The setting sun backlighting the cerbera odollam.
The cerbera odollam is an innocuous looking tree with big round fruits hanging from its branches. They are green and glossy. Some of them looked good enough to be eaten but I knew better. Behind that desirable facade of innocence lies a deadly secret. Its seeds are poisonous and are known to have been used for suicide and even murder.
This is the Indian suicide tree, also called the Pong Pong. It grows along the sandy coasts, riverbanks and near mangrove swamps. The insides of the fruit are enclosed by a fibrous shell that floats and is easily carried away by the water. The toxic seeds are used as rat poison, insect repellent or burned for light.
When I saw that tree, it reminded me of my primary school days. Several of these trees stood along the fence. Whenever we felt like playing ball and did not have one handy, we would use the dried fibrous fruit as a substitute. This tree used to be planted by the roadsides all over Penang. When the fruits ripened and fell off, they littered the ground.
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