When I was a small child, playing in the fields, parks and the countryside of the UK, there was one plant that we always had to make sure that we didn’t “literally” bump into.
The stinging nettle.
Yes, stinging nettles, object of great fear and source of enormous pain. As much as we knew about them, as often as we were warned, inevitably somebody would get stung.
If, somehow, you would fall into a whole bunch of stinging nettles, there would be many ouchy ouchies! And sometimes tears.
But now I am a grown adult and I live in Australia. No more fear of stinging nettles. That fear has been replaced by…
The Fear of the Gympie Gympie
“Dendrocnide moroides, also known as the Gympie Gympie, moonlighter, or stinger, is a large shrub native to rainforest areas in north-eastern Australia, the Moluccas and Indonesia. It is best known for stinging hairs which cover the whole plant and deliver a potent neurotoxin when touched. It is the most virulent species of stinging tree.”Source: Wikipedia
This is one of the world’s most venomous plants, capable of killing dogs, horses and humans. If it doesn’t kill you, expect months of excruciating pain. On the Australian Geographic website about the plant, they describe the pain as “like being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time..”
The plant is relatively common in Queensland; but it is rare to see them in the southernmost part of the state. That makes me very happy, because that’s where I live. Gympie, by the way, is a Queensland town about 170 km North of Brisbane.
Now, I’m not sure if you get this chap on a TV near you, but here we sometimes have a program called Bite Me With Dr Mike Leahy. He describes himself as a virologist; I’d be more inclined to describe him as a nutter!
He allows dangerous critters and creatures to sting or bite him so that he can experience the pain. Now he is also including plants.
Here is the nutter, sorry, virologist, stinging himself on a Gympie Gympie….
Update May 2015: sadly, the video of Dr Mike Leahy subjecting himself to immense pain has been removed from YouTube, apparently because of copyright law infringement or something? So instead, here is one from It Will Kill You…
Not so sure about that hydrochloric acid treatment towards the end, you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re doing before you try that one. Best plan of all though, is avoid the Gympie Gympie plant.