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The World’s Most Dangerous Shrub

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Gympie-gympie

The gympie-gympie (Dendrocnide moroides), from the tropical jungles of Australia, is considered to be the most dangerous shrub in the world… and also the most painful.

Its leaves and stems are covered with stinging hairs that cause a reaction that has been compared to “being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time”. The pain can persist for weeks, even up to 20 years, and has pushed more than one victim to suicide. Dogs and horses that simply brush against the plant have died. Foresters working in the area where the plant is abundant have to wear hazmat suits!

In the unlikely event that you run into a gympie-gympie, get yourself to a hospital, as there is a way to end your suffering (other than putting you down, that is!). Depilatory wax can be used to remove the stinging hairs while wiping the affected area with diluted hydrochloric acid will stop the pain.

Would you be surprised to learn that the gimpy gimpy-belongs to the same family as the nettle (Urticaceae)?

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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