Don’t be deceived by its name – this plant is unbelievably miserable to come across. Now endangered, the Gympie Gympie can be found in a few patches of lowland rainforest in Queensland, Australia. While it seems like a harmless plant, just getting close to it can cause you to get nose bleeds from the fine hairs it is constantly shedding. Heaven help the person who gets the hair in their eyes.
The slightest brush brings on unbearable pain that lasts for a very long time. Any attempt to brush the hairs off simply releases more poison, causing the lymphatic system to become overwhelmed. The victim’s lymph nodes in the throat, armpits, and groin expand, causing even more discomfort. Even hundred-year-old specimens still pack quite a punch.
During World War II, many people had the misfortune of coming in contact with the plant. One man fell into a bush and was strapped to his hospital bed, screaming, for three weeks. Another got it in the chest in the 90’s, and experienced pain every time he took a cold shower for two years.
This gained the attention of the British Army in the 1960’s. Samples were taken as a potential weapon. Rumor has it that everyone involved in the operation died and the facility was blown up. Sounds intriguing.
The Gympie Gympie’s pain is presumed to come from a peptide called moroidin. As of 2014, botonists discovered several specimens of the plant without its poison. Since then, there have been more and more of the plants found without the moroidin. My personal guess to this is that since the purpose of the barbs is to keep clearings in the rainforest for its growth, and since it’s endangered due to reducing rainforest, perhaps it just doesn’t need the poison to keep from being drowned out by other plants and animals.