The mysteries of man-eating trees in Madagascar

The kumanga is one of numerous so-called “killer trees” that have been believed to exist on the island of Madagascar. This cryptid carnivorous plant is native to Madagascar. It has been discovered that carnivorous trees may be found in Africa and Central America.

The German traveler Carl Liesche, who visited Madagascar in 1881, allegedly witnessed a cruel rite of the local savages. The person to be sacrificed was pushed into the arms of a pineapple-like tree, about 2.5 meters high: its leaves, which looked like open doors and were equipped with sharp spikes, were hanging down to the ground from the top.

Chase Osborne’s 1920 Expedition

Lachey’s chilling and implausible story led exoticists to send new expeditions in search of the man-eating tree. One of them, headed for Madagascar in 1920, was led by Governor Chase Osborne. The expedition traveled up and down the island but did not find the man-eating tree. However, the natives claimed that such trees do exist.

In October 1924, a report on this expedition appeared in the American press, and in January 1925, a note was published in the United States that a traveler W. Bryant on one of the Philippine Islands, found the skeletons of men in the branches of an unknown tree. Publications of this kind have outraged botanists. They are well aware of various carnivorous plants, but those are only capable of eating small insects and certainly not large animals or, even less so, people.

A $10,000 Truth Prize

In order to put an end to the discussion between geeks and travelers (the latter are at times great masters of lying), the scientific journal “American Botanix” declared a prize of $ 10 thousand (at that time a huge amount!) to anyone who provided a specimen of the omnivorous tree. The desire to earn so much money prompted a retired British officer L. Hirst to undertake an independent trip to Madagascar in 1935.

The Missing L. Hearst

He spent about four months wandering around there. He did not find any omnivorous trees, but claimed to have found a new carnivorous plant, which was able to eat not only insects but also small rodents. Hirst photographed it and noticed that its understory was surrounded by the skeletons of large animals. But botanists didn’t believe the photos and accused Hirst of cheating, claiming he had put large animal bones around the plant himself to create a sensation. The offended officer once again went on an expedition to Madagascar for more evidence. Only after that, no one ever heard from him again… Maybe he found the ogre tree after all, and it ate him?

Ivan Mackerl’s Expedition

Ivan Mackerl, a Czech researcher and writer, became interested in the problem these days. Together with a few friends, he went to same Madagascar, deciding to repeat Hirst’s route, but he found no trace of him. At the same time, he found several new species of carnivorous plants, which are shaped like lilies; not only insects, but even small animals like rodents and lizards, fall into them but cannot get out because the inner walls of these lilies are very slippery. The end result is that the animals are, as it were, digested by the plant, and their tissues serve as food for it.

A tree with claws

However, in the southern part of the island, researchers have found plants that can threaten large animals and even people. One of them the natives called the “tree with claws”: its long elastic branches, hanging down to the ground, ended with capsules with seeds and equipped with sharp hooks. The wind sways these branches, and they can catch on a stray animal or person.

The victims try to free themselves from this grasp, but in the meantime, the plant dangles capsules with seeds on their skin or clothing like a burdock. In this way, the seeds are spread throughout the forest-if, of course, the victim manages to break free. But the clawed tree does not feed on the bodies of its victims. Still, the travelers hoped to see at least one specimen of the cannibal tree. The natives flatly refused to show them this “devil tree”, saying that it kills animals and people at a distance.

The Forest Killer Kumanga

Finally, a local man agreed to become a guide for a handsome fee. In the local vernacular, the forest killer is called “kumanga.” As Mackerl assures us, this tree kills its victims with poisonous fumes, which are especially dangerous during flowering. During this time, birds that land on its branches immediately drop dead; animals that try to take shelter under the kumanga from the scorching heat also die (how can you not think of Pushkin’s “Anchar”?).

But the kumanga does not eat its victims: apparently, the poisonous vapors serve simply as a “chemical defense,” not as an attack.

The ogre tree is still a legend, composed by Carl Lichse with a claim to authenticity. Better believe Herbert Wells, who in 1895 (14 years after Cliche) in his story “The Strange Orchid” described a blood-thirsty plant… But maybe in some unexplored corners of our planet (like the Amazon jungle) there still live cannibal trees?

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