22-year-old dies after eating seeds from 'suicide tree,' mother issues warning

CALUMET CITY, Ill. — A mother is warning other parents to beware of a deadly seed from an Asian plant called the “suicide tree.”

Two weeks ago, Natosha Anderson found Bernard McCalip, 22, on the bathroom floor after being sick for hours, WLS-TV reports.

"He said, 'I can't feel my heart.' And I said, 'What's wrong? What's going on?' And he said, 'I took a pong seed.' And I said, 'A what? What is that?'" Anderson told WLS-TV. "The police, the paramedics, they didn't even know, no one knew."

McCalip later died at Franciscan St. Margaret Hospital in Hammond, Indiana, according to WLS-TV.

"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 told WLS-TV.

Police found evidence that the seeds were ordered online and delivered from Thailand. McCalip paid $1 plus $4 in shipping for the seeds, according to the report.

"I can go online and purchase something for $5 -- $5 and that can literally devastate a family and kill someone. I don't understand," Anderson told WLS-TV.

McCalip's father said, "All I can do is sit back and ask myself, 'Is there more I could've done?'"

McCalip was transgender and "struggling with desire to live life as a woman," Anderson said. The victim tried changing their name to Lucia and was bullied for many years in school, but Anderson said she wasn’t aware of any suicidal thoughts by her child, WLS-TV reports.

About 42 percent of transgender women attempt suicide in their life, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The seed McCalip ingested comes from the Cerbera odollam plant, commonly known as the “suicide tree” or “pong-pong.” It is listed under the FDA’s poisonous plant database. The seeds contain cerberin, a poison that stops the heart’s ability to function.

“I don't want my son to die in vain," Anderson told WLS-TV. "If I can save one life, just one."