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We have two identical big trees right behind our property in Southern California that just started dropping their pods and seeds into our yard and we're having a hard time to keep our two-year-old daughter from tasting them. I've spent the last hour or so on Google and various tree identification websites, but I can't for the life of me (or my daughter?) find out what this tree is called so I can check whether it is poisonous. I don't even know why this is hard, since the seeds alone are quite unique and should provide a lot of good keywords for a Google search: It has 3 seeds per pod. The seeds are very black and covered by a bright red waxy skin.

Here is a picture of the leaves and pods lying on a letter sized sheet of paper (the pods are about 3/4" wide and the leaves around 4" long):

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One of just the seeds in the pod:

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And here is the whole tree:

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The only thing that I've found that has even remotely similar looking fruits is the Ackee, but its fruits are much bigger and the skin is a white flesh, not red and waxy.

Any idea what this tree might be, and whether its fruits are poisonous?

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I am not sure what the tree is, but until you know whether the fruits are toxic or not, keep your daughter away from them. One thing you do not want to see is your child being poisoned. – J. Musser Jul 4 '14 at 19:08
@J.Musser Absolutely agreed. Unfortunately for now this means we can't let her play outside unsupervised... :( – Markus A. Jul 4 '14 at 19:11
Could you put up some sort of temporary fence? Many people do that to keep children/pets from entering newly sprayed areas. – J. Musser Jul 4 '14 at 19:23
It's pretty windy where we live and there are seeds in almost all corners of our (not so big) back-yard. Otherwise, a fence would be good idea. :) – Markus A. Jul 4 '14 at 19:38
I hope someone can help you. – J. Musser Jul 4 '14 at 19:39
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I believe this is a Carrot Wood, Cupaniopsis anacardioides tree - I also have one in my backyard. A quick Google search gave a couple of hits that say that, while it is an invasive species, it does not appear to be poisonous.

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Awesome! I think that's it! Thank you! :) It's from Australia! That's why it was so difficult! I read that it was introduced to the US to use as an ornamental tree in the 70s and early 80s. Since our gated community was built in 83, that fits well. I love the "Potentially Misidentified Species" section here "The identifying characteristics noted above, particularly the unusual fruits and the orange inner bark layer, make species determination fairly straightforward." Nice! Now I'll go cut the bark to see if it's orange underneath! :) – Markus A. Jul 4 '14 at 22:33
Kind of... I think you're correct, but let me wait a couple days before accepting your answer, just in case someone else has a different guess. – Markus A. Jul 4 '14 at 22:40

Point given to user2676699, I agree with the ID given. I wanted to add this is a marvellous opportunity to teach your child never to eat any seed, berry, leaf or plant part without checking with an adult first - more than 50% of plants grown in gardens are toxic if ingested, either mildly or highly toxic, but fine so long as you don't make a salad of them. Some have toxic parts, but other parts we eat (rhubarb, for example). Given the extent of toxic material easily available to children, having an opportunity like this to instruct on not eating these dropped parts in your yard is almost heaven sent, specially given there's no evidence this particular plant is toxic.

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