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‘Gympie-Gympie’ plant aftermath: Mum who fell in Cairns in painful struggle with ‘suicidal’ stingers

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The Gympie-Gympie is a species of Australian stinging tree that can grow up to 4-5 metres, but is most often found as a smaller shrub around 0.1-1 meter tall.

‘Suicide plant’ is most commonly found in Gympie in southern Queensland to the Cape York Peninsula, but can also be grown in northern New South Wales.

The plants tend to grow in sunny areas sheltered from the wind, along the edges of streams, trails and paths through the forest.

How is it different from other Australian stinging trees?

There are four common species of Australian stinging trees, two of which are large rainforest trees that can grow to 35m, the other small shrub-like shrubs.

The smaller of the species have a more painful venom and are responsible for the majority of bites due to their size and accessibility.

All four species have a stinging mechanism, however Gympie-Gympie is considered to have the worst sting, comparable to a scorpion or spider bite.

The ‘suicide plant’ is the most toxic of Australia’s six stinging tree species and one of the most poisonous plants in the country

How does he deliver his sting?

The toxic nettle has tiny hairs that cover the entire plant and release a potent neurotoxin when touched.

The small bulb at the tip of the stinging hairs breaks off and penetrates the skin to release a toxin, similar to that of a self-injecting hypodermic needle.

The tiny hairs can embed themselves in the skin and cause excruciating pain in humans for weeks and even months.

The injured area is covered with small red spots that coalesce to form a swollen red welt, in more severe cases, fluid oozes from the skin.

How can the bite be treated?

Experts say it’s important not to rub the affected area, as this can break up small hairs and make them difficult to remove.

After applying dilute hydrochloric acid to neutralize the peptide coat of plants, wax strips can be used to remove hairs.

How to reduce the risk of being bitten

Stay on the designated path, wear closed toe shoes and long pants.

Always carry a first aid kit when hiking in the bush complete with dilute hydrochloric acid, wax strips and latex gloves just in case.

Source: National Geographic

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