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?

  • 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, 2014 at 19:08
  • @J.Musser Absolutely agreed. Unfortunately for now this means we can't let her play outside unsupervised... :(
    – Markus A.
    Jul 4, 2014 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, 2014 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, 2014 at 19:38
  • I hope someone can help you.
    – J. Musser
    Jul 4, 2014 at 19:39

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 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 sms.si.edu/irlspec/cupaniopsis_anacardioides.htm: "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, 2014 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, 2014 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.


It is a Carrot Wood. We had one on the hillside behind our house. As part of a project to add about 600 sf to our yard, we reclaimed the hill where this tree was growing by building a large retaining wall and backfilling it. At first we thought we could just cut it down and it would die when we backfilled the yard. But before we finished the retaining wall, the tree started regrowing, so we chain sawed the stump into little pieces. It grew back. We dug up the entire root ball and severed it from its roots but it still started to regrow from the detached roots that ran through our entire yard. We dug up as many roots as we could find and after removing them, poured gasoline and struck a match, then added herbicide to the soil and backfilled it with 10' of dirt. I hope it's finally dead, but time will tell if we end up with a tree in the yard 10 years from now!

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