Australia’s Stinging Plant
The stinging plant or Dendrocnide moroides is one of Queensland’s most unseen tropical tourist hazards. Spread through out the Eastern Australian tropical rain forests, this unusual local is named for the extreme stinging pain received if it comes in contact with your skin. Although there are a few different species of the stinging plant ranging from tall trees (Dendrocnide excelsa) to small shrubs (Dendrocnide moroides), the shrubs are the most poisonous. Growing up to only 1 or 2 meters in height, these pint sized plants back a powerful punch if brushed.
The hollow hairs of the plant cause extreme pain if they come in contact with your skin, due to a naturally occurring neurotoxin. Minor stings can last for a few hours where major stings can last for months, rekindling with temperature’s changes such as cold/hot water or rubbing. The stings affect Humans, dogs, and horses as well as most introduced species. The stings have been known to cause death but generally from rash actions in a pain induced maddened state. Horses have been known to jump off cliffs and men misuse their shotguns from the extreme unrelenting pain.
This single stemmed plant loves to grow particularly where areas have been cleared for path ways or flattened by natural occurrences eg cyclones, fallen trees & floods. Putting itself in prime tourist stinging positions or the unaware bush walker. It does have very recognizable leaves though making it easier to spot and avoid. It has large heart shaped leaves ranging in size from 10 – 22 cm long and 11 – 18 cm wide.
How To Heal From The Sting
These heart shaped leaves are also teethed around the rim and contain the hollow stinging hairs. Flowers appear from November to April than a pink to purple blackish fruit is produced maturing from March to August the flesh is edible various indigenous mammals and insects still eat the leaves and seem to be immune to the neurotoxin. The indigenous people had discovered how to work around the hairs never touching the leaves unless carefully and always with the grain to avoid the needle like stingers.
My Grandfather once got stung in the Jimna forestry and passed along to my Dad something that a tribes man had shared with him. Immediately after being stung he cut off some of the bark of the plant and rubbed the sap on the affected area, with in a short time all pain left and there was no rash or after effects. Although i have never had a reason to try this myself, if need be i would be willing to give it a try.
The toxin in the hair fibers doesn’t expire with heat or age some dried leaves up to 30 years old have been known to still pack an excruciating punch, even if it looks dead stay away. Another amazing natural wonder, reminding us that nature can be cruel and kind. – Ange Marxsen