resembles the fruit of the Umdhlebi, which leads me to suspect the 'Umdhlebi' is an extinct variant of one of the variants of Antiaris toxicaria.

[edit on 16-5-2009 by star in a jar]

[edit on 16-5-2009 by star in a jar]

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 07:20 PM
reply to post by star in a jar

There is no real concrete evidence for the umdhlebi. And somehow the description seems like it could have been fabricated. I don't know. There's also the possibility that the toxicity of the plant stems from what may have been a vine on the tree, something like that. The fruits of some very closely related plants can differ greatly.

Some species do have both tree forms and smaller tree or shrub forms.

I also think it may be a more toxic variant of the upas. However, I think that then the upas, in either variant, would be present more often in Africa as well as Asia.

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 07:30 PM
The fungi world produces mycotoxins to prevent other species, and even colonies of identical species from encroaching on their colony.

Some of these mycotoxins can be quite dangerous, quite toxic, and have been at various times blamed for deaths.

It is possible that this plant gives off microscopic organic debris that is covered with very powerful toxins, which would cause death, and require approach from upwind.

That would be one kickass toxin.

posted on May, 16 2009 @ 08:04 PM
reply to post by dooper

Yeah, that's kind of what I thought, too. It's possible.

Check this out:

I first heard about Bintaro trees here:

Unpad biologist Joko Kusmoro said two tree species - Bintaro (suicide tree) and Mentega (oleander) - were among the poisonous tree species that could cause rashes, skin lesions, paralysis and even death upon contact with their sap. Oleander is also known to hold its toxicity even after drying.

"Every part of the Bintaro tree could potentially release poison called cerberin, blocking the ion calcium channel in the heart's muscle and stopping the pulse, which could lead to death," Joko told The Post at the Unpad campus in Jatinangor, Sumedang, near Bandung.

Joko added the smoke from a burning Bintaro tree also contained toxic gas that was dangerous if inhaled, while elements from the Oleander could cause heart failure if consumed by humans.

So apparently it can happen.

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