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Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 4:20 PM

Contact with the leaves or twigs causes the hollow, silica-tipped hairs to penetrate the skin and deliver a potent neurotoxin when touched.

Researcher Les Moore, alongside a Gympie-Gympie stinging plant. IMAGE CREDIT: Brian Cassey

MARINA HURLEY'S DEDICATION to science was sorely tested during the three years she spent in Queensland’s Atherton Tableland studying stinging trees. The entomologist and ecologist’s first encounter with the Gympie-Gympie stinging tree produced a sneezing fit and left her eyes and nose running for hours. Even protective particle masks and welding gloves could not spare her several subsequent stings – one requiring hospitalisation – but that was nothing compared with the severe allergy she developed.

“Being stung is the worst kind of pain you can imagine - like being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time,” said Marina, who at the time was a postgraduate student at James Cook University investigating the herbivores that eat stinging trees.

...

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”. Similar tales abound in local folklore of horses jumping in agony off cliffs and forestry workers drinking themselves silly to dull the intractable pain.

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”.

He’s had too many stings to count but Ernie Rider will never forget the day in 1963 that he was slapped in the face, arms and chest by a stinging tree. “I remember it feeling like there were giant hands trying to squash my chest,” he said. “For two or three days the pain was almost unbearable; I couldn’t work or sleep, then it was pretty bad pain for another fortnight or so. The stinging persisted for two years and recurred every time I had a cold shower.”

Now a senior conservation officer with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Ernie said he’s not experienced anything like the pain during 44 years work in the bush. “There’s nothing to rival it; it’s 10 times worse than anything else – scrub ticks, scrub itch and itchy-jack sting included. Stinging trees are a real and present danger.”

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Guru

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#1

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 4:53 PM

Ouch!

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#2

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 5:25 PM

Finally something bad that we don't have in Florida. Please don't bring any here.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 5:31 PM

Too late, if the last time I used the TP in a Texas public restroom is any guide.

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#4
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 5:42 PM

I'd send a gift box to the (fill in the blank).

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#16
In reply to #3

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/15/2017 12:03 PM

If you did that, gee thanks. Maize leaves are bad enough when the need to clean is present.

Now the terrorists are in our bathrooms? Enough is enough, dam it.

Have they analyzed the neurotoxin? Did this tree make lil' numpties with sea snakes?

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#19
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/15/2017 1:34 PM

They ran out of garnet paper.

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#5

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 5:42 PM

Drop bears, irukandji, gympie gympie......sounds safe.

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 6:12 PM

Yes definitely needs a fiercer name...Stinging Death Plant comes to mind....

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#24
In reply to #5

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/26/2017 12:14 PM

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#25
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/26/2017 1:22 PM

˙pǝʇɔǝdsns I sɐ ʇsnſ

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#6

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 6:04 PM

A dozen for Valentines Day? no thanks.

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#7

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 6:12 PM

Most people are aware of the reputation of Australian dangerous animals.

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2013/03/australias-dangerous-animals-the-top-30/

It looks like the plant kingdom has some scary stuff too!

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#9

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 6:34 PM

The recommended treatment for skin exposed to the hairs is to apply diluted hydrochloric acid (1:10) and to remove the hairs with a hair removal strip. If this is unavailable, a strip of adhesive tape and/or tweezers may be used. Care should be taken to remove the hairs intact, without breaking them, as broken hair tips, if they remain buried, will only increase the level of pain. The hair tips are made of glass, basically.

Australia - Where Everything Wants You To Die™ (in the most agonising way possible)

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#17
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/15/2017 12:05 PM

NO, that should read:

"Australia - Where everything wants you to die faster!!!"

The entire planet is working on killing us, but Australia has had more time to develop her weapons.

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#10

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 7:19 PM

I wonder if they have these in the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle in England...

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#12
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 9:46 PM

Can't find any reference to Dendrocnide moroides in that garden, but what I did find seems to suggest that most of the plants there are poisonous when ingested. It wouldn't do to have a plant that would cause injury by merely touching it. That's kind of like begging for a lawsuit. Another thing is Gympie is a tropical plant. It grows mainly Australia's rainforests, like Daintree up the coast a ways. England's climate probably would kill it.

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#11

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 9:22 PM

We have also like that tree in our place, but its more like a shrub.

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#13
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 9:50 PM

Its leaves may look like that, but I rather suspect whatever it is you have is not a Dendrocnide moroides. Stems and leaves covered in tiny, glass needles filled with neurotoxins? What kind of plant is it? A mulberry bush?

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#14
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/14/2017 10:22 PM

and I thought the black locust tree was a pain.. literally..

where I used to live I would climbed the massive thing to cut branches as well as pull the shoots that popped up all over the yard.

When I realized it was irritating me looked up what type of tree it was..

aka the devil tree it is poisonous and will drop a horse as well.

I hear the flowers make a nice wine, but I haven't done made any from it. Although it's not off the table.

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#23
In reply to #14

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/19/2017 10:18 AM

Easy

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#15

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/15/2017 12:15 AM

This is an interesting subject.

Has any research been done to utilize the positive effects of this neurotoxicity ?

The statement : forestry workers drinking themselves silly to dull the pain ; has there been a study to determine the validity of alcohol as a counteragent ?

Has there been any use of this plant by the indigenous population ?

Questions directed toward the author, although anyone can comment.

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#18
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/15/2017 12:08 PM

If it made my horse go nutters, who would want to have any of it, much less research it?

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#20
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/15/2017 2:13 PM

"Has any research been done to utilize the positive effects of this neurotoxicity ?"

Among other things, the toxin contains moroidin, an antimitotic. Antimitotics inhibit mitosis, or cell division. Such inhibitors are used in the treatment of leukaemia. As moroidin can be readily synthesised, the plant does not represent an important source of this drug.

"Has there been any use of this plant by the indigenous population ?"

Yes, the leaves as a treatment for rheumatism, somewhat in the manner nettles were once used in Europe. Gympie-Gympie and stinging nettles are related (think of Gympie-Gympie as nettles-on-steroids). Boiling the leaves renders them harmless.

The plant is also a food source - the flowers and fruit are edible and the wood fibre used for various purposes. Harvesting it is the hard part.

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#21

Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/15/2017 4:50 PM

Officer shot himself after using it to wipe....I had a similar experience once after using a sunflower leaf...had a burning itch for a week...

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#22
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Re: Gympie Gympie: Once Stung, Never Forgotten

02/15/2017 4:58 PM

Did you shoot the plant instead?

I've friend in Brazil who used some broadleaf jungle plant there for that purpose. Had to be carted off to the local med centre, buns-to-the-sun. Said his arse was a mass of blisters.

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