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The toxin from the Gympie Gympis is inserted via fine hairs and is quick acting. It’s said that wax strips can help remove the hairs.
The Gympie Gympie tree can grow to into full-sized trees.
A Gympie Gympie stinging tree (Dendrocnide moroides) has a toxin so powerful it’s “like being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time”, says entomologist Marina Hurley.
Flowers of the Gympie Gympie stinging plant, at Lake Eucham, in Far North Queensland. The stinging tree’s habitat is tropical rainforest.
In local folklore horses jumped in agony off cliffs and forestry workers drinking themselves silly to dull the intractable pain from the sting of the Gympie Gympie.
North Queensland road surveyor A.C. Macmillan was among the first to document the effects of a stinging tree, reporting to his boss in 1866 that his packhorse “was stung, got mad, and died within two hours”.
The Gympie Gympie is one of six stinging-tree species found in Australia
So swollen was Les Moore after being stung across the face several years ago that he said he resembled Mr Potato Head.
“I think I went into anaphylactic shock and it took days for my sight to recover,” said Les, a scientific officer with the CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology in Queensland.
Writing to Marina in 1994, Australian ex-serviceman Cyril Bromley described falling into a stinging tree during military training on the tableland in World War II. Strapped to a hospital bed for three weeks and administered all manner of unsuccessful treatments, he was sent “as mad as a cut snake” by the pain. Cyril also told of an officer shooting himself after using a stinging-tree leaf for “toilet purposes”.
A close-up image of the Gympie Gympie plant, showing the fine hairs that are the culprits of the intense pain.
Proliferating in rainforest clearings, along creek-lines and small tracks, the Gympie-Gympie stinging tree (Dendrocnide moroides) has long been a hazard for foresters, surveyors and timber workers – some of whom are today supplied with respirators, thick gloves and anti-histamine tablets as a precaution.
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