What Are The Most Painful Plants On Earth?


4 Answers

Susan Hayes Profile
Susan Hayes answered
At some point in our lives most of us have experienced the special joy that comes with discovering a patch of stinging nettles or poison ivy the hard way. Bathing in baking soda and polka-dotted in pink calamine lotion, we curse Mother Nature and her cunning self-defense systems between doses of antihistamines.

There are some plants though, that have gone the extra mile to avoid becoming part of our next salad.

The Gympie Gympie Tree

Just in case you thought the only dangerous things in Australia had a heartbeat, I am here to spoil that delusion for you. Dendrocnide moroides is considered to have one of the most painful stings on the planet, and has been known to kill pets, livestock and at least one person.

Also known as the Moonlight Stinger, they are covered in tiny silicone hairs that slide into your skin and break off, sometimes with the skin closing over top of them so that removing the hair becomes impossible. Not content to just fill you full of little spines, every one of these little nasties contains a neurotoxin that causes intense, horrible pain. As toxins go this one is incredibly stable, and some sick scientist proved it by experimenting with hairs collected nearly a century ago and determining they can still cause pain. I can't imagine who volunteered for that experiment, but I sure hope the pay was good.

Fun fact about this toxin, although the pain can be enough to kill a horse, there is no actual damage inflicted on your body while you are screaming in agony and begging for morphine. The pain caused by the neurotoxin is very real and can last for days or even months, but the only damage is the inflammation of the skin from being stuck full of tiny hairs.

Even if you do manage to avoid touching this plant, it can still make your life miserable. The tree continuously sheds its stinging hairs. Hang around one for an hour or more and you will likely wind up suffering from nosebleeds and truly painful bouts of sneezing as you inhale this invisible shrapnel.

Manchineel Tree

Found on and near the coast beaches of Florida, the Caribbean, the Bahamas and parts of Central and South American, this tree is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world.

Not satisfied with merely having highly toxic leaves, bark, and fruit, this vicious bit of flora actually secretes a milky sap that can cause blistering and burns to the skin. As further proof that this tree was created by a bored demon on a slow day, you don't actually have to come in contact with the tree to be affected. The sap seeps from the tree when it rains, and just standing beneath one can result in your skin being burnt and blistered.

In case you get the idea that getting rid of these trees would be a good idea, don't try burning them. Burning the wood can release a smoke heavy with toxins, and if you don't stay upwind, you could end up blinded by the smoke as the tree metes out revenge from beyond the grave.

Stinging Limu

Known as Stinging Limu in Hawaii and Fireweed in Australia, this blue-green algae usually grows in clumps, looking like dark, matted masses of hair or felt. Clueless swimmers just out to cool off and enjoy the balmy waters of the Pacific can find themselves victims of this innocent looking bit of the seafloor, emerging from the water only to find they have been afflicted by “swimmer's itch”.

The rash can appear both on exposed skin and beneath swim suits, and for some reason known only to the jokesters in the Universe's R&D lab, the rash commonly manifests in the anal and genital areas of those afflicted. Male sufferers must face the added discomfort and embarrassment of scrotal swelling, which I can only assume leads to a great many bad jokes at their expense.

Along with the swelling and itch, the skin may blister and peel and you may also experience swollen eyes, open sores, fatigue and a headache. All in all, not the way anyone wants to spend their tropical vacation.

Jumping Cholla

The Jumping Cholla cactus gets its name from its apparent ability to “jump out” and attack anyone who passes by. In actuality Mother Nature just gifted this prickly plant with barbed spines and a charming ability to detach bits of itself and send them along as hitchhikers part of its reproduction process.

Each spine is covered in tiny barbs that are designed to bury into whatever touches them; clothing, skin, its not really fussy. All it takes is a single barb to grab on, and the next thing you know a spiny chunk of cactus is tugged off the plant and smack into you, more than likely embedding even more spines in the process.

The trouble starts when the barbs are sunk into flesh, because they tend to affect more nerve endings in more tissue than a simple thorn on spike would. The end result is of course, more pain! The barbs can actually rip off skin when removed, and it is not uncommon for people to be in considerable pain for hours after they finally have the barbed buggers detached.

Giant Hogweed

Because sometimes stinging and burning isn't enough, Mother Nature has given us the phototoxic Giant Hogweed plant, also known by the quaint and cuddly name of Giant Cow-parsley.

Make contact with this plant and your skin will initially just turn red and itchy. Within 48 hours though, the toxins that are in all parts of this leafy monster will kick into high gear and begin causing severe skin inflammation and blisters anywhere it is exposed to sunlight or UV rays.

Even if your exposure is mild enough to avoid hospitalization, you will have a lasting reminder of your encounter with Hogweed, as the blisters will become black or purplish scars. The scars can linger several years and make you look like an extra from Dawn of the Dead.

Poison Sumac Toxicodendron vernix

When a plant's fancy Latin name contains the word “toxic”, you know things are only going to go downhill from here. The Sumac family of plants includes such well known botanical delights as Poison Oak and Poison Ivy, but the nastiest member of this hell spawned floral family is Poison Sumac.

The entire plant is laced with a oily toxin known as Urushiol, and contact will often result in a painful eruption of rashes, welts and blisters. The oil transfers from surface to surface, contaminating clothing, blankets and anything else it touches in its quest to find a bit of vulnerable flesh to ravage. The rash can last anywhere from 1-5 weeks, and is both painful and extremely itchy while healing.

Like some other plants on this list, burning Poison Sumac is not recommended as a control, because inhalation of the toxic smoke can produce the same sort of horrifying allergic reaction in the lining of your lungs, eyes and throat. Itchy blisters on your skin is bad enough, can you imagine what it would be like to have your lungs coated with that rash?

Mala mujer

This cutely polka dotted plant is commonly known as Mala Mujer, which means “bad/evil woman” in Spanish. Aptly named, any contact with the stems or leaves of this vile plant will result in you getting hit with nettles strong enough to penetrate leather gloves and other protective gear. Once buried into your skin, the nettles go one step further and inject a painful crystal made up of calcium oxalate, just to make sure the “leave me alone” message is crystal clear.

The pain from a sting can last hours, and the rash can last for days. Even after the rash finally fades, those that tangle with this plant may have weeks or months of skin discolorations, with the area showing as a reddish purple or brown stain that will likely impact your dating life as well as scare kids at the park.
thanked the writer.
Anonymous commented
Superb post!
Anonymous commented
I stumbled on this article while trying to find out what the heck kind of red-spine-wearing, rash-causing plant I've been carefully watering for years is living in my front window. It's getting out of control. This was such a great read, I've nearly forgotten the rash. Nothing as horrid as those mentioned here. But its spines do sink in. And even removing the dead leaves from the house is hazardous. The spines prick right through garbage bags. Ouch.
ReallyGreat (slightly disturbing) read!
Dylan Waugh Profile
Dylan Waugh answered
Thorns -.- lol no there are more painful plants out there, I have loads of poison ivy in the back yard, luckily I don't get poison ivy easily
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
-There are varied varieties of cacti,all are very dangerful.

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