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Nature & Environment

Australian tree stings with spider-like toxins

By T.K. Randall
September 18, 2020 · Comment icon 1 comment

Don't go near this tree without sufficient protection. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Cgoodwin
Scientists have been studying what gives the rather unusual 'gympie gympie' tree such an excruciating sting.
As if Australia wasn't home to enough poisonous critters, even some of its trees are capable of stinging you thanks to fine hairs on their leaves that deliver a potent neurotoxin.

One notable example - Dendrocnide excelsa (or 'gympie gympie') - can be found in the rainforests of north-east Australia. Those unfortunate enough to brush up against it with bare skin can expect an intense burning followed by the sensation of having one's hand slammed in a car door.

The pain is so bad that it can sometimes last days or even weeks in extreme cases.
Now according to a new study involving an analysis of the tree's molecular structure, scientists have discovered that its toxins are not dissimilar to those produced by spiders and scorpions.

The venom itself it knotlike - meaning that it can repeatedly target the victim's pain receptors.

"The Australian stinging tree species are particularly notorious for producing [an] excruciatingly painful sting," said Irina Vetter from the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

"By understanding how this toxin works, we hope to provide better treatment to those who have been stung by the plant, to ease or eliminate the pain."

Source: BBC News | Comments (1)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by openozy 4 years ago
I used to live in coastal northern NSW and this looks very much like a plant growing on the rainforest property I lived on.There was a local story of a guy falling onto this plant after swimming naked in a creek and him dying from it.

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