If you think gardening is a boring hobby, you’re growing the wrong plants. You could emulate Daniel Emlyn-Jones, 49, a British gardener who is raising one of the world’s most venomous plants in his Oxford home.
The gympie-gympie is native to Australia, New Guinea and Malaysia, where it grows in rainforest areas. It’s part of the stinging nettle family. Tiny little hair-like needles densely cover its leaves. Just one poke by a single skinny needle and you will be in pain. For years.
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Emlyn-Jones keeps his gympie-gympie in a locked cage with a danger sign on it. He handles it with heavy-duty, elbow-length gloves. He said he wants to interest other people in unusual plants.
“I don’t want to come over as a loon,” he said, as reported by Yahoo. “I’m doing it very safely.” So far, Emlyn-Jones has had only a slight brush with pain when a needle tickled him through his gloves. He insists it wasn’t that awful.
Will more people decide to take up raising gympie-gympies now that Emlyn-Jones has made the news? Consumers over 18 can legally buy the plant online.
The site Jungle Leaves advises, “In cases of particularly severe contact, the pain is said to last for months and to flare up again even years later when the affected areas are irritated (e.g. by touch or by warm water when showering). The pain is caused by the peptide morphoidin and cannot be relieved with morphine. You don’t even have to touch the plant to feel its effect. Even in a light wind, the fine hairs are constantly coming loose and can thus cause eye irritation, sneezing and coughing if you are just standing nearby.”
It’s been nicknamed “the suicide plant” because the pain it causes makes people want to end it all. One story tells of a World War II officer in Australia who unwittingly used a gympie-gympie leaf as toilet paper. He shot himself.
The plant is oddly xenophobic. Indigenous Australian mammals, bugs and birds don’t seem to suffer the same effects as newcomers do.
Lead image via SWNS