Natosha Anderson, a resident of Calumet City, IL, had never heard of pong pong seeds before a couple of weeks ago. Her discovery was the most tragic kind. Her 22-year-old son, Bernard McCalip, was found on the family’s bathroom floor, where in his last moments his mother says he told her he couldn’t feel his heart and “I took a pong seed.”
“I’m pretty sure he thought it was going to be easy, but it wasn’t. He died in pain. It was slow, and it was painful,” Anderson said in a heartbreaking ABC-7 Eyewitness News report.
Bernard bought the pong pong seeds online from Thailand for a mere $5.
The pong pong tree, also known as cerbera odollam, grows along riverbanks, sandy coasts and near mangrove swamps throughout southeast Asia. The seed pods are commonly marketed on sites like eBay and Amazon as “for decoration.” However, the tree is also infamously known as the “suicide tree” for the silent way it can shut down a person’s heart and may go undetected in toxicology reports.
Dr. Roderick Tung, a heart-rhythm specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, said in the news report, “Cerberin appears to be one of the most lethal agents in this class of medications or natural plants.” Researchers believe more people have taken their own lives using suicide seeds than any other plant in the world.