The twin fields of cryptozoology and crypto-botany are bursting with tales of strange and unusual plants and animals. While the public at large is generally aware of such cryptid superstars as the Loch Ness Monster and the Sasquatch, few have ever heard of the Man-Eating Trees of Madagascar, or the Mongolian Death worms.
In 1881 a magazine called the South Australian Register ran a story by a traveler called Carle Liche. He tells us that while travelling through Madagascar, he was horrified to watch the native Mdoko tribe sacrifice a woman to a man-eating tree. He stated that the places the woman near the tree, and after laying there for a few seconds, the tree’s tendrils took the woman by the neck and strangled her, before apparently engulfing the body. In his 1924 book “Madagascar, land of the man-eating tree” former Michigan Governor Chase Osborn recounted Liche’s tale, and mentioned that missionaries and locals in Madagascar all knew of the deadly tree. Unfortunately, Liche’s accounts may have been an exaggeration, as both the Mdoko tribe nor the man-eating tree have ever been found, and the governor may simply have been embellishing a little bit more to make for good reading.
From the steppes of Mongolia comes another type of creature that is particularly memorable by its rather disgusting appearance. The Mongolian Death Worm is a supposedly poisonous worm that has the appearance of a bright red bloody cow intestine. That’s right, a deadly cow intestine. Said to be about four feet long, the animal is said to spit a yellow substance when threatened that is deadly on contact with human skin, and is even claimed to be able to kill with electricity in a manner similar to the electric eel. Shocking, but does it really exist? Expeditions to Mongolia to find the creature haven’t been particularly fruitful, however the story is so wide-spread that there may well be truth to it. With new species of animal, even large ones, seemingly being found all the time in such places as the jungles of Vietnam, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suspect that the same may be found under the earth in the extremely desolate Gobi desert.
Madagascar and Mongolia aren’t the only places where one finds man-eating trees and deadly worms. South America is also a fruitful land for stories of deadly trees, and even more amazing are the stories of the enormous Minhocao. This giant cryptic has been reported to live in the forests of South America and has been claimed to reach astonishing lengths of up to 75 feet. Old accounts tell of a huge tunnel digging worm with two appendages on its head, perhaps similar to those of a snail or slug. Unfortunately, no one has seen the Minhocao in over a century, suggesting that it has either gone extinct or may never have existed at all.
Often cryptids are misidentified known animals, sometimes they defy explanation. In any of the cases detailed in this article, there would be few animals with appearances close enough to be mistaken. It might be that the man-eating trees simply stem from exaggerated accounts of Venus fly traps, but the worms are more difficult to dismiss. Slimy worms aren’t particularly scary, nor do they make good fodder to make up legends about. They are simply worms, and stories of 75 foot long docile giants and blood red disgusting-but-deadly creatures are not something that cultures would normally invent out of thin air. They probably have a grain of truth somewhere, hidden along with the animals themselves in the least explored places on planet earth.