Gympie Gympie Ouchy Ouchy: Worlds Most Venomous Plant?

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.

Ouchy ouchy!

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 That fear has been replaced by…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

Gympie Gympie Tree“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….

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{ 20 comments… add one }
  • woody December 31, 2017, 6:46 am |

    i got stung buy the moonlighter in earlie beach on the arm .strait away i new i was in trouble .buy the time i got back to my car .it was no stop pain . told a friend of mine that a plant had stung me .and he told go strait to town to get your arm waxed .the pain was getting know if it helped but it could have taken some of the fibers out .if you touched the area the pain got worse .lasted a couple of days of unbelievable pain .and still had pain weekd later .worst pain ive ever had keep away from this plant

    • BobinOz January 2, 2018, 7:51 pm |

      Sounds horrible, and as you say, definitely a plant to stay away from. Waxing is a good idea, but I think Sellotape or even better, Duck Tape would probably do a similar job.

      Not much of a Christmas present though to get a hit of one of these things, hope it didn’t spoil your festivities too much. Hope the pain goes away soon.

  • Mitch December 14, 2017, 1:49 pm |

    Accurate description; even though i recognized it and recoiled so that i only brushed it with half of my hand it was enough to cause the pain as described above. it comes in at No.2 on my life list of painful events. No.1 being a stone fish i stepped on as a child and didn’t receive medical attention/analgesia for over an hour and a half whereas i had myself to a hospital within about 40min after being stung by the plant. No.3 being multiple compound fractures of the humerus, the shoulder, a torn tendon and a dislocated arm. I hope that puts it into perspective
    – Local of Cairns, Australia

    • BobinOz December 15, 2017, 4:36 pm |

      Crikey Mitch, that really is something, getting done by both the Gympie Gympie AND a stonefish! I’m too scared to ask how you got the multiple compound fractures etc, but I’m hoping it was nothing to do with a crocodile.

      Interesting to hear from somebody who knows that the stonefish is worse than the Gympie Gympie, or, maybe it just felt worse because you were a child at the time? I will certainly be trying my very best NOT to find out which of these is worse for myself.

      I’ll take your word for it. Anyway, take care, and I mean that 🙂

      • Mitch February 21, 2018, 6:26 pm |

        Nope nothing to do with a crocodile, i make a point to stay away from something that can actively problem solve, think creatively and has excellent pattern recognition all combined into that package in a creature that has the strongest bite force in the world (Jaw strength scales up as they grow) and is mostly composed of teeth muscle and bone; all waiting for some fool to think it is safe to swim in a salt water creek. did i mention that they blend in very well and can run at about human pace in short bursts?. that’s not to say that i don’t enjoy swimming with freshwater crocodiles; they are cool to swim with as long as you don’t intentionally cheeze them off.

        stone fish is worse by a few degrees even considering i was a child; the pain from a stone-fish starts at a lesser intensity but builds as the venom spreads around the body. It felt like a fire that started down at my ankle then slowly worked all the way around until it felt like i was on fire from the inside. That day my dad found out two things: 1. what the top speed of our car at the time was (245kph supposedly) 2. what it is like to be chased by the highway patrol police haha. apparently he stopped just long enough to explain then we got a police escort to the hospital at about the same speed (stonefish venom, a ‘verrucotoxin’ for anyone interested; it screws with the heart and respiratory system, can be fatal). Anyway i don’t remember too much of the car ride and have a few flashes of the hospital, i remember feeling a needle, then lights out for a few days. i had a semi-paralyzed leg for a few weeks afterwards. but even now i can still remember the hell of that pain 😀 so hope you don’t get done by one.

        As for the shattered shoulder; nothing special i did that to myself. some bloke hit me in the head with a bat while they were robbing the liquor store i was working at. A few years later it turned out that because of the hit I had been having ever more violent seizures until one was bad enough to do that lol; i didn’t know what was going on in the months/years before that because i was tired like I hadn’t slept all the time. so i hope i don’t come across the guy who hit me one day in the street; i would love to sit him down and tell him all about what that one thoughtless attack did to me :).

        I wonder what’s in store for me this year 😛

        • BobinOz February 22, 2018, 8:43 pm |

          Yes, wise decision about crocs, you don’t get to live on planet Earth for something like 200 million years without being pretty good at finding food. I have seen plenty of people swimming in the sea where there are crocs signs, but where sightings are normally rare, but you won’t catch me in there. I’ll be looking for the swimming pool.

          By the way, I wouldn’t know the difference between a salty or a freshwater croc, so I ain’t going to swim with either of them.

          There have been a spate of stonefish stings in Queensland lately, four in eight days, three on the Gold Coast and one on Sunshine Coast. Then just yesterday an Irishman got done by one further north and became the fifth. He also said it was the worst pain ever. It’s worrying, my daughter loves going in the sea and splashing around, I’d hate her to get stabbed by one of these things, but what do you do? Gotta have fun. Mind you, we always swim between the flags, hopefully that’s safer.

          Anyway, your dad had a fast car 🙂 Luckily.

          Yes, I reckon that would be a really interesting conversation with your attacker, I’d love to see it 🙂

          Stay safe in 2018.

  • Zazel March 17, 2014, 7:24 am |

    I planted stinging nettle under a basement window under my garage. The window could be easy to access for break-ins. Nothing in there but with the nettle there, anyone crawling around where they shouldn’t be will be taking a souvenir with them. Much better looking than bars. Just have to watch when the plant goes to seed or it can spread to places you don’t want it growing.

    • BobinOz March 17, 2014, 8:36 pm |

      Interesting home security plan, what could possibly go wrong? 🙂

  • Sede May 31, 2012, 6:14 pm |

    I live in Nagaland, North-East India, & there is a very similar venomous plant here. We call it ‘pfhiipedi.’ I had actualy touched it’s seed/flower petal, & my hands felt like being burnt for 1 week!!

    • BobinOz June 1, 2012, 12:04 am |

      Hi Sede

      Yes, beenamanu from Kerala says they have them there too. So obviously this plant is in India. You need to get all those little hairs out otherwise it will keep on giving you problems.

      Sounds painful!

  • maree May 15, 2012, 8:16 pm |

    Well im glad that there not in Gympie as thats where my father in law lives too. I hate stinging nettles, odd you can drink them though.

    • BobinOz May 15, 2012, 10:26 pm |

      Maybe we could make a drink Of the Gympie Gympie?

      • SvenTheBold January 22, 2016, 6:29 pm |

        Well, we always knew that iocane powder comes from Australia…

  • Liv April 29, 2012, 12:01 am |

    Stinging nettles – eh? How easy we had it, growing up in England!

    • BobinOz April 30, 2012, 9:43 pm |

      Seemed tough when I was eight years old, those things were painful! And wasps! Scary!!

      And now I live in Australia 🙂

  • beenamanu April 27, 2012, 7:30 pm |

    actually thanks for the description about these plants…….a lots of child hood memories are marching in my mind…….we are afraid of these plants once ….( now also ha ha ha…) after a long years now I see that in your photos… in kerala ,in our mother tongue Malayalam we say as ‘chorithanam’ means itching plant or biting plant…….

    my God what a man that mike !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    wish all the best and nice days… heavy rain n thundering out side……so today is not the best day

    warm regards

    • BobinOz April 30, 2012, 8:44 pm |

      “Itching plant”? Itching! You must all be pretty tough out there in Kerala 🙂

      Thanks beena!

      • Mitch February 21, 2018, 6:36 pm |

        you will find that in india there it is a different type of plant ie not as nasty as the ones here

        • BobinOz February 22, 2018, 8:46 pm |

          Ah, that would make sense, I don’t think anyone who’s been done by a Gympie Gympie would be saying “It really itches” 🙂

    • Gin March 4, 2019, 7:25 pm |

      Im from Indonesia and I used to hike and get stung many times, it is hurt and comes with burn sensation but that was it.. so yes there a big difference between.

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